St Malachy's pupils to take on the world in cross country championships
RUNNERS from a north Belfast grammar are to take on the world after being selected to represent Ireland at a global tournament in Paris.
A six strong team from St Malachy's College will travel to France to compete in the ISF World Schools Cross Country Championships.
It is the fourth time the college's pupils have represented Ireland in the competition - more than any other school north or south.
The runners earned their place after winning the All Ireland championships in Mallusk last year.
They will take on national champion teams from more than 20 other countries from across Europe and as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Morocco next month.
They will face a 5.5k long course on the Champ de Mars under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
The team includes lower sixth pupils Matteo Lavorca, Tim Scott, Cormac O'Rourke, Conall Browne and Conall McClean and fifth year pupil Adam Ferris.
Teacher and coach Joe McAlister, himself an elite runner, said it was a huge achievement for the school.
As well as their gruelling five day a week training schedule the boys are also turning their attention to fundraising efforts to meet the substantial cost of flights, accommodation and kits ahead of the trip on April 2.
The boys will be holding raffles and a coffee morning and they have also set up a gofundme page.
"We have over the years had very strong teams and it is good to continue that tradition and build a new generation," Mr McAlister said.
"Parents are helping with fundraising and we are also pleased to have received a donation from the Friends of St Malachy's."
They will also be accompanied by experienced coach and former Northern Ireland 400m international Michael Cooke, who is also a teacher at St Malachy's.
The six will be hoping to repeat or better the school's bronze medal performance in 1996 in Turkey, with a team led by prodigious talents Gareth Turnbull, Colm McClean and including Mr McAlister.
In 2006 in Italy the team that included Paralympic Champion Michael McKillop finished in sixth place while the school placed seventh in Israel in 2014.
Anyone wishing to help the team cover the costs can make a donation at: www.gofundme.com/st-malachys-world-schools-xc-fund