McKiernan: Fun-running key
Four-time world cross country silver medallist Catherina McKiernan has urged the future distance running stars “to enjoy” the Aviva Irish Schools’ Cross Country Championships that take place tomorrow in the University of Ulster, Jordanstown if they are to succeed.
McKiernan, who famously won the senior girls schools’ title in 1988 in Dungarvan in her bare feet, believes that “enjoyment” is the key factor in making sure that kids stay in the sport.
“Sixteen, 17 is a dodgy age and it’s make or break time. A lot can give up at that stage,” said McKiernan.
“I was new to it and it was the first year an athletics club had been set up in the school. It was a novelty.
“A lot of kids start too young and get fed up with the novelty. If they are nervous and under pressure from parents, they won’t do as well or will eventually give up. I tell the kids, ‘if you just do your best and enjoy it, you will run and perform much better’.”
Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Colaiste Iosagain) is a shoe-in to win the senior girls’ race as a serial winner of schools titles. She also set a national junior indoor record over 800m of 2:05.26 in Athlone on January 27. Other contenders include school-mate and defending champion Clar Nic Carthaigh along with Linda Conroy (Mercy Kilbeggan).
Sean Tobin (High School Clonmel) has been in good form over the country and will start as the favourite to win the senior boys’ title.
Chief rivals include Hugh Armstrong (Gortner Abbey Crossmolina), Aaron Hanlon (St Mary’s Drogheda), winner of the Leinster Schools title, and Ian Guiden (St Aidan’s CBS).
There promises to be some famous faces in the crowd with Nicole Kenny (Rathdown), daughter of Pat Kenny, and Jack O’Leary (Clongowes), nephew of Michael O’Leary competing in the senior girls’ and inter boys’ races respectively.