At the start l-r Martina, Angela, Norah, Colette, Alacoque, Edel, Pauline, Paula, Lynda

The National Intermediate and Masters cross country Championships took place at Avondale Rathdrum Co Wicklow on Saturday (February 8). The races took place at Avondale Forest Park, a wooded estate on the west bank of the River Avonmore.

It contains the home of Charles Stewart Parnell and is now the Parnell Museum. Avondale Forest Park is the birthplace of Irish Forestry. Samuel Hayes built Avondale House in the 1770’s and he collected and planted a range of tree species from all over the world in the 505 acre estate. The Forest Park provides a variety of trails for walking and family cycling.

The trails are of varying lengths and feature the best the Park has to offer – along the vast expanse of the ‘Great Ride, through majestic stands of Sequoia, Spruce and broadleaves and down along the steep-sided river valley.

It provided a wonderful setting for cross country races. Mayo AC have a long and successful tradition of competing in these championships.

In the past, similar sized numbers as today made long and successful journeys to compete in these championships, such as at Carraig na BhFear Co Cork and Piercetown Co Wexford in 2006 and 2008 respectively. In those years they represented about 20% of the membership. Today’s group represents less than 6% of current members.

So fair play to the nine women members who made the long trip to Wicklow – eight competed as individuals and in o35 and o50 teams, and also made up County teams and Martina O’Connor ran in the Intermediate race.

For some it was their first national cross country race, while most have competed in recent years at various locations. Twelve juvenile B races preceded the masters and intermediate events

The first masters race at 2pm for all women and men o65 over 4,000 metres. Two laps of a very tough course in this wooded area with a severe hill – both up and down – and winding narrow trails. The finish straight was uphill for the last three hundred metres.

Our nine competitors ran brilliantly and gave there all as individuals and in support of each other in teams.  It was a great achievement to have two teams competing in the masters race.

They were led home by Norah Newcombe Pieterse in a fantastic fifth place and third o35 to win bronze. Edel Reilly relished the occasion with a strong run to come home 11th and eighth o35. Colette Tuohy was next in with a great run to finish 28th and won bronze o50. Her experienced clubmate Angela O’Connor is a brilliant cross country performer and repeated that again today finishing 75th overall.

Pauline Moran was 78th overall and gave one of her classic displays again to retain her gold o60 title. She overtook Paula Donnellan Walsh in the final metres – a wonderful race by Paula too, and she enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from it, finished 28th o40. Lynda Hession ran a great race too and finished 120th overall and 42nd o40. Newcomer Alacoque Donnellan O’Connell had a fine run supporting the o50 team and finished 181st. There were 206 masters women finishers.

The other wonderful news apart from those three individual medals (Norah, Colette and Pauline) was that our o50 team won silver – Colette, Angela, Pauline and Alacoque. And they also win County silver.

The o35 team finished 8th.

After the 35-64 masters race at 2:30 the
Intermediate women’s field ran 5,000 metres at 3pm. Martina O’Connor ran a wonderful race and came home with a great finish sprint to finish 24th of 50 competitors. Well done too to Serena Tuffy (Ballina AC) who crossed the line 18th.

And joy at the finish!

Hearty congratulations to all nine members and especially to the three individual medal winners and the o50 team who won club and county silver. Their efforts were well rewarded and deserved.

A long tiring day but they all really enjoyed the atmosphere of this prestigious National event.
 And hopefully will inspire many more members to take up the challenge of cross country running.
More photos later
Results: provisional