Reports by Maria Jone and Michael Cunningham

Photos by Gareth Murran. For the full album: Click here

Maria Jones

Sunday 17th December….the day I was waiting for all season….all year really. After taking part in all the cross country races last year and seeing all the gold medals +success come into the club from Emily’s Golden Girls, I wanted some of this too. I told myself in Dundalk last December after the novice Nationals that next year we could do the same, I wanted one of those medals. A year later…a summer full of injury and in+out of training…determination was going to have to get me through. I’d say the girls were sick of listening to me going on about the Nationals..they were all warned back in September to keep December 17th free,they were needed in Waterford. And what an amazing bunch of girls ran through muck,sweat and hills last Sunday to regain the Novice National Title…theres a new group of Golden Girls on the block.

Sunday morning arrived…Emily was on the phone early,her taxi service was picking us up en route to Bushy with a detour round the KCR to grab Caoimhe. Cars were packed+ready to go. A Dublin team,heading down to Munster with 1 Dub,a Tipp girl and 5 from the west(3 Rossies,1 Galway girl and the bould Mayo lass) I jumped into “Kate the Greats” fancy set of wheels and we were off. Bit of a detour down the motorway (Kate got us lost,thought she was on the way home to Roscommon)…quick swing around and we were on the way to Waterford. WIT was the scene for today’s races. As we arrived all the comments in the car were about the bloody hills we could see as we parked up.. Having had a chat with Myles back in Lanzarote about this course a few weeks ago,where he had assured me it was a “flat” course down in Waterford so I was not expecting the hills. But hey whats a cross country race without a few hills thrown in.
Myles was ahead of us,numbers collected,quick loo stop and around the course for a look at what was ahead of us.  Sinead was on hand to tell us how to attack the hills and run wide outside the mucky parts. 4km was our race today,good and fast from start to finish. The nerves were beginning to settle in. The race time was change to 5 minutes earlier. No time for short strides,straight to the start line. Jesus I don’t think I’ve been that nervous before a race since I was a young wan.
Overthinking the whole thing for so long was probably not my best idea. Before we knew it we were off. 1 small lap and 2 big. How hard could it be right? As usual with the Novice races there was a large number competing with over 100 girls sprinting off down the field. Caoimhe was gone like a hare,I sat in behind Kate for the first lap before she tore off up the field picking off girls one by one. Myself and Ginty were playing cat+mouse around the course helping each other out picking off a few girls along the way.
I followed Mauras lead running the long way round to avoid the heavily mucky parts. I could see Caoimhe just up ahead on the 2nd lap and then she was out of sight. Going into the last lap Kate was in 18th position, with an unbelievable burst for the last 1500m she ended up in 8th position,a phenomenal result at this level. (To think this time last year she was out of running for a few months with illness…good for us though to have her lead us home this year). Caomihe was getting stronger as the race went on,for a girl whose not been seen around bushy park in the last few weeks she proved what an amazing talent she is coming in just behind Kate in 12th position. These top 2 positions were so important in pushing the team up in the rankings.
Back the field myself and Ginty (who is getting faster every race,getting back to her top form that I’ve heard so much about around the club) were pushing through…up the last 2 hills and down around in to the finish. We finished up in 34th and 35th place (Ginty tried to pay Lucy off the fix the results but Lucy was having none of it :-).
I’ve already been warned to watch my back on Feb 11th for the Intermediate Nationals, the rematch is on!!
The lads who were running straight after us should have been off doing their own warm up but were out around the course shouting us on. On the last lap round Michael was at the bottom of 1 hill and Anthony at the bottom of the other encouraging us on. Really appreciated in those dying moments when everything was hurting.  Next home was Naoise in 48th place. After putting down a grueling few months of marathon training she gave it socks around the course with a really strong performance. Catherine was up next. After showing Sonia how to run the mile in style last Thursday night she was flying fit around the 4km route. Katie was next in with a great race and ever improving. Thats the 7 ladies who made a team medal possible for Sportsworld.
Anyways race done and anticlimax time. When your so up for a race for so long and then it doesn’t go the way you want it to its disappointing. I wan’t happy with my own run,just one of those days when I just never felt good. After all my talk about the team winning something I just felt I’d let the team down,chances of any medals gone. The mood was a bit somber but we gathered ourselves and shouted on the lads for their trek around the course with 4 large laps. Well done lads it looked horrendous.
Off the the changing rooms (they were very posh until we realised the showers were a dribble). We all genuinely didn’t think we had even placed in the team rankings so the presentations weren’t even in our minds. Next thing a text comes through from Gareth saying “ye won”. We seriously thought he was joking,a quick ring and it was confirmed we were Novice National Champs. Well the screams and jumps around the changing room were just gas. We honestly couldn’t believe it. Then Emily runs in with the medals. We were genuinely over the moon. Such a great moment. The New Golden Girls had arrived????
Special thanks to Sinead and Gareth who made the journey down to support us and cheer us on, ye were so good encouraging us along knowing exactly what it feels like out there. And last but not least HUGE thanks to Emily and Myles who make it all possible. Ye are the BEST.
Now no pressure on next years bunch of girls…but the 3-in-row is in sight…get training everyone..those medals are up for grabs!!!

