What better way to start the new year than with a celebration of some of the finest cross country athletes in the province? With over 1200 athletes competing, the South Lenister Schools’ Cross Country Championship is one of Lenister’s biggest running events of the year. Runners from over 80 schools, from the budding amateur to seasoned international, flocked to the grounds of Clongowes and revelled in the beautiful setting and challenging conditions.
Cross country running, and athletics in general, has been a big part of the Clongowes community for years. Add in the lure of a can of Coke, a chocolate bar and the day off school and what more could one possibly want? Something which has always baffled me about the cross country event is the distance. In this case, however, it was clear. The races varied in length from one and a half kilometres for minor girls to six kilometres for senior boys, a race that included our own accomplished race walker, Turlough Gray. It takes a special kind of person to run six kilometres for enjoyment. I can understand running six kilometres in a desperate attempt to escape a pack of bloodthirsty Timber Wolves, but enjoyment? Never.
This event is of great importance, not least because the top 15 contestants from each category qualify to compete in Leinster finals in mid February and from there to the All Ireland Finals.
Needless to say, Clongowes did exceptionally well in the is event, with multiple contestants finishing within the top 15. This is quite the achievement when one considers that most races had around 250 contestants.
Daniel Reilly (Elements) placed 3rd in the minor boys category, along with Greg O’Reilly who placed 10th. Christian Casey (Rudiments) ran a superb final 200 meters to finish 15th in his race. Mention must also go to Jack O’Leary, (Grammar) bronze medalist at last year’s All Ireland Juniors and already an international athlete, who placed 6th in his race, a race largely dominated by more senior competitors.
All in all the event was hugely successful. The weather was notably pleasant, considering this race took place during a very cold January. More comic notes on the day include, the heads of various Elements students turning rapidly in order to catch a glimpse of the female competitors, and the few unlucky competitors who lost their shoes in the mud.
Matthew Dundon (Syntax)