Birhanu Balew and Meskerem Mamo Stride to Victory at the IAAF NI International Cross Country

21 January 2019

Birhanu Balew and Meskerem Mamo Stride to Victory at the IAAF NI International Cross Country

Birhanu Balew and Meskerem Mamo of Ethiopian took the top spots at the IAAF Northern Ireland International Cross Country on Saturday 19th January 2019 at the Billy Neill Centre of Excellence.

Saturday saw a wealth of talent, both local and international, compete at the International Cross Country’s new location of the Billy Neill Centre of Excellence. Despite the poor weather the day before, many spectators gathered to watch what would be an excellent day of races, from the primary schools races, right through to the International Senior events. The day's events also included the British Cross Challenge, the Celtic Games and the Home Countries Championships.

The Men’s event was, as expected, a hotly-contested race, with Birhanu Balew taking a four-second lead (29:42) on 2nd place Richard Yator (29:46) of Kenya. In 3rd place and only 2 seconds behind was Ethiopia’s Chala Beyo (29:48). Rio Olympics 10,000 metres silver medallist Paul Tanui of Kenya was in 4th place in 29:53, followed by the first GBR athlete, Samuel Stabler (Wreake and Soar Valley AC) in 30:33, who took 1st place in the British Cross Challenge. Welshman Charlie Hulson took 6th place overall in 30:43 and gained the Home Countries title.

Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) led home the NI & Ulster Senior Men’s team in a time of 31:45, despite a fall on the second lap. Second across the line for the home team was Glaslough Harriers’ Conor Duffy in 32:00, followed by Commonwealth Games Steeplechaser Adam Kirk-Smith (Derry Track Club) in 32:14 and Declan Reed (City of Derry Spartans) in 32:42.

The NI & Ulster U23 Men were lead home by North Down AC’s Craig McMeechan in 33:02, with Lorcan Magee (Beechmount Harriers) following in 34:13; Luke Dinsmore (Springwell Running Club) in 35:16 and Eoin Hughes (Letterkenny AC) in 35:30.



Ethiopia’s Meskerem Mamo, the leading World Junior Track Runner, took 1st place in an at-the-line finish at the Women’s International event in a time of 26:10, after just edging past 2nd place and fellow Ethiopian and the World Junior Cross Country Champion, Hawi Feysa in 2nd place. Kenya’s Pauline Kamulu finished in 3rd place in 26:13, with her country-mate, Sandrafelis Chebet Tuei in 4th place in 27:10. England’s Emily Hosker Thornhill came in 5th place in 27:20, making her the first GBR lady across the line. She was followed closely by Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack in a time of 27:24.

Breege Connolly (City of Derry Spartans) brought home the NI & Ulster Senior Women’s team in a time of 29:20, with Nakita Burke (Letterkenny AC) the second of the team across the line in 29:35. North Down AC’s Jessica Craig was the 3rd finisher for the team in 29:52, with Sarah Grant (North Down AC) following in 32:13.

Ben Morrow (Ballymena Runners) took 1st place in the Mixed Open Senior & Masters 4k race in 13:52, with Oisin Cassidy (St Michael’s Enniskillen) in 2nd place in 14:02 and Paul Carroll (Annadale Striders) in 3rd place in 14:10. Clare McGuigan (Lifford Strabane AC) was the 1st Women over the line in a time of 15:00. Karen Wilton (Jog Lisburn Running Club) was 2nd in 15:25 and Helen McCready (Rosses AC) was 3rd in 15:29.

The Age Group races saw junior athletes take centre stage with a variety of local athletes taking on the Celtic and Home Countries teams. The Male U20 race was won by England’s Zakeriya Mahamed in a time of 19:05, while the U17 race saw Matthew MacKay (Rossendale Harriers & AC) take 1st place in 19:34. The Women’s U20 race saw England again at the forefront, with Grace Brock taking the lead in a time of 14:12, while Scotland’s Anna Hedley took 1st in the Women’s U17 event in 14:39.

In the U15 Boys Willowfield Harrier’s Dylan McBride took 1st place in 10:14. Zoe Flower (Giffnock North AAC) took 1st in the U15 Girls in a time of 11:42. Boys U13 athlete Fergus Currie (Garscube Harriers) won gold in a time of 07:15, while Erinn Leavy (Dunleer AC) won the U13 Girls in 07:44.

The Flahavan’s Primary School races attracted a great crowd on the day, both athletes and spectators. The Boys race was won by Loughview AC’s Finlay Mayne in 04:22 and the Girl’s race was won by Willowfield Harriers’ Emer McKee in 04:22.

We would like to congratulate all the athletes on their successes and say a big thank you to everyone who came out to support the event. For the full results, please see here.


Elsewhere this weekend…

The AIT International Arena welcomed athletes for the National Indoor Combined Events, organised by Athletics Ireland on Saturday 19th January 2019.

Finn O’Neill (City of Derry Spartans) took gold in the Boys U15 event with a total of 3051 points. His City of Derry teammate, Veronica O’Neill took 2nd place in the Girls U14 event with a total of 2816 points while Niamh Fenlon (North Down AC) also took Silver in the U15 Girls event with a total of 2843 points.

The Senior Women’s event was won by Lagan Valley AC’s Laura Frey with a total of 3298 points. The Masters’ Men’s events saw Omagh Harriers take home two gold medals, with Mark McConnell winning the 35-39 age category in 2217 points and Trevor McGlynn winning the 40-49 age category with 2862 points.


Stephen Scullion finished in 10th place at the Houston Marathon on Sunday 20th January 2019 with a new PB time of 02:14:34


Callum Crawford-Walker (Annadale Striders) competed in the Cardiff Indoor Non Thomas New Year Open Meet finishing 4th in the 1500m competition a PB time of 3.57secs.