Banbridge Academy enjoyed an historic day last week as eight cross-country athletes qualified for the Irish Championships.
The school enjoyed storming success at the Ulster Championships on Wednesday to ensure the Academy will send their largest contingent in recent memory, if not ever, to the season finale.
The star performances were once again from Rebekah Nixon and Patrick McNiff, winning gold and silver respectively in the Senior events events.
For many years now these two have been regular medal winners in cross-country and on the track but this should not take away from their fine achievements again at a windy Mallusk.
Rebekah once again showed her class to beat a very competitive field and take the gold and Patrick also ran a strong race to claim the Silver.
It is also of note that Patrick has another year left in this category. These two have been at the vanguard of a renaissance of cross-country running in the Academy in recent years and their achievements cannot be overstated.
Their little sisters proved that athletic prowess must run in their families as both Bethany Nixon and Ruby McNiff were part of the junior girls team who secured the bronze medal with a top performance.
Racing alongside the Bethany and Ruby were Lucy Bradshaw, Kathryn McGrath and Julia Knox.
Julia in particular showed her spirit as she ran most of the race with only one shoe! The other one got lost in the mud early on but she kept on running to secure valuable points and ensure the team’s success.
This is the first time in history that an Academy team has qualified for the Irish Schools finals; a wonderful achievement by a very talented and hard working group of young girls.
Bethany Nixon was the top performer of the team, herself coming sixth in the junior girls race to improve massively on her 33rd place last year.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, Nadia Radcliffe came a fantastic eighth in the minor girls race and also qualifies on merit for the All-Irelands.
So eight Academy runners qualified from the district to run at the Ulsters and all eight have qualifiedto run at the Irish.
This is testament to how strong the County Down district really is and is a wonderful achievement by the Academy athletes.
The Irish Championships this year are being held at Mallusk in Belfast on Saturday March 11.
The finest athletes from the isle will gather to race for the top titles and it is a wonderful opportunity for the Academy athletes to pit themselves against the best runners in the country.