Athletics NI XC League moves onto the Mighty Oaks XC
12 January 2018
The now famous ‘Acorn Hill’ awaits athletes as they look forward to the sixth round of the Athletics NI XC League 2017/18, the Mighty Oaks Cross Country. The re-scheduled event, hosted by Acorns AC, will take place on Saturday 13th January 2018 at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown.
Record numbers are expected to turn out for the exciting race programme, which is now in its fourth year; it has been part of the increasingly popular Athletics NI League for three years. Last year (2017), Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and Jessica Craig (North Down AC) secured the top prizes.
Fast forward twelve months to 2018, and recently crowned NI & Ulster 10k (Road) Champion Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC), who represented Northern Ireland at last weekend’s IAAF Antrim International XC, should lead the charge for top honours in the men’s 4 mile event.
The North West man should be joined on the start line by a sizeable Foyle Valley AC contingent as they gear up to cement their place at the top of the current standings. Their local neighbours, Springwell Running Club, will also be well represented – they are just two points behind Foyle Valley AC and are likely to have Neil Johnston, winner of the North West XC and the first local athlete home at the Antrim XC, in their ranks.
North Belfast Harriers’ Mark McKinstry, John Black, Joe Malone and Andrew Considine will be keen to pull ‘the Stags’ back into contention following a drop from top spot to third place after the North West XC and Antrim XC. Neil Weir (Willowfield Harriers), Steven McAlary (Springwell Running Club), Dennis Scott (North Down AC) and the host club’s Eoin Hughes and Darrell McKee will all play a part at the front.
In the ladies 3 mile race, in-form Dromore AC athlete Laura Bickerstaff is unlikely to start after missing last week’s Antrim International XC. Laura’s Dromore AC team mate, Rebekah Nixon, could feature.
Meanwhile, league leaders North Down AC should have Rachel Gibson and Katie Moore, two ladies who represented Northern Ireland last week, and Sarah Lindsay, who had an exceptional run in the international ladies race at Antrim; the aforementioned trio were all on the podium at the North West XC, completing a North Down AC clean sweep.
Willowfield Harriers’ Amy Bulman, Foyle Valley AC’s Martina McMullan and Beechmount Harriers’ Catherine Diver and Gerrie Short may also feature in the hunt for prizes. Suzanne Higgins (Lagan Valley AC), Joanne Foster (East Down AC), Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) and the host club’s Lisa Simpson and Leanne Sands will run well.
As part of the event, there will also be junior races. The race schedule is as follows:
12pm – Under 12 Boys and Girls 800m Race
12.20pm – Under 14 Boys and Girls 1 mile Race
12.45pm – Under 16 Boys and Girls 2 mile Race
1.15pm – Under 18 Boys and Girls 3 mile Race
2pm – Senior and Masters Ladies in Vet65 and Vet70 Men 3 mile Race
2.45pm – Senior and Masters Men 4 mile Race
4pm – Senior/Masters Races Prize-Giving
Rio Olympian Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC / Richard Rodgers) and Fionnuala Ross (Armagh AC / Dermot Kerr) will be in action at the prestigious Simply Health Great Edinburgh XC in Holyrood Park (Scotland) this weekend (Saturday 13th January 2018).
Kerry will line-up for Ireland in the 4x1000m Mixed Relay competition alongside Eoin Everard, Kieran Kelly and Laura Crowe. The quartet will take on teams from England, Scotland, Belgium and also a European Select team.
Northern Ireland international Fionnuala, who impressed at last weekend’s IAAF Antrim International XC, is due to represent her Scottish club Shettleston Harriers in the associated Inter-Counties XC Championships.
The event will be aired LIVE on the BBC from 13:15hrs on Saturday 13th January 2018.