IAAF Northern Ireland International enjoys televised coverage

Emily Hosker T

Athletics Northern Ireland hosted the latest round of the Cross Challenge at the Billy Neill Centre of Excellence in Dundonald on a permanently marked cross-country course. The new course proved to be a huge success as it provided an undulating test for athletes and easy spectator access.Television highlights are due to be screened over the next week on numerous channels (eirSport, TG4 and NVTV from Friday 25th January at 1600).

Emily Hosker-Thornhill (handicap -1.5) and Sam Stabler (handicap -2.3) took maximum Cross Challenge points at the event. Hosker-Thornhill followed up her eighth-place finish in the Great Stirling cross country last weekend to stop the clock in 24:20, with series leader Kate Avery (handicap -1.3) extending her lead further, finishing seventh overall in 27:29 and taking second place in the Challenge points.

Mhairi MacLennan (handicap -1.1) continued her good winter form with an eighth place finish, three seconds behind Avery, with Emelia Gorecka (handicap -0.2) back on the cross country circuit for the first time in over a year, finishing a respectable 11th. Meskerem Mamo (ETH) pipped Hawi Feysa (ETH) on the line to take victory in 26:10. Olympian, Breege Connolly (handicap 0.6) was the best of the Northern Ireland team, just one second behind a rejuvenated Charlotte Taylor-Green (handicap 1.5) representing a strong Midlands team.

Stabler, making his return to Cross Challenge action since competing at Loughborough last March, ran a strong race and finished fifth in 30:33, holding off Charlie Hulson (handicap -5.9), who was 10 seconds further back in sixth.

The result sees the latter move to the top of the series standings heading with one race remaining, while Alex Teuten (handicap -5.0) continued his strong winter, a further three seconds behind Hulson.

The first lap was run in a pedestrian 6:00 before a second lap surge of 5:44 broke up the field.

Birhanu Balew (BRN) claimed victory in a tight finish in 29:42, pipping fellow international competitor Richard Yator (KEN). Mark McKinstry (handicap -4.4) started strong for Northern Ireland to finish 13th.

There were strong performances from England in the IAAF Junior races, with Grace Brock (handicap 0.0) and Zakariya Mahamed (handicap -3.2) romping to victory in Northern Ireland and taking full Cross Challenge points in the process.

Mahamed kicked at the perfect time to make it an easy run-in for himself, holding off fellow England teammate Ben West (handicap -2.9), the duo clocking 19:05 and 19:07 respectively.

Matt MacKay (handicap -1.8) was the first Under-17 home in 19:34, to surge up the Cross Challenge standings, with Nicolas Harhalakis (handicap -2.0) jumping into top spot with a second-place finish, 10 seconds further back.

The women’s Under-17/U20, which doubled as the IAAF Junior Women’s race, saw Brock  continue her fine run of form and blew the field away to take individual and team victory for England, winning in 14:12.

Brock powered away from the field and opened up a near 15-second advantage on her nearest rival, Amelia Samuels (handicap 3.6), who finished second in 14:25.

Anna Hedley was the first Under-17 across the line, finishing in third position overall, but Maya Todd-McIntyre (handicap 2.0) and Charlotte Alexander (handicap 1.7) produced excellent efforts to earn team victory for England.

The television coverage is as follows:


Saturday 26th January - 1105hrs


Friday 25th January - 1600hrs

Friday 15th February - 1700hrs

Sunday 17th February - 1900hrs


Saturday 26th January - 1845hrs

Sunday 27th January - 2210hrs

Tuesday 29th January - 2115hrs

Thursday 31st January - 2100hrs

Friday 1st February - 2345hrs