McCaughey and Whoriskey pick up first titles at Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships

Conan McCaughey (second right) on his way to victory in the men’s race at NI & Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships

Conan McCaughey and Catherine Whoriskey picked up their first titles at the Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships in Derry.

Annadale Striders were crowned as men's team champions after a gap of 10 years while it was a record five-in-a-row for North Down's women.

Fortune favours the brave and it did so for Conan McCaughey. In surprisingly firm underfoot conditions, the North Belfast Harrier sat in the lead group of up to a dozen runners for the first four laps of the 12 kilometre test before cutting loose with two laps to go.

Annadale Strider Eskander Turki was the only man brave enough to mount a pursuit, but he too soon realised it was not to be his day. Encouraged by a widening gap, the Fermanagh man was able to go into cruise control before coming home 150 metres ahead of Turki with East Down's Neil McCartan having his best ever run at this level to take the individual bronze medal.

The team contest was enthralling with Annadale Striders looking to be well in control over the opening laps but the North Belfast strength in depth showed as the race progressed. McCaughey's seizure of the top spot closed the gap further and it was a relieved Striders squad that managed to hold on for victory by four points (75-79). City of Derry easily saw off the challenge of holders Newcastle for third spot.

If an enthusiastic home support ever willed an athlete to victory it was in the women's race when Catherine Whoriskey clawed her way past Jessica Craig in the final strides to take the gold medal. With as little as 200 metres to go, the City of Derry athlete seemed destined to be the bridesmaid once more as Craig looked to be on her way to repeating her win of 2017 in the race.

It was then that the vocal Derry crowd got involved, adding wind to their favourite's sails to take her over the finish line from a despondent Craig. Rio Olympian Kerry O'Flaherty never got involved at the sharp end but finished strongly to take the bronze medal.

There was some measure of consolation for Jessica Craig when she found out she had led her weakened North Down squad to a fifth consecutive title. Newcastle were some way back in second with City of Derry in third.

Meanwhile Molly Scott's Irish record of 7.19 seconds was the highlight of the National Senior Indoor Championships at the Sport Ireland Indoor Arena in Abbotstown.

Northern athletes to lift titles included Mark English (800m) and Ellie McCartney (pole vault) while teenage sensation Nick Griggs was runner-up in the 3000m (full report Inside Track on Friday).

In England, City of Lisburn's Megan Marrs confirmed her selection for next month's World Indoors with a victory in the 60m hurdles at the UK Indoor Championships.

Antrim Coast Half Marathon winner Yalemzerf Yehualaw yesterday broke the world 10km record at the Castellón 10K in Spain, clocking 29:14. In doing so, the Ethiopian improved the ratified record of 29:43 by Joyciline Jepkosgei and the yet-to-be-ratified mark of 29:38 set last year by Bahrain's Kalkidan Gezahegne.

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