Young Aidan produces storming run
The All-Ireland inter-club and Juvenile even ages cross-country championships took place in Santry Demense on Sunday, with Wexford represented in four races. With places on the Irish team up for grabs for the European championships, Ireland's elite athletes were out in force.
The first race was the girls' Under-12 and Wexford's county team had secured qualification in Moyvalley at the Leinster championships in late October. Claragh Keane (D.M.P.) led the team amid a field of 149 runners, followed by United Striders' Leona Berry, Adamstown's Niamh English, Macamore's Therese Lawless, Ciara Murphy (United Striders) and Rachel Gregg of D.M.P.
With the standards expectedly high, the girls were off the medals, but benefited from the experience of such a high-quality race.
Wexford's first success came in the boys' Under-12 2,000m when the Leinster champion, Aidan Shannon of United Striders, stormed through the field over the final leg of the race, picking off the opposition one by one until he was in medal contention.
With full intent to improve on his last year's tenth place finish, Aidan turned the last bend with an outstanding sprint pace to take an individual medal in fifth position. Aidan earned a second medal by leading the Leinster team to silver in the provincial competition.
United Striders were delighted with their club result of fourth in Ireland, and will have much to build on next year. The Wexford team scored seventh, with fellow Strider Myles Hewlitt charging in 36th out of age, followed by Robert Wall of Adamstown, Darragh Flannelly (United Striders), Ben Wall (Adamstown) and Finn Kelly (United Striders), all contributing to the county score.
The next county team to take to the testing north Dublin course were the boys Under-14. Another couple of medals came Wexford's way as Adamstown's Luke Byrne ran with the leading pack from the gun.
The experience of his third national final in Santry paid dividends for the Good Counsel College student, ahead of representing his school at the secondary schools cross-country this coming Wednesday.
Over most of the 3,000m race, Luke held with the front runners and even with losing a few places in the sprint to the line, he made the individual medal enclosure in ninth position, improving three places on the previous year.
With the team results tallied, Luke added to his medals with a gold as part of the high-scoring Leinster team which was completely dominant in the provincial competition.
The Wexford boys scored seventh with S.B.R's Joe Byrne a strong 18th, one place off a medal with Leinster, followed by Aaron Browne and Cian Flanagan (United Striders), Oisín Woolmington (Craanford Harriers) and Conor Keane of D.M.P.
Menapians' Enda Cloake was the final Juvenile competing in the Junior men's race. In his first cross-country season, Enda powered through the laps to finish strongly amidst incredible talent in the nationals.
One of the most memorable races was the Senior Women's, with former European champion, Fionnuala McCormack (nee Britton), contending alongside her Irish team-mates who medalled last year at the Europeans.
Wexford's Fiona Kehoe (Kilmore) and Elizabeth Egan (Bree) lined out in what was a memorable race with places on the Irish team for the strongest finishers.
Fiona finished strongly in 29th, not far behind the legendary Maria McCambridge, with Elizabeth close behind in 47th position.
The next event is the Wexford secondary schools cross-country championships which will take place this Wednesday (November 25) in Good Counsel College, New Ross. The Donna Foley Memorial Cup will be awarded to the school with the most winning teams, as well as individual medals for the top three and top three school teams in each race.
With close to 500 students pre-entered, this event is going from strength to strength and is introducing cross-country to a whole new cohort of athletes, building the depth of the Wexford teams competing at national level.
The uneven age and national Novice championships will take place in Dungarvan in early December and once again, the purple and gold will be represented by three teams: girls Under-11, boys Under-11 and boys Under-13, and also with Luke Byrne running on the Leinster team at Under-15 level.