Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton finished a creditable 16th in the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Huelva this afternoon. There were but three Irish competitors taking part in Punta Umbria, Shane Quinn and Ava Hutchinson being the others.
There was a real carnival atmosphere at the event as the Spanish hosts spared nothing in their efforts to make the championships a big success. The glorious sunshine only added to the occasion – at least for those at the venue as spectators.
Athletes were shaded somewhat from the intense rays of the sun by the tree lined nature of the course, happy to take any protection offered.
Fionnuala Britton (Sli Cualann AC) got a great start in the senior women’s race and then settled in to a position in the mid-teens. As the race unfolded she never looked like losing her place, but ended up running on her own for a considerable part of the race.
“Why does this always seem to happen to me?” she asked after the race, referring to times in the past when she became detached from the main group.
The question that kept going through her mind was “should I try to catch the leading group, or wait for the chasing runners”. She found it hard to get back to the leading group, but there was “no way I was going to wait for the others.”
She was ecstatic at her 16th place finish, saying that she really enjoyed the course, and the hot sunny conditions are her preferred racing conditions.
Ava Hutchinson (Dundrum South Dublin AC) was 87th in her first time competing at this level.
Team manager Anne Keenan Buckley was high in her praise of Britton’s performance “considering how she had to overcome illness in the weeks leading up to the championships” she said, and added “ I am delighted to see her back to the level that saw her finish 14th when the race was held in Kenya in 2007”
Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiot won the race, leading Kenya to team victory over Ethiopia, with USA third, helped in no small way by Shalene Flanagan’s third place finish.
The speed with which the Kenyans started the junior men’s race was scary. Shane Quinn (Ferrybank AC) got a great start and was well placed heading out the country. However, things did not work out quite according to plan and he was unable to finish the race .
“I felt good on the first lap, but after that my legs just seemed to go from under me, especially when going over the log obstacles on the course” he said. He was able to walk out of the course so from a health point of view he lives to fight another day.
Kenya won the team competition by four points from Ethiopia, with Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor causing a surprise with his victory.
The junior women’s race was, as expected, a duel between Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, with both countries having four in the lead group from a long way out. Ethiopia won the team by two points from Kenya with Faith Cherotich Rionoripo winning in a sprint finish from three Ethiopians.
The senior men’s race ended up in a sprint finish with Ethiopia’s Imana Marga winning from for Kenyans. Kenya easily won the team contest from Ethiopia.