Michael Cunningham

The National Novice Cross Country was on at the Waterford IT campus on Sunday December 17th. As usual the girls team was getting all the attention in their hopes of making it two years in a row for gold but the men put out a solid team and in any national event it is always great to put on your club singlet and run for the club.

The last time we were on this course for a cross country it was Baltic and I don’t remember being able to feel my toe’s for the entire race. This year it was practically like a summers day with no hats or gloves needed, the only thing to worry about was the sun going down before the men’s race started.

The girls were off first and its fair to say there was a tension in the air as there was a strong girls team and expectations were high. People who normally never stop talking were suddenly quiet and tense. The girls race started off at a really fast pace and continued for the 4Km. The girls pushed through the strong field and packed well and all had their individual battles, more on that later.

Next up where the men with nearly 200 in the field and 6Km of fun. The starting straight was very uneven and with a tight right turn at the end of 300m the goal was to stay on your feet and not get clipped. After a few more slippery turns you came around to face the sharp hill and then the long climb. Watching the girls race first you think how your going to cope with the hill, watching is so much easier. The sharp first hill zaps the energy in your legs as you have to climb with no grip. Then the long drag of the hills hits your lungs and you try and control your heart rate as much as you can. A big tree at the top of the hill marked the end of the pain and your on a bit of breather as you run downhill towards the start area but after several races during the day the muck is up to your ankles and again you have to think about staying on your feet. One lap down 3 to go.

I think one of the best things about cross country, especially when muddy, is runners don’t get a chance to spread out too much and there is always someone to target ahead of you and try and chase down. Also no one is good at everything so one person might have speed and are good on the flat straights, others are strong climbers and some like the fast uncontrolled down hills. So even if you pass someone you still have to hold the place in the areas your not good at. The Waterford IT course had a bit of everything and dry changing rooms with hot showers is always a plus.

After the races word finally filtered through the girls had won team gold again for the second time in a row. Pat Hooper of Raheny said he can’t remember a club doing it before. The guys had to just enjoy the race and training but there are rumours there are Men’s team medals coming in January.

Finally it was time to head home with the cross country glamour of stopping at a petrol station on the way home for food. Thanks again to Myles and Emily for all the coaching and for Gareth, Sinead and Packie going to the race for support. On a sad note some went for a quiet drink after the race were things turned ugly as Maura Ginty and Maria Jones were still arguing over who finished first between them. Luckily I was there to calm things down and separate them. Things were sorted when they both realised its Shona Keane they both want to beat and need to save their energy for that.

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Sportsworld results

Womens 4k
8th 16:28 Kate Kelly (1st place team)
12th 16:35 Caoimhe Daniels (1st place team)
35th 17:08 Maria Jones (1st place team)
36th 17:11 Maura Ginty (1st place team)
48th 17:35 Naoise Waldron
70th 18:32 Catherine Mulleady
102nd 20:23 Katie Nugent

Mens 6k
113th 22:55 Michael Cunningham
133rd 23:33 Kevin Curran
156th 24:38 Anthony Gillens
165th 25:05 Diarmuid O’Sulleabhain
177th 26:26 Conor Keating
185th 28:25 Adrian Lanigan