The 2017 Downey’s Nissan Laois Athletics Cross Country season kicked off on Sunday, with the Laois Novice and Even ages championships taking place in Rosenallis.
The course was reasonably flat and so should have been fairly easy going for the athletes, but it was made particularly difficult on the day by very soft ground, with all athletes having their endurance and stamina tested to the max as a result.
The event started with a non-championship race for U-8s running a 500 meter course, and had medals presented to the first 10 finishers, coming courtesy of the host club Rosenallis/Kilcavan AC.
It was time for the main championship events which started with juvenile races for even age groups from U-10 up to U-18 for both girls and boys.
As always, there were some notable winners on the day. Mountmellick’s Ryan Feery and Ryan Lee at U-8 and U-10 boys dominated their race, Rosenallis-Kilcavan’s Niall Lalor in the U-12s also ran a great race, leading from start to finish.
The girls U-14 race was dominated by both Faye McEvoy of Ballyroan and Seoighe English of St Abbans, with the Ballyroan athlete coming out on top in the end. Not the same story in the boys U-14s as Jack Fenlon of St Abbans showed his formidable form by winning the race with ease. There was a good scrap for second however between his rivals, Lee Murray of St Abbans and Rory Lalor of Rosenallis-Kilcavan, with Lee Murray winning the silver.
Niamh McDonnald of Ballyroan showed her usual style by winning the girls U-16 race, as did Ronan Hyland of Rosenallis-Kilcavan in the boys race, two standard bearers at this age group.
The U-18 boys race was led by the excellent Cian Kelly and Cian McDonnald from start to finish. Not an unusual line up for this age group. Two young athletes who are destined for big things.
The Novice ladies race had a field seventeen athletes, but St Abban’s Mary Doyle seemed to have the race of her life and was never really put under pressure.
Her team mate Aoife Burke and Ballyroan’s Siobhan Burke followed her home in second and third, ending their Novice careers in Laois cross country.
The men’s race saw a field of 27 athletes take off just as the first rain of the day started to fall. The men’s race was similar to the women’s in that the leader was clear from early on, and Ballyfin’s David O’Mahony was comfortably across the line before the drama really began.
With 200 metres to go, St Abban’s James Tyrell and Ballyfinn’s Liam Buggy decided they were not giving ground to one another. They fought tooth and nail all the way to the line in what was the closest finish for second place in memory. In the end it was the St Abban’s man who took the silver, but only by the skin of his teeth.
Overall, it was a great day’s racing and we now look forward to the Downeys Nissan/Laois Athletics Intermediate and Uneven ages race on October 15 in Abbeyleix.