Academy pupils shine at Cross Country event

Patrick McNiff.
Patrick McNiff.

Two Cross Country runners from Banbridge Academy qualified for the Irish Schools’ Cross Country Championships after an excellent day’s racing at a cold Mallusk.

Patrick McNiff was the star turn on the day racing his way to silver in the intermediate boys race, all the more impressive as he is a year young for the category.

Rebekah Nixon (Inter Girls) backed up her district winning performance with an excellent 11th place finish in what was a testing week for the talented runner.

And let’s not forget Ruby McNiff, Patrick’s younger sister, who had also qualified for the Ulster’s from the district and she ran a strong race in the Mini girls to finish a commendable 31st out of some 150 competitors.

Patrick’s performance, in the last race of the day, was simply quality. In freezing and windy conditions he appeared to glide over the sticky surface and from the outset a group of three detached themselves from the pack.

As the race wore on the winner was able to pull away but Patrick in turn was able to leave behind the other runner and claimed the silver medal by some distance. A classy performance from a quality runner.

Rebekah had had an awful build up to the championships with a chest infection for two weeks and then an unfortunate car accident, just two days before the event, which left her with whiplash.

After some soul searching about whether to even race or not she took to the line and battled her way to 11th place and secured her spot in the Irish Championships.

Ruby also had a fine race in the opening race of the day and kept pace with the front runners in the Mini Girls’ Race to finish well.

Patrick and Rebekah now go forward to represent the Academy in the Irish Schools’ Championships at Clongowes Wood College outside Dublin on Saturday March 7 and, if their battling performances in the Ulster Championships are anything to go by, both will surely acquit themselves well.