On Wednesday the 7th of February, the Ulster Schools cross country competition took place at its
traditional venue of the Mallusk playing fields. Qualification for the Irish Schools in March is gained
by either finishing in the top 15 in a race or being a member of a top three team. Two absentees
from the qualifiers in late January were Freya Lowry (Methodist College Belfast), who was on a skiing
trip, and Chris Belshaw (Bangor Academy), who was unwell. The Ulster Schools is a big step up from
the District Schools, but there were still some great performances from club athletes.
The first race of the day was the mini (year 8) girls, where Sophie Rankin and Lara Cheatley (both
from Bangor Academy) finished 19th and 31st respectively. In the mini boys, Seb Mair of Campbell
College put in a gutsy performance to lead the race on several occasions, but Carter Rolston of
Bangor Grammar (BGS) had a great finish and came through to win the race, with Seb eventually
finishing a deserved 3rd . Neither can go any further, as there is no minis race in the Irish Schools, but
can be proud of their achievements. Also running was Ollie Davey of Our Lady and St Patrick’s
College (OLASP) who finished in 79th place.
In the minor (year 9) girls’ race, Coco Smith and Isla Wiltshire helped Sullivan Upper (SU) win the
team prize by finishing 21st and 23rd respectively. Both will be competing at the Irish Schools. In the
minor boys, James Blease (SU) ran well to finish in 38th place. The club’s only competitor in the Junior
(year 10) girls was Erin Playfair (SU), who kept going despite not feeling 100% and finished in 61st
place. In the junior boys, the BGS duo of Alex Downey and Ethan Constable put in typically strong
performances to finish in 4th and 10th place respectively, thereby helping BGS finish 3rd and qualifying
for the Irish competition.
Next were the intermediate races (years 11 and 12). In the girls’ race Holly Blease (SU), as always,
ran a smart race to finish in 17th and helped her school come 3rd . She will also therefore qualify for
the Irish Schools next month. Becka Laffin (Glenlola) lost a shoe early on in the race but persevered
to finish 41st , despite being ill in the lead up. Also running was Anna Moran (SU), who worked hard
to finish in 63rd place and help her school win the bronze team medal. In the boys’ race, Aodhan Keag
(St Columbanus) kept going over three long laps to finish in 31st place.
The final races were for the senior (years 13 and 14) athletes. In the girls, race Lucy Cheatley
(Glenlola) and Mac Eager (Strathearn) both had good runs, finishing in 22nd and 30th place
respectively. The senior boys had to complete four long laps. Oliver Playfair (SU), who had only been
back in training for less than a week, came through the field well to finish 14th and help his school
finish 2nd . Also running were Ethan Isles (OLASP), feeling less than 100%, who finished in 26 h place
and Luke McDowell (SU) who came in 32nd as part of his school’s silver medal team.
Attention will now turn to the Irish Schools on the 9th of March, where Alex, Anna, Coco, Ethan,
Holly, Isla, Luke and Oliver will all be competing.
[Carter Rolston 1st & Seb Mair 3rd]
[Alex Downey whose 4th place helped BGS to team bronze]