Banbridge Academy’s Bethany Nixon was the star of the show at the Ulster Schools’ Cross Country Championships where she ran a magnificent and dominant race to claim the Gold Medal and title of Inter Girls Ulster Schools Cross Country Champion. In doing so she also spearheaded the attack from her team and led them to the Ulster Inter Girls’ team title in the process. A first Ulster team title at any level for Banbridge Academy. Her teammates were equally determined and with Nadia Radcliffe placing 15th, Ruby McNiff 21st and Lucy Bradshaw 27th they ran out comfortable winners by some 29 points from their nearest challengers. A truly awesome effort from a very talented and committed group of girls.
Bethany set the tone when she ran hard from the start at the Mallusk Playing fields venue and took the race by the scruff of the neck. Over the course of the race she kept up the pressure, and the pace, and left everyone trailing in her wake. Despite a late attempt at a comeback by her nearest rival, Bethany responded with a kick at the end and won the race by some 20 metres. A truly outstanding race from a dedicated and hard-working young girl. It was made all the more special as older sister Rebekah, who won the Senior Ulster title last year, was spectating and was on hand for a celebratory hug at the end. When Nadia, Ruby and Lucy followed in high places there was jubilation when the girls realised they had achieved their own bit of history by being the first Banbridge Academy team to claim a Gold in the long history of the championships. All four girls will now travel to Clongowes Wood College near Dublin on Sat 9th March for the Irish Championships and they have every reason to believe they have a medal shot there if they emulate the fantastic runs they all achieved in the Ulster Finals.
In the boys races, the Academy had two other athletes who also qualified for the Irish championships with brilliant runs of their own. In the Junior Boys’ race Simon Ferris ran strongly to finish 6th in a huge field and in the Minor Boys’ Matthew Stevenson fought off many challengers to finish 14th and claim his spot. Excellent performances by both boys who should be justifiably proud of their achievements.
The Academy also had three other runners who had qualified through from the Districts to run in these Ulster Championships. In the Mini Girls’ race, Kate Ferris, sister of Simon, led with a really competitive run to claim 31st place. In the Minor Boys’ race Kian Moran also ran strongly to finish 31st place and finally Emily Cantley was excellent in the Senior Girls’ race to claim 26th spot.
All the athletes deserve huge credit for their efforts at the Championships and the 6 qualifying runners are now looking forward to Irish Schools Championships’ in 3 weeks time.