Scott Rankin leads the entries for the Malcolm Cup in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland, while south of the border its a quiet weekend for racing.
Foyle Valley’s Rankin, fresh from taking the Northern Ireland and Ulster 10km title at last weekend’s Seely Cup 10km leads the entry for Saturday’s Malcolm Cup at Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare.
Hosted by Annadale Striders, the races are the third round of the Athletics Northern Ireland Cross Country League.
Other likely entries for the men’s race include City of Derry’s Declan Reed, Neil Johnston of Springwell RC, Mark McKinstry and Andrew Annett from North Belfast Harriers and Craig McMeechan of North Down.
North Down currently top the women’s team table with a team that includes Jessica Craig, Rachel Gibson, Jodi Smith and Sarah Lindsay. Their closest rivals could turn out to be near neighbours East Down, with a squad that includes Catherine O’Connor.
Catherine Diver and Gerrie Short of Beechmount Harriers, Dromore’s Laura Bickerstaff and Amy Bulman of Willowfield Harriers are others who could feature.
North Belfast Harriers could well dominate the men’s masters race, with Neil Carty, Paul Elliott and Matt Shields all pencilled in to run, along with a number of athletes from host club Annadale Striders, among them Paul Carroll.
Republic of Ireland
For runners in the Republic of Ireland, it’s a quiet weekend, with Saturday’s Jingle Bells 5km in the Phoenix Park marking the official opening of the Christmas season for Dublin athletes.
Previous winners include John Travers of host club Donore Harriers, who will run for Ireland at the European Cross Country Championships next weekend. Also on Saturday, a strong entry is expected for the Waterford Half Marathon.
National Athletics Awards
Double Irish record holder Ray Flynn is to be honoured with the Hall of Fame award at this year’s National Athletics Awards in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dublin on Wednesday (December 6.)
Flynn, whose times for 1500m and the mile from the Bislett Games of 1982 are still the fastest ever recorded by an Irishman, ran an impressive 89 sub-4 minute miles during his career. He competed at the Olympic Games of 1980 and 1984, making the final of the 5000m at the 1984 Games. In 1985, he helped set the 4×1 mile world record in UCD, Dublin, teaming up with Marcus O’Sullivan, Eamonn Coghlan and Frank O’Mara – three other athletes from the golden era of Irish middle distance running.
Based in Tennessee for many years, Flynn remains deeply involved in athletics through his company Flynn Sports Management and as meet director for the Millrose Games in New York, the oldest indoor meet in the USA.
For Track and Field Athlete of the Year, 400m hurdler Thomas Barr leads the nominations after running 48.95 secs at the Bislett Games in Oslo last June and retaining his Irish title. Also nominated is 400m runner Brian Gregan of Clonliffe Harriers, back to his best in 2017 and topping the rankings by over a second with a time of 45.26 seconds. Mark English of UCD was equally dominant over 800m despite a season marred by injury.
Nominated in the endurance category are marathon man Mick Clohisey of Raheny Shamrock and race walkers Rob Heffernan and Brendan Boyce. Clohisey finished 22nd in the marathon at the World Championships in London; a best-ever performance.
Heffernan, who turns 40 next February was eighth in the 50m walk in London, while Boyce was fourth in a European Cup race.
Paul Pollock’s autumn return to form, including victory at the National Cross Country Championships last week, came too late for the selectors. Also missing out is marathon woman Laura Graham of Mourne Runners, who won the Irish marathon title for a second year in October.
Gina Akpe-Moses, winner of the 100m at the European U20 Championships leads the nominations for the U20 Athlete of the Year, with John Fitzsimons, 800m bronze medal winner at the same championships, and thrower Michaela Walsh, with several Irish junior records in both hammer and shot, also nominated. In a year of outstanding performances from young Irish athletes, picking the final three can’t have been easy with outstanding performances from high jumper Sommer Lecky, sprinters Ciara Neville and Sharlene Mawdsley and multi-eventers Elizabeth Morland and Kate O’Connor.
In the Under 23 category, the nominations are Siofra Cleirigh Buttner whose time of 2:02.11 for 800m was the fastest by an Irishwoman this year. Alanna Lally who also excelled over 800m, while Matthew Behan ended up ranked second in the 110m hurdles.
Awards will be presented in a number of other categories including Services to Coaching, Lifetime Services to Athletics, Official of the Year, Athlete of the Year, Development Club of the Year, Club of the Year, and Master Athlete of the Year.