ATHLETICS: Johnston and Rankin tipped to shine at Northwest cross-country event

Springwell's Neil Johnston. Pic courtesy of Annadale Striders.
Springwell's Neil Johnston. Pic courtesy of Annadale Striders.

Neil Johnston and Scott Rankin are expected to be top contenders in the Northwest Cross Country Championships promoted by City of Derry Spartans at Gransha tomorrow.

Johnston from Springwell is defending champion and in top form with victories in the Comber and Malcolm Cups. Rankin, the Northern Ireland 10K champion from Foyle Valley, was third here last year and led the field home in Rostrevor.

Mark McKinstry, the triple senior silver medallist, will lead a North Belfast squad which should include Andrew Annett, John Black and Philip Goss while Seamus Lynch - fourth and second in the last two years - will be in the Newcastle team along with David O’Flaherty.

International Masters medallist Declan Reed and Chris McGuinness should be close to the front along with Alan Bogle, Eoin Hughes and Darrell McKee.

In the ladies’ section, North Down will have a strong team - with Northern Ireland champion Jessica Craig, last year’s runner-up Rachel Gibson, intermediate champion Jodi Smith and the improving Sarah Lindsay.

Dromore will have McConnell and Malcolm winner Laura Bickerstaff. Amy Bulman, Catherine O’Connor, Catherine Diver and Jerrie Short are other challengers along with Sarah-Jane Guiney and Cathy McCourt while it is still possible that last year’s winner Ann-Marie McGlynn may make an appearance.

The meeting includes the fourth round of the Athletics Northern Ireland League. The action opens at 11.30.

Another event tomorrow is the fourth race in the Born 2 Run promotion in the Run Forest Run Series in Kilbroney Forest Park.

The Series won silver at the Running Awards held in London’s O2 Arena earlier in the year. Born 2 Run have teamed up with Alzheimer’s Research UK as their charity partners. All competitors are being encouraged to wear festive fancy dress with prizes for the best turned out.

The action runs from 11 o’clock opposite the Cloughmore Inn, Rostrevor.