More than 1,000 young athletes will be in action in the spectacular surroundings of Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor on Saturday for the Northern Ireland and Ulster Even Age Group Cross Country Championships.
Clodagh O’Reilly from Annalee will start red hot favourite for the U18 Girls after placing second in the Gerry Farnan Juniors in Dublin. She took both Ulster and Irish U17 crowns last year.
Zoe Carruthers from Lisburn the Ulster Schools 3000 champion can go close while the Lagan Valley quartet of Ella Davis, Harriet Gilmore, Emma Laverty and Emer Magee came hit gold in the team ahead of Willowfield and Finn Valley.
Last year’s U17 winner Paddy Robb can take the U18 Boys. He also won the Irish title before collecting Ulster and Irish Schools 1500 crowns. Conor Christie, Conall Kirk, Jonny Whan, Ryan Sharkey and Conal McCambridge will place highly.
St Malachy’s with Paddy Robb joined by Chris Connelly and Ronan O’Fril can take team honours.
In the U16 Boys last year’s U15 winner Niall McCarron will feature along with Oisin O’Callaghan, Peter Fegan and Irish Schools medallist Patrick McNiff.
The U16 Girls can be the race of the day with the top two at U15 last time Toni Moore and Ami Hamill up against track champions Madison Bowyer and Rebekah Nixon along with Ellen Erskine and Laura Gardiner.
Reigning Ulster and Irish U3 champion Aaron McGlynn from Finn Valley should take the U14’s from Jack O’Farrell, Sean Corry and Tony McCambridge while Ballymena and Antrim pair Emma Hutchinson and Rachel Brown look good in the Girls.
The younger races are harder to predict but Cranford looks strong at U12 with Stephen and Conor Black and John McGroddy along with Aidan McCusker of Mid Ulster while Finn Valley are also strong in the Girls with Daniella Jannson. Marykate Gannon of Annalee the reigning U11 champion will also be prominent. Innisowen and Letterkenny will also go well in the team contests.
The meeting also includes the Bobby Rea Senior Mens and Womens races in memory of the top administrator, official and Commonwealth Games manager. The second round of the Athletics Northern Ireland League is included.
Brendan Teer, winner at Coleraine last week will start as hot favourite in the Mens. North Belfast’s Alan O’Hara and Conor Magill can lead the chase.
Marathon star Gladys Ganiel-O’Neill can also follow up her Coleraine success if she competes. North Down trio Jessica Craig, Rachel Gibson and Roberta Dornan will be in middle contention.
The first of ten age group races is the U10 Girls at 11.30am with Senior Women at 2.40pm and Men at 3.10pm.