Northern Ireland trio strike gold at All Ireland XC
13 March 2017
Northern Ireland trio Cara Laverty (Thornhill College, Derry/L’Derry), Dylan McBride (Grosvenor GS, Belfast) and Fintan Stewart (Lumen Christi, Derry/L’Derry) picked up gold medals as thousands of junior athletes descended on the City of Belfast Playing Fields in Mallusk for the Irish Life Health All Ireland Schools Cross Country Championships (Saturday 11th March 2017).
Underfoot conditions were soft but still provided the platform for plenty of good running on what was a mild day in Mallusk, a venue steeped in cross country history which offered a perfect backdrop and an excellent test of strength and skill.
Cara Laverty kicked off proceedings perfectly with an excellent victory in the opening race of the day, the Minor Girls 2,000m. In a closely contested race, the Thornhill College student saw off Wallace High School’s Victoria Lightbody (2nd place – 8:15) to seal victory in 8:10 (1st place).
Dylan McBride continued his recent good form at local cross country events with a gutsy performance in the Minor Boys 2,550m race. The Belfast athlete left nothing in the preverbal tank as he broke the tape to claim 1st place in 9:52.
Northern Ireland athletes Fintan Stewart and Patrick McNiff (Banbridge Academy) battled it out for the Senior Boys (6,500m) title. In the end, it was Fintan who collected gold, crossing the line in 24:21 (1st place); Patrick followed in 24:25 (2nd place).
There were also individual medals for Strathearn’s Amelia Kane (Junior Girls bronze) and Omagh CBS’ Sean Corry (Intermediate Boys bronze).
Further success followed for Northern Ireland based schools in the team competition, with St Malachy’s Belfast excelling with gold in both the Junior Boys and Intermediate Boys categories.
In the Minor Boys team competition, Omagh CBS top the final standings, taking 1st place and the associated gold.
European Winter Throws Cup
Further afield, Finn Valley AC’s John Kelly (Coach: John Kelly Snr) was in action at the European Throwing Cup in Gran Canaria this weekend (11th – 12th March 2017).
Competing in the Under 23 Shot Put ‘B’ final, the Ulster athlete and NI junior shot put record holder threw 16.84 metres; this was enough to see John claim 3rd place in the category.
In Other News
Elsewhere, local club East Down AC welcomed a record number of 1,000 athletes to the start line of their annual Jimmy’s 10k road race. St Malachy’s AC man Ben Branagh and Mourne Runners lady Laura Graham dominated from the gun. Ben led the field home in 31:33 (1st place) and was followed by City of Lisburn AC’s Chris Madden (2nd place – 31:47) and Newcastle AC’s David O’Flaherty (3rd place – 32:03). Laura took the ladies title in 34:59 (1st place), with NI & Ulster Masters XC Champion Amy Bulman (Willowfield Harriers) securing 2nd place in 36:50. Northern Ireland international Rachel Gibson completing the podium in 37:46 (3rd place).
There was also a record number of participants at the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) 2017 Championship opener, the Glenariffe Mountain Race. Current NIMRA Champion William McKee (Mourne Runners) secured top spot, covering the 6 mile route (inc 370 metres of ascent) in 43:49 (1st place). However, the story of the day was the performance of Esther Dickson (Newry AC) – a newcomer to the mountains, Esther led the experienced ladies field home in 52:22 (1st place), making her mark on the local scene.