Around 1,300 young athletes will be in action at Delamont Park near Killyleagh on Thursday in the County Down Schools Cross Country Championships.
The top teams and individuals will qualify for the Ulster Finals at Mallusk on the 11th of next month.
Former Ulster Schools intermediate champion Andrew Wright of Grosvenor is the defending senior champion. He will face challenges from Patrick Sheridan of St Patrick’s Downpatrick and his own team mate Harry Speers.
In the senior girls, Katie Moore from Bloomfield, second to Elaine Burch last year, and Emma Laverty of Sacred Heart can be the front runners along with reigning intermediate champion Lois Hagen of Wellington and Bronagh Maguire from Our Lady and St Patrick’s.
Banbridge Academy can strike double gold with Patrick McNiff in the junior boys and Rebekah Nixon in intermediate girls.
Patrick took silver in the All Ireland Schools last year while Rebekah has been an Ulster medallist at both 800 metres and cross country.
St Colman’s have a very strong minor squad with Peter Murray, Jack O’Farrell and Patrick Brooks all likely to feature.
Team wise Strathearn will be prominent among the girls along with Bloomfield, Sullivan, Our Lady and St Patrick’s, Down High and Assumption while St Colman’s will be disputing boys honours with Grosvenor, Campbell, St Patrick’s, Abbey and Sullivan.