14th International U18 Mountain Running Cup, returns to its roots, in Susa, Italy
by Phil Hodge
NIMRA took 8 athletes on Friday 23rd August to Italy to compete in the U18 International Mountain Running cup. Despite the event being held later in the year than normal, 14 countries were still able to send teams, making for incredibly competitive races. In fact, the margins between 1 and 30th were much closer in the boys race than last years race, resulting in many battles for the line.
Excerpt from WMRA report –
“Italy hosted a wonderful celebration of history and competition at the U18 International Mountain Running Cup on the weekend. Something that has never before been seen at a World Mountain Running event, the top 3 positions on the podium filled by one country in both the boys and girls competitions.” .
The races were held in and around the historic castle starting under the Arch of Augusta which dates back to 1st century BC. The course had technical running as well as steep climbs. A theme for both races was that on the 2.5 laps of the track, the front runners on the first lap faded and the winners emerged only in the final 800 metres of the race.
Italy were the first country to fill all the podium places and win the team medal. Katja Pattis had enough in hand coming into the final climb to the finish inside the Roman fortifications to win and second position was Luna Giovanetti holding off teammate Axelle Vicari. Second place team went to Turkey and third was USA.
Meanwhile NIMRA athletes were having a great battle, with Sorcha Mullan and Ella Quinn both of Omagh Harriers changing places during the race. Sorcha, last years British & Irish U17 Bronze medallist, led the team up the first climb, with Ella only seconds behind. Ella, fresh from a fantastic 35th at the U20 European Mountain running championships, used her excellent descending skills, to reel Sorcha after the first climb, to finish in a fantastic 27th, a massive PB from her 40th in 2018. Sorcha continued to use her strong climbing to great effect to finish in 30th. Exceptional running in her first year in this age category.
Rebecca Magee, Dromore AC, winner of the Hill & Dale series, ran a fantastic race, using her great hill running experience to gain places on lap 2, to finish in 38th. Again another really impressive run in her first year. Eimear McBrien of Lagan Valley, more used to speedy track running, had impressed in her 3rd place at the trial, battled through the tough, technical mid section of the course, even managing to pass on the final descent to finish 40th – a brilliant performance considering she is just back from a stress fracture, resulting in her missing the training camp.
Meanwhile, the Boys race ran a similar theme to the girls, with front runners dropping back with USA’s Gregory James holding a small lead going into the final loop. The French trio came to the front on the final descent and an epic sprint finish battle had Hugo Schropfer marginally in front on the line ahead of Basile Basset. Third place making an historic triplet in both races was Mael Allaire just in front of James who bravely tried to reach the podium place. France won the team title and it was Wales who packed well to finish in second with Turkey in third place.
Donegal athlete Sean McGinley of Olympian AC, used his track speed to push hard from the gun, resulting in him running in the top 30, by the top of the first climb. Pre race, most of the team were nervous of the tough technical downhill, with some comments likening it to a mountain bike race. Sean, however, overcame this doubt, to fly through the rough stuff, even pirouetting off a tree, to finish a fantastic 24th. As mentioned before the percentage margins were so tight this year, that Sean, just 9% off the winner’s time, would have placed 17th with a similar performance in 2018. Callum Morgan, St Malachys AC, had a fantastic run, mere seconds behind Sean on lap one. Training regularly on Cave hill, the technical nature of the course posed no problems, allowing him to place 36th. Joe Haynes of Armagh AC, having just returned days before from his adventures in Canada, used his steeple chasing skills to great effect, to bounce and recover after a couple of heavy falls mid race. Despite sporting obvious evidence of these falls, he managed to hold on for 42nd, with Oisin Cassidy, Enniskillen Running Club, just behind in 43rd.
Considering that the boys team was the youngest to compete at this event, these performances bode well for their progress towards the event in Ambleside in 2020.
A huge congratulations to these athletes on their excellent races and good luck as they continue to build their experience in Mountain Running.
Many thanks to the Italian organising team for hosting such a fantastic and well run weekend. A truly memorable time was had by athletes, managers and parents who attended.
World Mountain Running Report, results and photos can be found at:-
Photos: Damiano Benedetto Photo and NIMRA