Record numbers of 400 plus athletes will be in action on Saturday in Lurgan Park for the Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships.
The meeting opens with the women’s event at 1.30pm over 6k with both individual and team titles certain to be very keenly contested.
Breege Connolly will start marginal favourite with Danielle Fegan, Laura Hassan and Lauren Quee all challenging strongly for rostrum placings.
Connolly – the 2013 champion – is a marathon star with a recent personal best of 57:31 when winning the Trim 10 Miles. Fegan has placed third and second in the Championship for the last two years and clinched the Irish intermediate title at Tuam last weekend.
Stormont winner Cathy McCourt, Masters champion Louise Smith, Jessica Craig, Rachel Gibson, Karen Alexander, Claire Connor, Gerrie Short, Alex Kirk and Catherine O’Connor are also likely to be in the mix in a fascinating race.
Team wise holders North Belfast, with Connolly, Smith, McCourt and O’Connor, should retain their title from Springwell, City of Derry, North Down and Finn Valley.
The men’s race over 12k looks to be wide open after the withdrawal through unavailability and injury of Annadale stars Eddie McGinley and Ryan McDermott.
Declan Reed and Conor Duffy head the line-up. Both have taken titles already this season and will be keen to add to their silverware.
Reed added the Irish Masters title to his Ulster victory after also winning in Fermanagh.
Duffywas very impressive as he won the intermediate crown in Coleraine before coming third in the Irish version. He also placed third in the Greencastle Road Race.
Team wise reigning champions City of Derry with Reed, Doherty, McGinty, Noel Logan, Alan Bogle and Greg Roberts can win again from North Belfast who will have Alan O’Hara, Mark McKinstry and Eamon White.
Newcastle, Springwell, Foyle Valley, North Down and Acorns will all be striving for medals in the Championships which also include the last round of the Athletics Northern Ireland League with double points on offer.