NIMRA juniors narrowly miss podium place at prestigious WMRA Youth Cup 2018!

NI team narrowly miss podium place at WMRA Under 18 Youth Cup in Italy:

15 teams of boys and 16 teams of girls travelled to Lanzada, Italy for this the 13th World Mountain Running Association Youth Cup this weekend (Saturday 16th June 2018).

Lanzada, in Italy’s far north close to the Swiss border, is a beautiful alpine village situated in a valley at over 1000m. Surrounded by alpine meadows and steep 3000m snow-capped peaks.

100 runners from throughout Europe and the USA, took to the start line, to race two laps of a looped course, starting in the streets of Lanzada before climbing up into the forested slopes above.

The runners lapped the towns church, in an attempt to spread out the field, before jostling for position in the alleyways and steps that exit the town. Steep and at times rocky single-track, took the runners round switchbacks before being greeted by loud cowbells as they approached the high point of the course. A short undulating run led to fast technical descents bringing runners back into the town for a lengthy section of tarmac before heading back out for loop two.

Northern Ireland were in the fortunate position to send a girls team for the first time to an international  Youth Cup. Unfortunately just over a week before the race, the girls team had lost Rachel Collins (Dromore AC) to an ankle injury, leaving Ella Quinn (Omagh Harriers) and Aoife McGrath (Finn Valley AC) to compete as individuals. The Tyrone duo, both new to mountain running, described their race as the most difficult thing they had ever done. The girls ran well in soaring temperatures to place 40th and 42nd in a field of 46 international runners, a commendable performance in such an elite field.

The race was won in confident style by the USA’s Joslin Blair, who never looked under pressure throughout the race.

The Under 18 men were up next, and despite cautioning words of advice from the New Zealander and current WMRA President, Jonathan Whyatt, to take their time in the first 200m, jostling and at least one bruised nose ensued as the runners jockeyed for position upon entering the narrow alleyways.  Jared Martin (Scrabo Striders) and Gareth Campbell (Willowfield Harriers) found themselves at the back having to use great patience and determination to make any ground from this point. Gareth, more used to Steeplechase on the track, ran consistently to place 44th in a field of 51 runners, an encouraging performance in this elite field, placing ahead of two of his southern competitors.

Jared, well used to the hills after a season competing in the popular Hill & Dale Series, was able to use that experience to work through the back of the field, making up 10 places on the first climb, and continuing to gain a further 13 places on the following laps. Jared finished 28th, higher than any Northern Ireland runner of the last few years. No mean feat considering the technical difficultly and pace of the race.

The St Malachy’s AC pairing of Tony McCambridge and Conall McClean had more success jostling for position in the narrow alleyways, however they still had to race with determination to gain more ground, something they managed, each gaining a further 7 places in the coming laps. Conall, current Ulster Schools 5000m Champion managed a fantastic 16th only to be bettered by his team mate and close friend Tony in 10th place.

Northern Ireland had been delighted with a team 11th position last year, but were thrilled to discover they had placed 4th, beating the USA and last year’s winners Turkey in the process.

The race was won in impressive fashion by England’s Matthew McKay, who led throughout.. England won team prize with scoring runners in 2nd and 5th. France took silver, with the hosts Italy claiming bronze just ahead of Northern Ireland.