Some of the world’s top runners are to battle it out for a share in a $15,000 prize pot on the fields of Greenmount College.
Athletics Northern Ireland has once again won an endorsement from the sport’s world governing body, the IAAF, for its annual International Cross County event, which is to be held on Saturday January 22.
It is one of just 11 events worldwide that the IAAF approves and despite the chilly January temperatures, Northern Ireland has always attracted top names to its cross country events.
And with $7,500 (around £4,800) on offer in both the senior men’s and women’s races another highly competitive field is expected to be on show once again this time around.
Three top Ethiopians have already confirmed their entries. Dejen Gebremeskel and Ali Abdosh will look to emulate Kenya’s Mike Kiegen, who ran to victory last season.
Aheza Kiros, a 14:56 performer over 5000 metres, will be a serious contender in the ladies race, which was won this year by Mary Cullen.
Gebremeskel was ranked fourth in the world at 5000 metres during the summer when he ran 12:53.56 in Oregon, while Abdosh clocked 12:56.53 when he was seventh in the world last year. He also has a time of 27:09.40 over 10,000 metres.
“We are delighted that Athletics Northern Ireland has chosen to return to Antrim for the third year for the Antrim IAAF International Cross Country,” said Mayor of Antrim Pam Lewis, as she launched the outstanding event, which Antrim Borough Council is backing.
“CAFRE, Greenmount Campus is an ideal venue for this world class competition, with its central location and ease of access it is ideal for the many competitors
who will travel from overseas for the event. Antrim Borough Council is proud to support this prestigious event, which will no doubt contribute significantly to the Borough, attracting visitors from across the world.
“We wish Athletics Northern Ireland, CAFRE and the runners every success for January 2011.”
North Belfast Harriers highly-rated Stephen Scullion, who also attended the launch, will be looking to match the success he enjoyed in 2010, when he was the first local runner to cross the line.
With more than six weeks to go before the starting pistol sounds, Athletics NI is expecting many more high class athletes to enter, with the likes of Paula Radcliffe, Paul Tergat, Steve Cram, Steve Ovett, John Tracey, Khalid Skah, Sergey Lebid, Liz McColgan and Brendan Foster having all competed in the past.
Organisers are expecting some 1,000 competitors to take part on the day, with 12 races scheduled in total, ranging from an under-13 event to the flagship seniors race and both male and female veterans also being part of the day.