Rory Cassidy in Downings

A fast and relatively flat course awaits over seven hundred athletes who will tow the line tomorrow at the 123.ie National Cross Country Championships at Rosapenna Golf Resort, just outside Downings in Co. Donegal.

The championships return to the county for the first time since 1999 where they will be hosted by Cranford AC.

The juvenile races get underway at 11:30am, with the U18, Junior, U23, and Senior races taking place after 1pm.

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Avril Millerick (Youghal AC) was impressive in winning the Autumn Open in Abbotstown back in October. She will aim to take the national title and book her place on the Irish team for the European Cross Country Championships in Turin next month.

Olympian Sarah Healy (UCD AC) heads the U23 entries and will be firm favourite to take that title. Aoife O’Cuill (St. Coca’s AC) and Danielle Donegan (UCD AC) will attempt to challenge the Irish U23 1500m record holder.

Michelle Finn (Leevale AC), who competed at the last two Olympic Games, bids to retain the national title she won in Santry last year. Ciara Mageean (City of Lisburn AC), Aoibhe Richardson (Kilkenny City Harriers), Shona Heaslip (An Riocht AC), Ann Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC), and Fionnuala Ross (Armagh AC), who was best of the Irish at the Autumn Open, will all be in the mix for national medals.

Nick Griggs (Mid Ulster AC) goes in search of back-to-back national junior titles. The Tyrone athlete who finished 9th in the World U20 3000m race in Cali, Colombia early this year, appears to be in good shape having ran a 14.10 5k parkrun in recent weeks.

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Dean Casey (Ennis Track AC), Autumn Open winner Sean McGinley (Finn Valley AC), and Scott Fagan (Metro St. Brigid’s AC) will all fancy their chances of making the plane for Turin.

Hiko Tonosa (Dundrum South Dublin AC) and Darragh McElhinney (UCD AC) will renew their rivalry again tomorrow. Tonaso won the national title last year by a narrow margin.

Efrem Gidey (Clonliffe Harriers AC) who finished sixth in the European 10,000m final in Munich will have his eyes firmly set on winning gold.

Both McElhinney and Gidey are still in the U23 category. The likes of Keelan Kilrehill (Moy Valley AC), Thomas McStay (Galway City Harriers), Jamie Battle (Mullingar Harriers), and Shane Coffey (Naas AC) will look to contest for podium places.

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It promises to be an exciting day of Cross Country racing.

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The 123.ie National Even Ages, Junior, and Senior Cross Country Championships can be viewed here from 11:30am: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQkmg_q7gMU

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