Athletics: Ledwith puts focus on track records
BOTH of the Woodies DIY National Inter-County Cross-Country senior titles will be up for grabs in a fortnight, as the two defending champions will miss the event.
Women's champion Mary Cullen is injured, while men's title holder Andrew Ledwith is skipping the race as it does not fit in with his plans. The Star of the Sea athlete, who also won the national half-marathon title in September, is concentrating solely on the track this season and is arranging to return to altitude training in Utah.
The 25-year-old from Kildalkey in Meath won a bronze in the 2008 NCAA Cross-Country Championships and also finished fifth in the 2009 NCAA 10,000m while at Iona College.
After graduating with a masters degree in finance, he concentrated on last year's European Championships in Santry and was shattered to finish only 41st.
"I would have gone to France or somewhere for altitude training if I could have afforded it," he recalled.
"After altitude you're at your best in the next 48 hours, and then between day 10 and 18, but the Europeans came around day 21 for me.
"I know people must have thought 'that lad's just not fit,' but, honestly, I had put in a huge amount of training since July and I was very down afterwards."
Like many Irish athletes who haven't yet broken into the elite 'carding' (grant) system, Ledwith struggles to survive on scraps of sponsorship and admits training Stateside means "you have to race sometimes to make your rent money."
He added: "I still feel I have a lot to do, and a lot to prove, and the first thing is to get after Irish track records, there's no reason they can't be broken," he added, hoping to lower his 28:45 10,000m PB to sub-28 minutes next summer.
Ledwith and Cullen are among the nominees for 'Cross-Country/Road Athlete of the Year'.
It's timely that Clonliffe's Mags Greenan is among the 'Masters' nominees as she won her third World 50+ title on the mountains this year. She is also part of the Irish team for tomorrow's British and Irish Masters Cross-Country Championships in Santry. The action begins at noon with an 'open' 6,000m race (€5 entry), before the internationals begin at 12.45.