Classy McCormack on target for Greenmount hat-trick
Former double European Cross Country champion Fionnuala McCormack, World 1500m silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot and steeplechase runner-up Soufiane El Bakkali will be aiming for victories in today's IAAF International Cross Country at Greenmount, Antrim.
McCormack (33) will be hoping that her seventh appearance in this meeting - part of the World Series - represents her lucky number following two previous victories.
The Kilcoole runner lost a shoe in last year's 5.6k race which relegated her to fourth place. She will be determined to improve on this today in the anticipated heavy conditions which should suit her.
Olympic marathon runner McCormack recently finished 12th in the European Cross Country in Slovakia just seven seconds behind top GB runner Gemma Steel who was ninth. Steel will be racing at Greenmount with a view to reversing the finishing positions in 2012 when she was runner-up to McCormack.
However both will face the usual formidable African challenge led by last year's bronze medallist Birtukan Adamu of Ethiopia.
The current national steeplechase champion will face favourite Margaret Kipkemboi of Kenya who was fifth in the World 5000m in London last summer.
Also in the mix will be World Junior bronze medallist Bontu Rebitu of Bahrain and Ethiopian 5000m athletes Fotyen Tesfay and Alemitu Hawi.
Northern Ireland's Laura Graham will lead the local challenge in one of her rare appearances over the country.
The men's 8k race will once again feature top GB runner Andy Vernon who was third last year behind current World Steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto.
Ireland is well represented at Greenmount with the inclusion of Kevin Maunsell and Hugh Armstrong who were members of the team which recently finished fifth in the Euro Cross in Slovakia.
NI's Craig McMeechan and James Craig who also ran well in the Euros will be competing in the U20 and U23 races respectively.
The events start at 11.30am today with internationals from 2.25pm.