Highest Entry yet for the Senior XC
18 February 2016
There will be a very pleasing turnout of nearly 430 athletes in the NI and Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships at Lurgan Park on Saturday (first event Women's 6K at 1.30pm). The large entries reflect the continuing success of the Athletics Northern Ireland Cross Country League where double points are on offer for this the final meeting of the series.
In the gruelling Men's event (2.15pm) last year’s victor City of Derry’s Declan Reed is steady favourite to retain his title, especially after his impressive 1st place achievement in the Irish Intermediate Masters Championships and great Antrim International Cross Country run last month. In the Irish Championships event Declan had a good 37 seconds to spare ahead of Inishowen’s Pauric McKinney, who is looking for victory at the weekend.
Declan was quietly confident of success in the 12K Men's event last year with a 52 second lead on silver medallist Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers). However, Mark and Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin who picked up 3rd last year are hoping to give Declan a fierce race, as they too aim to attack the title. Other key runners to look out for are Seamus Lynch of Newcastle AC and North Belfast’s Eamon White and Conal McCambridge who both obtained podium positions in January’s NI & Ulster Intermediate/Masters Cross Country.
In the race for the team title, strong teams have been fielded by last year’s winners City of Derry Spartans AC, Newcastle AC, North Belfast Harriers, Lagan Valley AC, Acorns AC, Foyle Valley and Ballydrain Harriers who all will be striving to top the podium.
In the Ladies Race North Belfast’s last year’s 3rd bronze medallist Breege Connolly will be looking to take the title. With a 2nd place victory in the NI & Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships in February at Lurgan Park and a PB in her marathon time of 2.37:24 in the Virgin London Marathon in March, Breege is already setting standards for the 2016 year. However, there will be fierce competition from team mate Louise Smith, and consistent runners Dromore’s Rebecca Henderson, Joanne Mills of Newcastle AC and fellow team mate Shalene McMurray who all recently ran a great races in the Antrim International Cross Country just last month are major podium contenders for Saturday Women’s Intermediate race at 1.30pm.
North Belfast has the usual formidable team line up led by Breege Connolly and Louise Smith, by the girls will face strong competition from Acorns AC, City of Derry, Newcastle, Orangegrove, Ballydrain and Lagan Valley.