World Mountain Running Association’s Youth World Cup 2017:
Four of Northern Ireland’s top junior mountain running stars took on the World’s best at the 12th edition of the World Mountain Running Association’s Youth World Cup in Gagliano Del Capo, Italy on Saturday 24th June 2017.
In total, 16 countries were represented and Tony McCambridge (St Malachy’s AC), Tom Magee (St Colman’s), Miceal McCaul (St Colman’s) and Brendan McKey (St Malachy’s HS Castlewellan) narrowly missed a top ten place in the team competition, after securing 11th place.
The team arrived in Italy to be greeted by the 30 degree heat, something that they would become used to, though by race day, this had risen to 32-34 degrees. After the dramas of 2016 and the lack of water on the course, efforts were made to clarify the race rules and ensure NIMRA management had water a plenty on the route.
The race, which covered 5.5k in distance and incorporated approximately 340m of ascent, started at the foot of a limestone gorge on the coast where the Adriatic meets the Ionian Sea. It crossed a bridge spanning the small sea inlet, before heading sharply up a series of steep steps that form the beginning of a narrow, rocky trail which follows the sides of the gorge. The NIMRA team had managed to recce this route three times in the days proceeding the race.
Early on, Tony led the NI contingent with Tom two places behind. Brendan and Miceal had worked on some good lines for the descent and the plan was to use this to make up ground on those in front. Miceal was able to do this to great effect, making up more than 10 places on the downhill.
As they approached the final section of the course and last water stop, Miceal had moved in front of Tony who was only meters behind. Tom continued to run steadily, though the heat was really getting to him and Brendan.
In the friendly dual that Miceal and Tony were waging in the closing stages, they were to gain valuable places in the process, with Tony getting the better of Miceal by six seconds having made his move on the streets of Gagliano del Capo. This earned Tony 33rd place in a time of 27:51, with Miceal finishing in 27:57 (34th place); interestingly, 39th place has been the highest position for a Northern Ireland runner previously!
By the time Tom arrived at the line the heat had caused him to become disorientated, though he was able to finish bravely in 29:02 (43rd place). Brendan was able to run strongly through the streets having already passed the runners who had succumbed to the heat in the short race, finishing in 53rd place in a time of 32:40.
In the team standings, Northern Ireland finished only one point behind a strong Wales team with 110 points for 11th place out of 17. This was an excellent result and shows reward for the time invested by Phil Hodge and his team in bringing junior mountain running forward.