Report: Lee Maginnis
Photo: Paul Lawther
Saturday the 8th of October saw the Northern Ireland trial races for the five-nations Masters Cross Country International which takes place on the 12th of November in Santry, Dublin. Conditions were dry and mild with light winds. The course at Queen's University playing fields was firm underfoot.
First off was the ladies race which also incorportated the M65+ categories. It was a lap shorter than the M35-60 race to follow.
A group quickly broke away, with former Commonwealth Games 800m athlete Kelly Neely playing a prominent role in her first cross country race for some time. The City of Lisburn AC athlete, mother of two and coach was leading in the final sprint for the line, but Catherine O'Connor (East Down AC) nipped past her to take the victory in a time of 22:20. Kelly followed in 22:22 with Elisoa Crawford third and first F50 with a superb 22:28.
The complete list of age group winners were as follows:
F35 Catherine O'Connor, East Down AC
F40 Kelly Neely, City of Lisburn AC
F45 Catherine Devine, Beechmount Harriers AC
F50 Elisoa Crawford, Seapark AC
F55 Deborah Rushmen, Herts Phoenix AC
F60 Mary Slocum, Ward Park Runners
F65 Mary Mackin, Dromore AC
F70 Wendy Forsythe, County Antrim Harriers
F75 Brigid Quinn, Ballymena Runners
In the M65+ Gerry O'Doherty (City of Derrry Spartans AC) took the M65 race. The tall figure of Terry Eakin from North Down AC was first M70 across the line, he had been seen busy canvassing possible team athletes during his warmup. No doubt Terrry will be busy back at multiple parkruns between now and Dublin! Gerry Lynch ( City of Derry Spartans AC) was first M75.
John Craig (Annadale Striders) fresh from his sub 30:30 10K at Bangor and after running a superb leg for the Annadale senior team last week at the NI and Ulster Road Relay Championships, looked in sublime form. John won the 2021 NI v Ireland Masters cross country match outright and this year he looks in even better shape despite being a whisker away from the M40 category. With a lap to go, he only had City of Derrry Spartan's Stephen McAlory for company, but despite the latter's best efforts, John (after a brief high speed dialogue with bemused spectators as to whether this was the last lap or not) powered away to win the race to the enthusiastic applause and cheering of his support team (dad, mum, wife and four kids - watch out for them in Dublin).
The age category winners were:
M35 John Craig, Annadale Striders
M40 Garry Morrow, Willowfield Temperance Harriers
M45 Brian McElvanna, Armagh AC
M50 Eamon White, North Belfast Harriers
M55 Duncan Bell, Willowfield Temperance Harriers
M60 Noel Connor, Ballymena Runners AC
The trials for the Irish team take place this Sunday at the Autumn Open on the National Cross Country Course in Abbottstown.