Fionnuala Britton (Coach: Chris Jones) and Mary Cullen (Coach: Ray Treacy) will lead the Irish team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland on the 24th of March.
This will be the 40th edition of these championships and it will see the world’s best distance runners battle it out for individual and team honours.
The Irish team also includes Linda Byrne (Coach: Enda Fitzpatrick), Lizzie Lee (Coach: Donie Walsh) and Ava Hutchinson (Coach: Ray Treacy) who were all scoring members of the 2012 Gold Medal winning European Cross Country Championship team.
High Performance Director Kevin Ankrom said “As a target I would look to see our team finish at these championships as the top European team and individually each athlete run to the best of their ability. If we can accomplish both of these targets we will do well overall as a team.”
Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC) has been in tremendous form all season and is the double European Cross Country Champion thanks to her historic victories in the 2011 and 2012 editions of that event. The Kilcoole AC athlete’s preparations have included a number of indoor races which culminated in a spectacular bronze medal over 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships on the 3rd of March. The last edition of these championships was held in 2011 in Punta Umbría, Huelva and Britton finished 16th on that occasion. Her best ever placing at a World Cross Country event came in 2007 when she finished in 14th place. Europe’s premier cross country runner will now aim to step up a level and challenge the best athletes in the world in Bydgoszcz.
Mary Cullen (North Sligo AC) stormed back into the limelight with an emphatic victory at the Woodie’s DIY Inter Club Cross Country Championships in Tullamore on the 24th of February. The performance signalled a major return to form for Cullen as she easily won the title in a time of 27.40 for the 8,000m distance, which put her 36 seconds clear of Linda Byrne. That performance came on the back of two impressive road race victories in Raheny (5mile) and Armagh (3k) earlier in the month. If Cullen can replicate this type of form next weekend the North Sligo AC athlete should go extremely well over the 8,000m distance.
The World Cross Country Championships has been a notoriously hard hunting ground for European athletes as they contend with the imperious strength of the Kenyan and Ethiopian squads. Linda Byrne (Dundrum South Dublin AC) finished eighth at the European Cross Country Championships and was a crucial member of the gold medal winning team on that occasion. Club mate Ava Hutchinson (Dundrum South Dublin AC) and Lizzie Lee (Leevale AC) make up a strong Irish women’s team for the event and if all the athletes run to form there is no reason why they cannot be the top team in Europe once again.
Team Manager Teresa McDaid commented “I am looking forward to going to World Cross with the women’s team, Fionnuala, Linda, Ava and Lizzie fresh from European cross are in good form and the addition of Mary is a bonus. The World Cross Country Championships is a magnificent event, a real test with athletes from all the disciplines of endurance distances coming together in the one race on the one day.”