Doherty and Craig secure gold at NI and Ulster Senior XC Championships

04 March 2017

Doherty and Craig secure gold at NI and Ulster Senior XC Championships

Spartan athlete Aaron Doherty (City of Derry AC) and Northern Ireland international Jessica Craig (North Down AC) stole the headlines on what was an excellent climax to the local senior cross country season.

The picturesque Lurgan Park in County Armagh provided the perfect setting for today’s (Saturday 4th March 2017) Athletics NI Northern Ireland & Ulster Senior XC Championships, which also incorporated the final fixture of the Athletics NI XC League 2016/17. 

The senior ladies were first to the start line for their 6k race, which covered three 2k laps of what was described by many as a “real cross country course”.  Jessica Craig made her intentions clear from the off, taking up a position at the head of the pack.  It was clear that the pre-race favourite was out to win and despite the best efforts of her club mates Jodi Smith and Rachel Gibson, who battled it out for the remaining podium places, Jessica would emerge victorious.

Jessica put in a strong display of relentless front running to seal top spot in 22:48 (1st place).  Rachel Gibson edged an interesting dual with Jodi Smith to take the silver medal in 22:55 (2nd place) – Jodi, who braved a foot injury in an attempt to assist North Down AC in the team competition, claimed 3rd place in 23:06.

Following the dominant performances of the aforementioned trio, and an impressive outing from their fourth counter Sarah Lindsay (19th place – 25:03), North Down AC were crowned team champions with 25 points. 

The Beechmount Harriers team of Catherine Diver (4th place – 23:25), Gerrie Short (5th place – 23:33), Sarah Lavery (8th place – 23:50) and Daire McCartan (29th place – 25:52) took 2nd place with 46 points, while Liela Ponziani (11th place – 24:20), Shileen O’Kane (14th place – 24:35), Julie Murphy (15th place – 24:41) and Suzanne Higgins (18th place – 24:55) led Lagan Valley AC to 3rd place with 58 points.

On a now cut up course, the senior men set out on a gruelling 12k course, incorporating six 2k laps.  Early on, little separated the lead group containing reigning Champion Aaron Doherty (City of Derry AC), Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers), Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) and Newcastle AC duo David O’Flaherty and Seamus Lynch.

As the race progressed through half way, the group had reduced to four, with Conor Duffy, Aaron Doherty, Mark McKinstry and Declan Reed tightly packed.  A split was imminent and it did come, with Spartan athlete Aaron Doherty surging clear as the athletes moved into their fourth lap. Conor Duffy progressively covered the move and on entering the final lap, the pair were should to shoulder, with Mark McKinstry approximately twenty metres behind.

Again, Aaron Doherty surged, but this time Conor Duffy was unable to follow and feeling the effects of covering the Spartan’s earlier move, he dropped off the pace allowing Mark McKinstry to move through into the silver medal position.  Aaron emerged from the final forest section and onto the home straight, covering the remaining metres with ease to retain his title in 39:08 (1st place).  The hard-working Mark, a silver medallist here in 2016, crossed the line exhausted in 39:13 for 2nd place, with Conor completing the medals in 39:23 (3rd place).

The heroic performance of Aaron Doherty and team mates Declan Reed (4th place – 39:32), Noel Logan (9th place – 40:50), John Lenihan (10th place – 40:54), Emmett McGinty (15th place – 41:30) and Kyle Doherty (22nd place – 42:04) meant that City of Derry AC (61 points) were crowned Champions in the team competition; they dedicated this to fellow Spartan Gerry Lynch who is recovering from illness. 

The North Belfast Harriers team of Mark McKinstry (2nd place – 39:13), John Black (8th place – 40:43), Philip Goss (14th place – 41:27), Lindsay Gordon (16th place – 41:40), Neil Carty (19th place – 41:47) and Conor Curran (25th place – 42:32) totalled 84 points for 2nd place, while Newcastle AC’s David O’Flaherty (5th place – 39:59), Seamus Lynch (6th place – 40:28), Zak Hanna (20th place – 41:52), David Simpson (21st place – 42:02), David McNeilly (27th place – 42:48) and David Steele (34th place – 43:27) taking 3rd place with 113 points.

Sourced: NiRunning