On a perfect day for cross-country with blue skies and sunshine overhead and surprisingly firm ground underfoot this was an ideal early season event for all the young athletes competing at the Ulster age group championships(Part two) in the grounds of Gransha hospital Derry on Sunday.
St Michael’s got their season underway after a warm up schools race on Wednesday, and, not surprisingly after just four weeks work, the found themselves someway off the pace at this early stage of the season, with many of the club athletes basing their season around the provincial and national club championships in the Autumn each year, whereas St Michael’s are more concerned with the post Christmas schools championships.
On Sunday it was a similar story. A very inexperienced U13 team, the majority of who were running in their first serious cross-country race, got the ball underway in a 2km race dominated by clubs from Donegal and Antrim. First home for the Enniskillen lads was promising first year Joe McDaid who sprinted past Sean Vaugh in the closing metres. Four more year eight athletes Oisin McGrath, Keelan Farry, Peter Dolan and Ben Corrigan completed the St Michael’s ‘A’ squad while there were good runs form Year 9 athletes Achlinn O’Cathain and Mark Monaghan.
St Michael’s U15 squad was a bit stronger, containing as it did a few of last seasons Irish schools junior winning team, but even they found the pace a bit hot for legs which have not yet done any interval work. First home for the ‘blue vests’ was Jacob Britton in 8th place followed by Domhnall Lynam, Paul Breen and James Boyle as the team took bronze behind a very impressive Omagh Harriers and Burren AC. Gavin Green and Conor McNally completed the ‘A’ squad while some of the Year ten athletes showed enough to indicate that the will make an honourable defence of St Michael’s junior Ulster and Irish schools titles.
At U17 level St Michael’s fielded an entirely U16 squad who essentially used the outing as a long hard paced training run, a race dominated by an Omagh squad who, when in the colours of their schools in the spring will contest the Ulster schools gold with St Malachy’s in February. Jack Scallon was the first St Michael’s finisher followed by Nathan Tierney, Conal Boylan and Oisin Murphy but overall this group are, at this stage, well off the sort of pace required to contest medals at this age level even at District schools, as the work being put in by the Harriers in Omagh reaped rich rewards with four titles on Sunday, two boys and two girls.
In the final age group event of the day, a gruelling 6km slog in the worsening ground conditions Mark McCaffrey lead home a trio of St Michael’s athletes with Ryan Gormley and Pierce Connolly the others to toe the start line on a day which provided a useful workout for all concerned but also gave an indication of the rising standards of distance running locally. A long winter of hard work awaits those who wish to make it as far as Cork IT in Mach where this season’s Irish schools finals will be contested.
Well done to Enniskillen Running club who picked up their first adult provincial team title in the novice men’s race lead home by Conan McCaughey who took individual gold with Steven Prentice taking bronze and to Aoife Farrell who finished second in the U13 girls race.
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