2018 NI and Ulster Intermediate and Masters Cross Country Championship
29 January 2018
Craig McMeechan (North Down AC), Rebecca Wallace (Lagan Valley AC), Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC) and Catherine Diver (Beechmount Harriers) struck gold as athletes battled it out in tough conditions at the NI & Ulster Intermediate and Masters Cross Country Championships (Saturday 27th January 2018).
The Athletics NI hosted event took place at the impressive Billy Neill Centre of Excellence for Soccer in Dundonald. The course, which comprised of 2k laps proved tough, with heavy conditions accompanying a surface which became increasingly slippy as the race programme progressed, but this took nothing away from an excellent day of racing.
AAI National Age Group XC Champion Craig McMeechan put in a classy performance in the Intermediate Men's 8k event. The Northern Ireland and Ireland international dominated proceedings, leading from early on and progressively increasing the gap at the front - in the end, Craig won comfortably in 27:25 (1st place). In a close battle for the runners up prize, Chris McGuinness (Foyle Valley AC), beat club mate Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC), securing the silver medal in 28:05 (2nd place). Scott completed the top three in 28:19 (3rd place).
The battle between Chris and Scott, along with some outstanding performances by their team mates, drove Foyle Valley AC to gold in the team competition with 47 points (1st place). Acorns AC claimed 2nd place with 102 points and Newcastle AC picked up bronze medals with 115 points.
In the Intermediate Ladies 4k race, up and coming star Rebecca Wallace, a prolific medallist at age group level, emerged victorious after epic battle with Northern Ireland mountain running international Esther Dickson (Newry AC). Rebecca led for much of the race and looked to have the win cemented, but a late surge from Esther saw her take pole position. However, a fast finish over the last 200 metres, took Rebecca back to the head of the pack and she broke the tape in 16:55 for 1st place. Esther followed in 17:05 for 2nd place, before Ballymena Runners star Kerry Bamber took the bronze medal in 17:19 (3rd place).
In the team event, North Down AC picked up the gold medals with 28 points (1st place), with East Down AC (58 points) and Dub Runners of Belfast (59 points) taking 2nd place and 3rd place respectively.
Mountain runner and winner of the Northern Ireland leg of the Skyrunning UK Series, the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR in 2017, Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC), topped the podium after an enthralling Masters Men's 8k race. Little split a large lead group for much of the race, until Ian and Willowfield Harriers' Neill Weir broke clear in the final lap of four. The talented pairing battled it out right to the line, with Ian just edging it in 27:42 (1st place). Neill claimed a well deserved 2nd place in 27:44, with Finn Valley AC's Dermot McElchar crossing the line in 27:59 for 3rd place.
Letterkenny AC topped the team standings with 58 points (1st place). Newcastle AC sealed silver with 67 points (2nd place), while North Belfast Harriers collected bronze with 76 points (3rd place); Annadale Striders were close with 77 points (4th place).
Beechmount Harriers athlete Catherine Diver set the tone for an excellent day of racing with a strong performance in the Masters Ladies and Masters Vet65+ Men's 4k race. The Northern Ireland international continued her recent good form over the country to see off some strong opposition, securing gold in 15:40 (1st place). Fionnuala Diver (Letterkenny AC) ran well to take 2nd place in 15:50, before Cathy McCourt (Unattached) completed the podium in 16:03 (3rd place).
Finn Valley AC won the team prize, finishing on 82 points (1st place). North Down AC claimed 2nd place and the associated silver medals with 109 points, while Ballymena Runners completed the team podium with 111 points for 3rd place.
North Down AC's Terry Eakin led the Vet65+ Men home in an excellent 16:59 (1st place). World Champion mountain runner Jim Patterson of Newcastle AC followed in 18:13 (2nd place), while respected athlete and journalist Malcolm McCausland picked up a medal after crossing the line in 19:06 (3rd place).