Photos by Gareth Heron from NI Running website (www.nirunning.co.uk).
Saturday saw the 39th edition of the annual IAAF-Permit international cross-country take place at CAFRE, Greenmount near Antrim. For most of its life the event took place in Mallusk and has also been based at Stormont Estate. 26 years ago in 1990, local Newcastle AC athlete Deon McNeilly finished 2nd in a start studded field. This year the local club had three representatives selected for the Northern Ireland team – Seamus Lynch in the men’s race and Shalene McMurray and Kerry O’Flaherty in the women’s race.
First up was the women’s race over three laps and 5.6km. The day was cold, very cold with early morning sleet giving way to cold rain which eased at race time. Underfoot conditions were as expected, muddy and becoming muddier as the afternoon progressed. It’s real cross-country and as twice European Champion, Fionnuala McCormack (Britton) said ‘this is real cross-country and the best [toughest] race I’ve done this season’. She had cause to be very happy with her 3rd place behind Alice Aprot Nawowuna (Kenya) and Mimi Belete (Bahrain) and ahead of English women Kate Avery (2nd in the recent European Cross-Country Champs), Ruth Jebet (Bahrain, 5th) and Belaynesh Olijira (Ethiopia, 6th).
Kerry O”Flaherty was first Northern Ireland women home in a very good 11th place overall with Shalene McMurray making an excellent international debut in 17th and Joanne Mills making up the Newcastle scoring team in 20th place. this brought Newcastle AC home in a clear first place 27 points ahead of North Down AC with Foyle Valley in 3rd. In the league match it’s 4 to score and Mari Troeng was Newcastle’s 4th scorer in 32nd place, meaning the team also won the League Match. Also competing well for Newcastle on the day were Patricia McKibben in 37th place, Rita Devlin in 41st place and Sam McNeilly in 44th place.
Seamie Lynch had an excellent NI cross-country debut in the men’s race that was reduced to 7.4km from the originally scheduled 10.8km due to deteriorating conditions. He ran his characteristic strong race coming home in 21st place (24:34). David McNeilly continued his improving form with 32nd place (26:20) with David O’Flaherty returning to racing in 33rd place (26:33) putting the team in 2nd place behind Dundrum South Dublin. 4th team scorer was evergreen Deon McNeilly in 41st place (27:07). This gave the team victory in the local league match ahead of rivals Foyle Valley.
Other Newcastle finishers on the day were:
61st Colum Campbell 28:36
73rd John Kelly 29:40
75th Richard Rodgers 30:17
80th William Owens 30:33
87th Eugene McCann 31:15
88th Joe McCann 31:22
116th Stephen Rice 33:49
123rd Gary Cairns 36:24
131st Paul Fitzpatrick 37:50
133rd Declan Rice 38:16