North Belfast (Men) & North Down (Women) take ANI Cross Country League titles
The final round of the new Athletics NI Cross Country League programme saw record turnouts in both Men's and Women's competitions on Saturday, with near ideal conditions in the Stormont Estate.
Although were already clear winners in the Women's league North Down turned out in force on what is virtually their home patch to emphasise their superiority by scooping maximum points. City of Derry, already assured of runners up spot had only a token presence.
Lagan Valley returned to the fray to claim second place on the day and 3rd overall, just pipping Dromore by 4 points overall. Dromore could well have claimed the bronze position but with 3 non scoring rounds out of the 6 it was always going to be a tall order. Perhaps next year? Newcomers Orangegrove could be justifiably proud of their performances, finishing joint 6th and could have taken 5th place had they fielded a team in two of the earlier rounds.
In the Mens competition Willowfield staged their best performance of the series and took maximum points to move from 7th to 4th place overall - another club left to wonder what might have been had they contested every round.
However nothing was going to stop North belfast's charge to the title as the 14 points for 2nd plus the 6 bonus points meant City of Derry could not bridge the gap - another to regret a non appearance in the first round? Gerry Lynch will certainly want to remedy that omission next year.
Despite having the overall race winner in Paul Carroll, Annadale failed to score team points while Orangegrove sprang from 12th to joint eigth place and had they fielded teams in the first 2 rounds could have finished in a remarkable 5th spot.
Overall the new league has proved an encouraging success and the numbers participating have shown a healthy increase in all the designated rounds.
It is hoped that this enthusiasm will lead to further success next year. Meantime the Cross Country committee will review all aspects of the League structure and introduce any changes necessary to improve next year's competition.
John Allen of Athletics NI said:
"The league has proved pleasingly successful in raising the profile and participation levels in Cross Country Running over the past season. We will now look to refine the league for next season with a view to widening its appeal and building on this encouraging initial season".
Joe Quinn, XC & RR Committee Secretary
The top three teams (M & F) will receive prizes (to be released shortly) and will be distributed at the Athletics NI AGM on March 13th.