The Fionnualla Britton bandwagon rolled on in style at the weekend's £30,000 IAAF International Cross Country meeting at Greenmount, Antrim.
Ireland's double European champion was always firm favourite to take her second Greenmount title and this became a virtual certainty following the last-minute withdrawal of European U23 champion Jessica Coulson, who sustained a foot injury in Edinburgh the previous week.
Accordingly, Britton applied pressure from the gun and had opened a 30 metres gap before leaving the first field. Behind her England's Louise Damen, runner-up two years ago, was mixing it with Dublin marathon winner Linda Byrne and Kenyan pair Magdalyne Masai and Eunice Kales.
The sylph-like Britton seemed to glide over the few muddy sections of what proved to be a surprisingly firm course. Her effortless style resulted in an ever-increasing gap which had expanded to an impressive 12 seconds’ winning margin at the tape.
Damen secured an isolated second spot 16 second ahead of Masai who got the better of Byrne who is enjoying her best ever season.
Next was Kales who just beat Olympic marathon runner Freya Murray-Ross, while seventh place went to England's Steph Twell who won here in 2009.
Afterwards Britton said: “I found this win a little easier than a year ago. My plan was to go out hard and see what happened. I liked the course and appreciated the support from the large crowd.”
The Northern Ireland and Ulster title went to North Belfast's Gladys Ganiel who finished a solid 13th, ahead of Armagh's Danielle Fegan (18th) and North Down's Jessica Craig (19th). North took the team award with 26 points from North Down (32).
In the Men's 10.8k event it came as no surprise when the African challenge dictated the pace from the onset. World cross country junior silver medallist Thomas Ayeko (Uganda) and Kenya's David Bett forged to the front with the British pair of Andy Vernon and Frank Tickner in close attendance.
Behind them local ace Stephen Scullion was having the race of his life in a struggle with England's Matt Bowser and Scott Bauhs of the United States.
Ayeko (20) eventually broke away from Bett and at the tape and had a commanding 37 seconds’ victory margin with Vernon 14 seconds behind Bett. Scullion was an outstanding fifth behind Tickner after winning his battle against Bowser and Bauhs.
A delighted Scullion said the course suited him and he had judged his pace well, particularly in the muddy sections.
Scullion’s run secured the Northern Ireland title ahead of All Ireland champion Eddie McGinley of Annadale who also excelled in ninth place. St Malachy's Joe McAlister was the next local finisher in 13th which spearheaded an emphatic team victory with 67 points ahead of Annadale (101 points) and City of Derry (116).