On Saturday 5 March, the All Ireland Schools’ Cross Country Championships were held at Sligo racecourse, a perfect setting with the stunning backdrop of Benbulbin. The day marked the 100 year anniversary of the Irish Schools’ Athletics Association and former Olympian and World Championship medallists Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan were there to support the young athletes.
After the recent success in the Ulster Championships and having been awarded Best Ulster Girls’ School of Cross Country, the VCB girls were hopeful that they could achieve further glory.
Three team (Minors, Intermediates and Seniors) accompanied by Dr O’Kane, Miss Stewart, Mr Black (former technician and coach), parents and club coaches, made the journey to Sligo.
An undulating course with a long gradual uphill finish would certainly test the young athletes’ speed and endurance. Blue skies and sunshine ensured perfect conditions for the event. The midday start saw the Minor girls set off on a 2000m lap. Anna Hill (Ulster Champion) had yet another fantastic race, working her way through the field to finish a superb 4th place, gaining an individual medal. Amelia Tyler, although only in Year 8, moved up an age category to run with the Minor Girls and had a phenomenal race, finishing in 8th position. With three girls to count towards points, pressure was on Naoise Gormley and Emma Montgomer y – both of whom had very strong runs, finishing well up the field. Unfortunately Rachel Scott was unable to run due to injury. After a nervous wait, it was announced that Victoria College Belfast were All Ireland Silver Medallists – an outstanding team achievement. Sonia O’Sullivan presented the team with their medals. These girls have trained so hard and we are so proud of them. This is their first All Ireland Championships and we are confident that further success will follow.
Next up were the Intermediate girls, who had to face a challenging 3500m race, taking in two laps of the race course. The team (Cate Blayney , Rebecca Bunn , Sarah Hand, Georgia Ross, Darcey Smyth and Rebecca Warnock) all ran strongly and finished in 6th position. This was a ‘young’ team made up of Year 11 girls and all will run in this category again next year. Well done to the Intermediate girls – you were fabulous!
Last up were the Senior girls’ team. With several races run beforehand, underfoot conditions were more challenging. Yet again the VCB girls produced excellent runs finishing as 4th team, narrowly missing out on a podium position. Congratulations to Sarah Webb, Caitlyn Harvey and Amy Edwards.
A big thank you to the parents and club coaches who have trained, encouraged and supported the girls.