The only woman to successfully defend the European title Fionnuala Britton heads a host of stars in a record field for Saturday’s 36th Antrim International Cross Country at Greenmount Campus.
The spectacular which is sponsored by Antrim Borough Council and organised by Athletics Northern Ireland is part of the McCain Cross Challenge Series with huge prize money on offer.
Britton from Wicklow had her second Olympic appearance last summer when she competed in the 5,000 and 10, 000 metres after reaching the Steeplechase semis four years earlier in Beijing.
She followed her impressive European success in Budapest with a strong runner up position in Belgium before another runaway success in Edinburgh last weekend and will start hot favourite to retain her crown.
European Under 23 champion Jess Coulson challenged Fionnuala for most of the Edinburgh race before finishing fourth. She may be the biggest threat to Britton.
The African representation comes from Kenyan pair Eunice Kalis second in Berlin and nineteen year old track star Magdalene Masai.
For the second year the competition includes the Northern Ireland and Ulster Championship which looks to be enthralling.
Breege Connolly the four time Armagh winner will defend her title against last year’s runner up Julie Turley and former double winner Gladys Ganiel-O’Neill with Patricia O’Hagan, Jessica Craig and Fionnuala Diver also likely to place well.
Team wise North Belfast can retain their title ahead of North Down and City of Derry.
African athletes have won the Mens race on 19 of the last 21 occasions and a 20th success looks very on the cards.
Bernard Rotich third last year and Joseph Birech sixth lead a Kenyan quartet which includes David Bett and Julius Kiplimo Maisei and with Olympic finalist Thomas Ayeko from Uganda.
Joe McAllister defends his Northern Ireland and Ulster title against a line up which includes Irish champion Eddie McGinley, Stephen Scullion, Kevin Seaward and Jarleth Falls
The first of eleven races start with the U13 Girls at 11am and climaxes with the International Women at 2.25pm and Men at 2.50pm.