After a few low key outings in December St Michael's athletes got 2017 off to a positive start with some solid, if unspectacular performances, at the Antrim International cross-country on Saturday. The cold, sleety conditions did not deter many of the best young athletes from across Ireland and several visitors from across the Irish Sea, from descending on the firm but challenging Greenmount Course
The U13 boys were first into action with St Michael's taking team silver behind the a very strong Westport AC team, the Mayo boys being All-Ireland club champions at U12, U13, U14 and U16 level, their 'weaker' U15 and U17 team taking national bronze medals. With most, if not all, of the Westport athletes attending Rice College, it is likely that the men of the west will again dominate the national schools championships in early March. as they did twelve months ago in Sligo.
St Michael's three scorers were Ethan Prunty, Cormac McCauley and Dylan Martin who all ran steady races but they will know, as will the rest of the nineteen strong St Michael's squad who toed the starting line,that they can improve for the upcoming district and provincial schools events in a few weeks time.
A very strong U15 event, dominated largely by athletes from across the Irish Sea and down South (and West), saw Keelan Farry lead St Michael's home, followed by Michael McCreesh and Conor Murphy as they took ninth spot, the quality of the race being indicated by the fact that the aforementioned Westport AC, made up of their all conquering Irish title winning teams, finished fourth and fifth respectively with some very powerful athletes dominating the individual standings.
If the U15 event was high in quality it was perhaps surpassed by the combined U17/20 5.6km race, a race where the depth of quality young athletes stretched right down the field. St Michael's took team bronze in the U20 category courtesy of Domhnall Lynam, Jack Scallon and a fine run from fifteen year old Sean Vaugh, who, not for the first time, showed what a huge potential he has if he were to be able to get a consistent block of focussed training in. St Michael's finished 8th in the U17 team standings behind some very decent club sides and the main focus of the season will be to get a medal at the provincial schools.
For St Michael's the schools season now kicks into action and despite the schools events being increasingly dominated by club athletes and teams, the numbers of St Michael's athletes training and competing this season to date has been most commendable, and with four or five weeks of consistent work they will be competitive at provincial level again in most age groups and, more importantly, will hopefully in some cases go on to enjoy competing and improving after they move on from school.