The 2013 Aviva Irish Schools’ Cross Country Championships took place in the University of Ulster, Jordanstown on Saturday.
The conditions were wet and windy making for a feast of cross country action with many of Ireland’s brightest young distance runners battling it out for individual and team honours. Pre-race favourites Sean Tobin (High School Clonmel) and Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Colaiste Íosagáin) lived up to their billing and impressively won the senior titles.
Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Colaiste Iosagain) continued her incredible schools record with an emphatic victory in the senior girls race. Cleirigh Buttner along with Linda Conroy (Mercy Kilbeggan) were amongst the early leaders as the senior girls tackled the 2,500m distance. Conroy did her best to stick with Buttner, however on the last race Cleirigh Buttner opened up a 15 metre gap over Conroy and this proved to be the decisive break. Yasmin Wilson (Ballyclare High School) and Jessica Coyne (Crescent Comprehensive) were having their own private battle back in third and fourth place respectively.
Cleirigh Buttner coasted to victory in a time of 10:27, which put her 13 seconds clear of Conroy in second with a time of 10:40. Sarah Ni Mhaolmhuire (Colaiste Íosagáin) stormed through on the final lap to snatch the bronze medal in a time of 10:53. As expected Colaiste Iosagain were the comfortable winners of the team title with a score of just nine points.
Sean Tobin (High School Clonmel) finished second in last year’s senior boys race and he was determined to win the title in his final year as a schools’ athletes. Hugh Armstrong (Gortner Abbey Crossmolina) was not content to sit in the pack as he dictated the pace over the 6,500m course. Ian Guiden (St. Aidan’s CBS), Ryan Sharkey (Methodist College Belfast) Aaron Hanlon (St Mary’s Drogheda), David Harper (Rice College, Westport), Andrew Coscoran (St Mary’s Drogheda) and Kyle Larkin (Ard Scoil Ris Limerick) were all part of a classy leading group.
Armstrong opened up a ten metre gap over Tobin with two laps remaining, however Tobin responded aggressively and pulled up onto the leaders shoulder. Tobin then upped the pace and immediately broke clear of Armstrong with a powerful mid-race surge. There was no stopping the High School Clonmel student as he won the title in a time of 22:42. Armstrong battled all the way to the finish and won a well deserved silver medal in a time of 22:57. Kyle Larkin was having the race of his life as he timed his effort to perfection to win the bronze medal in a time of 23:03.
Coláiste Mhuire Mullingar won the senior boys team title with a score of 68 points ahead of High School Clonmel on 92 points and Rice College, Westport in third on 139 points.
The inter girls were tasked with tackling a distance of 3,500m and at this point in the competition the weather was starting to deteriorate and the course was becoming extremely muddy. Clodagh O’Reilly (Loreto College Cavan) was to the fore early in the race as a group of ten athletes detached themselves from the field. O’Reilly strode effortlessly around the course on route to victory in a time of 14:29. Isabel Carron (Skerries CC) and Zoe Carruthers (Friends School) battled it out for the minor medals over the gruelling Jordanstown course. Carron was the stronger of the two as she finished second in a time of 14:29 ahead of Carruthers in third (14:52). Carron had the added bonus of leading her school Skerries CC to the team title with a score of 46 points.
The inter boys race proved to be the race of the day with the top two athletes only separated by a single second at the end of the 4,500m contest. During the first lap of the race there was a lead group of six athletes tightly bunched at the front of the field. The group included Kevin Mulcaire (St Flannan’s Ennis) Jack MacGabhann (St Mary’s College), Liam MacGiolla Phadraig (Colaiste Eoin), Paddy Robb (St Malachy’s Belfast) and Pierre Murchan (St Declan’s CBS). Mulcaire was eager to push the pace along as he continued to apply the pressure on the rest of the field.
MacGabhann was having one of his best races to date as he refused to give in to the punishing pace set by Mulcaire. Both athletes entered the finishing straight together with Mulcaire just nipping the victory in a thrilling sprint finish to win the title in a time of 15:20. The battle for bronze was just as close with MacGiolla Phadraig grabbing third place in a time of 15:33 ahead of fourth place athlete Paddy Robb who finished fourth in a time of 15:34. St Malachy’s Belfast won the inter boy’s team title with a score of 62 points.
The prodigiously talented Siofra O’Flaherty (St Leo’s Carlow) won the junior girls race in a time of 10:31 ahead of second place Eimear Fitzpatrick (Our Lady’s Terenure) 10:41. Fiona Everard (Maria Immaculata CC Dunmanway) was the early leader and battled all the way to the line to hold on for the bronze medal in a time of 10:42. Colaiste Iosagain won the team title with a score of 45 points.
Fearghal Curtin (Midleton CBS) dominated the junior boys race to win by a huge margin of 30 seconds ahead of Alan Monaghan (St Patrick’s Navan) in second place and Oisin Gibney (Drogheda GS) finished in third place. St Michael’s Enniskillen won the team title with a score of 70 points.
The minor girls event was the first race of the eight card programme with Caoimhe Harrington (Colaiste Pobail Bheanntraí) taking the victory in a time of 7:22 ahead of Nicola Duffy (St Peter’s Dunboyne) and Laura Ward (Presentation SS Carlow) in third in a time of 7:37. St Dominic’s Cabra won the team title with a score of 48 points.
Paddy Maher (Dunshauglin CC) stormed to victory in the minor boys race ahead of Patrick Mcniff (Banbridge Academy) in second place and Peter Fegan (St. Colmans, Newry) in third. St. Colman’s Newry won the team title with a score of 77 points.