Club News

Freya Renton storms to gold in Abbotstown sunshine at SIABs

Avatar photo

By Damian Lawlor

After months of heavy rain and tough underfoot conditions on Cross Country courses around the country, athletes and coaches alike had low expectations for the racing conditions for the SIAB Schools International Cross Country on Saturday.

Despite the weather forecast the sun shone throughout the day and although it was cold and windy, conditions were good for the young athletes in action. You can see too why the Sport Ireland National Cross Country Track was chosen by Meeting Director Anthony White to host these championships as both the 1000m and 1500m loop were largely free of mud and as a result allowed the athletes in action to get up to top speed.

Freya Renton wins Junior Girls gold at SIAB International

In recent years Freya Renton has become a familiar figure to Irish athletics fans as she has charged to victory in Cross Country and track races at county, provincial and national championships. Now as she moved up to her first international race there was justifiable interest to see how she would handle the challenge. With 3,000m to run for the Junior Girls, Freya showed no fear and set a blistering pace right from the start. Once she had established a lead she did not back off either and extended that lead throughout the two laps. Freya crossed the finish line with none of the other competitors in sight. She was in fact twenty three seconds clear of Kitty Holland of England in second. It was a great day too for Freya’s sister Holly who battled strong competition from the English squad over the second lap to earn her place on the podium too as she finished a creditable third.

Schools International Cross Country Championships have been held since 1972 and in over half a century since there have been some fantastic performances by young Irish students but it would be hard to find one to match the success of the Renton sisters last Saturday. With Emma Haugh fighting all the way to finish 8th and Rachel Keaney storming through the field over the second lap, the Irish squad were set up well for the team competition. The squad won a set of silver medals with Eimear Fallon, Emma Flynn, Ella Grace Osborne and Jennifer McCarthy performing well too.

The Junior Boys had to cover 4,000m but even on the first short loop the pace was already building. Louie Muir from Scotland has a second name that conjures up visions of global success in the middle distances and the young man from East Renfrewshire did not disappoint. After the first two laps Muir along with Fred Jones and Yaried Alem from England were clear of the chasing pack with the medals already seemingly decided at this early stage of the race. Then with just over a kilometre to go the English Schools Cross Country champion Alem hit the deck and by the time he composed himself and was back in action both Muir and Jones were well away. Alem now found himself fighting to stay in the top ten.

Muir is a strongly built athlete and in the final stages of the race on Saturday he was able to use his strength to sprint to a narrow one second victory over Jones. First home for the Irish was Adam Noone in 14th with Robert Coogan not far behind in 16th. Like his twin sister in the Junior Girls race, Ronan Keaney really came into his own in the second half of the race and finished 19th. Cormac Greene, Jack O’Coileain, Aaron Agnew, Alan Hallinan and Evan Barry Keane rounded out Irish scoring and they just missed out on team bronze medals in a close fought battle with Wales, in the end only losing out by three points.

The Intermediate Girls were next to toe the start line and in the early stages of this race was a much more cagey affair with the pace very conservative for the first short loop. Then though it picked up significantly and the field broke up quickly with an English trio of Olivia Forrest, Shakira King and Caitlin Pye along with Wales Libby Hale breaking clear. With six hundred metres to go Hale was in the lead. Some years the SIAB Schools Cross Country can be dominated by the English in both individual and team competition and with Hale sprinting for the finish onlookers wondered whether for a third race in a row individual success would elude the English squad. Hale though had taken the lead too early and struggled in the run in to the finish and by the line Forrest was the clear victor with Hale actually dropping back to third.

The first of the Irish across the line was Emily Bolton in 8th. With Emily Morris, Ciara Casey and Dearbhla Allen packing tightly Ireland were well in contention. In the end the Junior Girls the team had performed well enough to earn a set of silver medals with Eimear Cooney, Ava Diver, Cora Scullion and Sholah Lawrence battling all the way too.

With 6,000m to cover the Intermediate Boys race was slow to get going. After the first mile there were still eighteen in the lead pack and they were four runners across at the front. A lap later the lead pack was still quite large with thirteen runners in contention but then the pace increased markedly and an English duo of Jake Meyburgh and Joseph Scanes went clear at the front. As in the English Schools Championships last week Meyburgh by the end had a commanding lead, crossing the line fourteen seconds clear of Scanes.

With Daire Matthews and Odhran Mcrearty both finishing in the top ten, the Irish squad were well in contention. Leo Murray, Lorcan Forde Dunne, Harry McKenzie, Declan O’Connell, Rhys Johnson and James Foot packed well too and Ireland were in the silver medal position again.

In the Junior and Intermediate Mixed Relays each runner covered a 1,500m lap before passing the baton on to their teammate. The English squads dominated both races and were convincing winners. Ireland won bronze in both competitions with both squads really competing well. Both the Junior squad of Conor Abbot, Lucie Cawley, Conor Lonney and Eliza McLoughlin and the Intermediate team of David Wajrak, Finian Ó Lachtnain, Katie Keown and Olivia Morgan earned their podium finishes.

Irish Runner logo

The Runner’s Connect