The National B cross-country championships were held on a lovely sunny day in Lough Key Forest Park on Sunday. The sunshine took the winter chill out of the air but one could be forgiven for thinking that the lake had over-flown onto the cross country course such were the soggy underfoot conditions.
It’s not the driest course at the best of times but buckets of overnight rainfall left athletes debating whether or not they’d swim it or race it. All we were missing were some bicycles and it could have doubled up as a triathlon event! Full credit to the race organisers though – the event was run very efficiently and the superb Forest Park reception and catering facilities were made fully available to the large crowds.
Craughwell had two teams in action in the U11 girls and U15 boys and a number of individuals in the other races, with 2 top five individual placings the highlight of the day.
Grainne McDaid ran a blinder of a race in the U11 girls 800m, taking up a strong position in the top group as the race unwound around the course. Holding down 3rd place as the race entered its final length, Grainne was overtaken in the last 100m and had to settle for 5th place – a fantastic result for this young athlete. Team-mate Leanne Freaney, still relatively new to cross-country, had her best race to date – getting a flying start and holding a strong position right through the race and finishing in 25th position overall. Also in top form, Andrea Tobin ran a stormer to take 68th place followed closely by Caoimhe Reidy in 72nd place with Orlaith Maloney completing the team in 92nd place. Overall the team finished in 6th place.
Matthew Moran was next from the club in action and he too had a super race – getting right into the thick of the leading group and holding on to record a super 21st place finish, probably Matthew’s best run ever.
In the U15 girls race, the team was knocked back by a few late injuries and illness, so we had two competitors take to the field Muireann Maloney and Caoimhe Quill. The 1500m distance really suits Muireann and she showed tremendous endurance to record a fantastic 15th place finish … only a few places short of the individual medals, with Caoimhe finding the conditions tougher further back but finished strongly in 60th place.
Top performance of the day came from David Concannon in the U15 boys 2000m. In the leading group of three after the first 1000m lap, David looked comfortable. The team looked strong also with Pádraic Tobin in about 20th place and Paul Fitzpatrick and Jack Leahy around 40th and 50th. As the race progressed, David dropped back slightly off the lead but closed the gap again as the final 300m approached. Into the final 100m, a sprint to the line commenced amongst the leading 3 and David held out strongly to take the individual silver medal. The rest of the team finished strongly with Fitzie moving up to finish 26th, Pádraic 37th and Jack 39th. For Jack Leahy, this was his first cross-country race for the club and he did exceptionally well – longer distances clearly are his forte and he will be a great addition to the club’s cross country teams in this age group.
Final competitors on the day for Craughwell were Shannen Freaney and Ashley McDonnell in the U17 girls 1500m. This was Shannen’s first ever race for the club and Ashley’s first cross country race in about 2 years – so for both athletes it was a nervous experience. Shannen got a flying start, heading out fast with the leading bunch before settling into a more sustainable pace. She battled gamely right through the race to hold on and finish in a very creditable 15th place – showing no signs of fatigue or breathlessness as she crossed the line and showing plenty of potential for this sort of distance. Ashley finished a little further back in 20th place and found the conditions very tough. Being more suited to track and the 800m distance, the race was always going to be a challenge but it was a credit to Ashley that she took part and completed it in the wet underfoot conditions and its a good platform for building back to her best.