Fintan Stewart and Rebekah Nixon take senior honours at Mallusk
A COLD north-westerly did not detract from a keen afternoon’s competition at the Milk-It Ulster Schools’ Cross Country Championships.
Over 1000 young athletes converged at the Mallusk Playing Fields to fight out provincial titles as well as gain qualification for the Irish finals next month.
Fintan Stewart showed some fine tactical acumen to land the senior boys’ title.
The Lumen Christi, Derry runner was assisted by the absence of defending champion James Edgar, who broke an arm in a cycle accident in the days leading up to the championships.
Stewart moved away from what was a leading pack of four on the last lap to come home clear of Banbridge Academy’s Patrick McNiff, with Bangor Grammar’s Craig McMeechan grabbing the bronze medal late in the race.
Rebekah Nixon looked strong as she powered to a win in the senior girls’ competition, but the Banbridge Academy girl was pushed all the way to the line by a determined Toni Moore.
In turn, the Sacred Heart, Omagh student had to keep an eye over her shoulder as Ballyclare High’s Emma Hutchinson produced a strong finish behind her.
Omagh CBS pupil Sean Corry turned in a masterful performance to lift the intermediate boys’ crown.
Corry kept his powder dry in the early part of the trip before asserting his authority in the latter stages.
Jack O’Farrell of St Colman’s held off a late challenge from the Oran Gartland of St Columb’s to retain the runner-up spot.
The intermediate girls’ race lived up to its billing with a quality line-up disputing the medal places.
The in-form Murphy Miller emerged clear after some early shuffling of places and the Strathearn pupil was able to build on her advantage to the finish line. Ballymena Academy’s Katie Agnew and Loreto Coleraine’s Niamh Carr proved strongest of the chasing pack to claim the minor medals.
Armagh Grammar’s Joseph Haynes came out tops in a competitive junior boys’ competition with Methody’s Matthew Smyth and Daniel McComiskey of St Malachy’s filling the other podium places.
Strathearn also supplied one of the most impressive winners of the day in Amelia Kane who destroyed the opposition in the junior girls’ race.
Assumption, Ballynahinch’s Libby Maloney won a tight battle for the runner-up spot with Lily Toorish from St Cecilia’s .
Grosvenor College’s Dylan McBride also strolled away from the opposition in the minor boys’ championship.
Omagh CBS pupil Conor McGillion fought hard to hold off Deele College’s Oisin Toye for the silver medal.
Similarly, Wallace High’s Victoria Lightbody was a class apart in the contemporary girls’ age group, easily seeing off the challenge of Thornhill’s Cara Laverty. Bangor Academy’s Hope McBride was a somewhat distant third.
The mini boys’ title went to Lumen Christi’s Oisin Colhoun who 12 months earlier had won the primary schools’ race on the same course.
Nendrum College’s Joel Chambers was second with Daniel Playfair from Bangor Grammar in the bronze medal spot.
Ella Haynes of St Catherine’s made the journey from Armagh to win the mini girls’ race, distancing herself in the latter stages from Loreto, Coleraine’s Niamh McGarry and Methody’s Eva Kissenpfennig.
The first three teams in the older age groups, as well as the top 15 individuals in each race, can now look forward to renewing hostilities with their southern counterparts when the Irish Schools’ Championships are hosted at the same venue on March 11.