DECLAN REED AND REBEKAH NIXON CROWNED NI & ULSTER SENIOR XC CHAMPIONS
24 February 2018
Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) and Rebekah Nixon (Dromore AC) were crowned Northern Ireland & Ulster Senior Cross Country Champions after an exciting afternoon of racing in Northern Ireland’s largest urban park, Lurgan Park in County Armagh.
North Down AC and City of Derry AC also retained their team titles as hundreds of athletes turned out for the prestigious fixture, which also incorporated the final race of the Athletics NI XC League 2017/18.
The Ladies 6k race kicked off proceedings and in the early stages, played out as expected, with reigning Champion Jessica Craig (North Down AC) in the lead. However, fellow Northern Ireland international Rebekah Nixon came through and joined Jessica at the head of the pack going into the final lap.
Exeter University student Rebekah then took charge and moved clear, opening a gap at an impressive rate. Behind, North Down AC’s Rachel Gibson was rewarded for her gutsy efforts in staying with the lead two, when she caught and passed club mate Jessica late on.
It was Rebekah who emerged from the wooded area, at the highest point of the course, in the gold medal position and there was no stopping the Dromore AC athlete as she covered the remaining yards with ease to secure victory in 24:21 (1st place). Rachel took silver in 24:30 (2nd place), with Jessica completing the top three in 24:44 (3rd place).
North Down AC retained their team title with 18 points (1st place), while Lagan Valley AC (68 points) and Beechmount Harriers (71 points) secured 2nd place and 3rd place respectively.
In the men’s 12k race, Declan Reed topped the podium, but it was a gutsy battle between three men for top honours. The Spartan athlete, alongside three time runner up Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) and Neil Johnston (Springwell Running Club) were clear from 4k onwards.
For much of the race, it looked as if it was going to be fourth time lucky for Mark – he led, with Declan and Neil in pursuit.
However, in the latter stages, 2015 NI & Ulster Senior XC Champion Declan took control and never looked back, relentlessly racing towards the finish line. The 44 year old blasted his way to victory in 41:40 (1st place). Mark claimed the familiar silver medal in 41:53 (2nd place), while Neil took the well-earned bronze in 42:02 (3rd place).
It was a double celebration for Declan, with City of Derry AC retaining their team gold medals with 41 points (1st place); interestingly, their top six finishers were inside the first eleven places. North Belfast Harriers picked up silver medals with 100 points and Intermediate XC team Champions Foyle Valley AC completed the top three with 120 points (3rd place).