Academy runners shine in Cross Country Championships

Patrick McNiff.
Patrick McNiff.

The County Down Schools Cross Country championships were once again held at a muddy Dellamont Country Park on January 28.

With the wet weather the course was understandably heavy, indeed had to be altered to allow the races to continue, and credit should go to the organisers and to the Dellamont Country Park staff for ensuring the event could continue.

Marcus McNeill.

Marcus McNeill.

The eighteen Academy athletes didn’t let the conditions spoil their success however and in ten races, two athletes claimed Gold and four more qualified for the Ulster championships at Mallusk.

The winners were the in-form Patrick McNiff (Inter Boys) and Rebekah Nixon (Senior Girls) both athletes have pedigree on both the track and in Cross Country but both are in particularly sparkling form at the minute due to intensive off-season training and both proved their worth with dominant performances to claim the Golds.

In the Mini girls race Nadia Radcliffe had a superb race to finish 9th overall and qualify for the Ulster Championships.

While in the Mini boys race Marcus McNeill also ran brilliantly in a field of over 200 athletes to finish in 15th spot and claim his place in the Ulsters.

Mini girls team. Nadia Radcliffe - Centre.

Mini girls team. Nadia Radcliffe - Centre.

In the Minor Girls race Ruby McNiff, younger sister of Patrick, showed her natural talent as she cruised around to finish is 7th place in another large field.

All the more impressive as she is primarily a swimmer and has not ran a race this year.

The Academy’s final qualifier was Bethany Nixon, running in the same race as Ruby, who finished strongly to claim 5th place and her place in the championships.

These two results, plus great runs from Kathryn McGrath 21st, Leah Donnelly 41st and Lucy Bradshaw 43rd saw the Minor girl team finsh fourth overall and narrowly miss out on qualification by just one place.

Rebekah Nixon.

Rebekah Nixon.

Credit also should go to the Academy’s other runners who braved the atrocious conditions to race and each one ran well and gave their all; Hannah Spence, Charlotte Thompson, Carly Wilson, Rebecca Spence, Elizabeth Little, Katie Little, Adam McKibbin, Jacob Somerville and Thomas McIntosh.

The Ulster Championships will be held at the Mallusk Playing fields in Belfast on Wednesday 10th February and the Academy wish all the athletes well as they compete for Ulster titles.