Funding fears grow over future of Greenmount meeting
Athletics NI organisers yesterday expressed their delight at the weekend's highly successful Greenmount IAAF International meeting, sponsored by Antrim Borough Council.
The 37th running of the meeting took place in perfect weather conditions and featured not only the usual African stars but also large numbers of international athletes competing in the Five Home Countries International.
There is, however, concern regarding future funding for an event that has in the past featured household names such as Steve Cram, Steve Ovett, Paula Radcliffe, Fionnuala Britton and five-time World Champion Paul Tergat.
Organiser John Allen explained: "This is by far the most prestigious and important cross country meeting on Irish shores. As a result it inevitably costs a lot of money.
"We have been extremely grateful to Antrim Borough Council which has provided generous sponsorship over the past seven years. However, the future position is uncertain as the Council will be amalgamating with Newtownabbey next month and no-one knows at this stage what the policy position of the new body will be.
"We hope that the new body will be as positive towards the event as Antrim has been."
At the weekend, former Antrim champions Steph Twell and Thomas Ayeko used their local knowledge to produce impressive performances and secure silver and gold medals respectively.
Twell held on for much of the 7k race on Saturday before Birtukan Fentealemu broke clear on the third lap. The African gradually increased her lead and crossed the line for a comfortable 16-second victory margin. Meanwhile, Twell had opened a 21-second gap on Birtukan Ademu at the finish for the silver medal.
In the Men's 10.8k event, the lead was disputed by 2013 winner Ayeko and Kenyan pair Edwin Soi and Jonathan Ndiku.
Ayeko and Soi fought a fierce battle with Ayeko only gaining the ascendancy on the final lap. The Ugandan had 13 seconds to spare over Soi at the tape with Ndiku 45 seconds further back.
NI cross country champion Declan Reed had one of his best ever races when he beat numerous international runners to finish in 19th.
In the Junior International races, England dominated as usual. English National winners Jonathan Davies and Rebecca Murray showed their class again with crushing victories.