by Kevin Loftus

In the beautiful, picturesque grounds of Clongowes Wood College, Clan Co. Kildare, the All Ireland Schools XC Championships were held in conjunction with the Irish University XC. An absolutely terrific day of racing was seen by more that 1000 spectators and athletes taking part across all four age groups for both boys and girls. The talent, determination and drive at this level and at this age has become somewhat of a spectacle in recent years, with Saturday’s event not being an exception.

Runners whereat little disadvantage due to weather, the exception of course a battering wind that attempted to deter athletes on all four comers of the course. A completely flat, open area of fields provided the route that each race took, with the customary large and small laps seen in the provincial finals of 1500m and 1000m. With the added absence of rainfall, the rolling countryside made for fast, decisive running in all categories.

The small yet well equipped and experienced troop of a Junior (2nd Year) team and Senior (5th Year) Individual, Fergus McCormack, ventured down with three coaches (MR. Conway, Mr. O’Shea and Mr. Duggan) to old rugby rivals and the fellow Jesuit School, prepared to give this final race of the season their very best shot, and achieve this goal they did.

In the Junior Boys race, a distance of 3500m, there was simply superb running from all of our athletes, so much so that nobody could ask any more of them. First home with a brilliant run was Michael Murphy in 21st, followed by a man only just back from sickness Ben Guiden in a remarkable 40th. Very strong running was seen by Michael McHugh in a great 42nd, and completing the scoring four Diarmuid Breslin in an almost as equally super 43rd. However unfortunate it is that the lads missed out on Bronze Team Placings they ran quite literally out of their skin, and of that the Belvedere community are so very grateful. These four scorers were well supported by a wonderful run by Sam Kelly in 55th, David Carney well up the field in 79th, likewise Daniel Byrne in a fantastic 87th and Luke Greene bringing up the real in an admirable 98th. Brilliant XC running! A special well done and thank you to a sporting Samuel Feely who made this trip with us to support the guys even though he was unable to race, there is nothing more admirable than a humble sportsman.

Our only other competitor, Fergus McCormack, running in the Senior Boys with 6500m, knowing that of course it was going to be a challenge to deliver such a performance in only his first year of this two-year age group; however deliver he did. A simply wonderfully decisive race saw Fergus finish in the top third of competitors in a marvellous 47th.

So, overall an riveting experience that many in Belvedere are determined not to allow to be seen as a “once off”; saying this in the hope that we can qualify even more teams for next year’s event to be hosted in Sligo. It is important to note that a Second Level School that play rugby has never in the history of this event managed to win any of the four titles, something that the coaches are adamant will change in the future.

A massive and most sincere thank you to all everyone who has supported XC and athletics in the schools, especially the strenuous work done by the teachers every single week, with no rest and no complaint. They are the driving force behind the momentum that enabled us athletes to reach such a high level. So, thank you. And may the tradition of athletics and especially XC (started in 1987) continue to prosper and grow in the coming years throughout every year in the school, from 1st right up to 6th. A massive well done to all who didn’t quite make it this far, as it is often said, “what you put into it is what you get out of it” – and this couldn’t be more true in a sport like XC. This journey is many months and even years in the making.

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