Clonliffe made the now annual trip up North today for the IAAF Belfast International cross country. There was a new venue for today’s event the Billy McNeill centre of excellence in Belfast. A testing course featuring several long hills which were quite sapping on the legs featured on 2K lap, although the general view of the athletes was that it was a good course with good running.
Some 25 young clonliffe athletes were competing over the course of the day`s competition. First race featuring our athletes was the combined women’s Junior/ ages 17 race. This was a big test as the race also included the Celtic International with top Junior and age 17 athlete from the home international countries so it was a big step up for many of our young athletes. The girls however gave an excellent account of themselves particularly young Sarah Bateson who continues to impress with an excellent run 26th place in the age 17 race in a time of 16.48 . Aoife Hession also had an excellent run finishing 30th in 17.33 with Alana Fitzsimons only seconds behind, 32nd in 17.47 . With the competition decided on the first three home the Clonliffe girls combined excellently to finish in 3rd place in the club competition. This scoring trio were superbly backed up by Ella Brown 36th in 18.25, the fast finishing Katie Halpin 37th in 18.30 and the youngest member of the travelling party Ella Cooley 38th in 18.41. Of the junior women fine runs from the two girls Ale Fernandez 44th in 17.40 and Hannah Browne 45th in 17.57.
There was another big field assembled for the combined junior men and boys age 17 race again a great Clonliffe presence and it was a particularly gratifying to see no less than 15 black and amber vests line-up. From the starters gun Ben Guiden and Efrem Gidey got off to excellence starts, pretty soon Efrem had latched onto the lead international athletes and with a lap to go had himself up in 2nd place but with problems with his spikes he literally slipped back a couple of places and eventually finished in an excellent 4th place in 19.16. Ben suffered a bit mid race but rallied superbly to battle back to finish in 36th in 20.37 with Stephen Cashin having having yet another top run to 39th 20.42, next in was Aaron Cullen who finished in 43rd place in 21.06, considering that Aaron is only making his way back after injury this was an unexpected bonus. Great runs also by Ryan Sheridan 22.07, Ian McAlweeney 22.34 and Jordan Byrne, who was visibly carrying an injury 22.47.
Of the age 17 athletes they were most encouraging performances in particular from Callum Simpson who finished well up the field in a time of 21.10, with Evan Foster breathing down his neck 21.13. Next was Alex Murray 22.07 Niall Carbery 22.34, Dermott Buckley 22.49, John Lawrence 23.32, Alex Nuroth 23.44 and Manny Oakley 24.56.
Unfortunately the result of the junior men boys 17 inter club race is not yet to hand but again the Clonliffe teams performed superbly.
In the men’s international race Sean O’Leary who has only left the junior ranks as of January 1st stepped well and truly to the mark. Running in the Irish colours on the international under 23 team he did not look out of place and finished an excellent 16th place overall in the senior race, over 10,000m, and 2nd U/23. An excellent senior debut. Sergiu Ciobanu started the race but unfortunately a chest infection conspired against him and he had to call his day`s work to a halt after the first lap.
It was once again a most worthwhile exercise to bring these young athlete to an international cross-country event such as this. In particular for the junior men’s team represented possibly the final opportunity to impress the club captain with the team for Portugal to be selected and finalised this week. As always it was a pleasure to spend the day with these young Harriers. A fantastic bunch!