Cooke proves 'star' quality with surprise national title
Aoife Cooke of Youghal AC was a convincing winner of the novice title at yesterday's GloHealth National Cross Country Championships in Dungarvan, the 29-year-old taking a surprise victory in 15:08 ahead of Rachael Smyth of St Coca's (15:19).
"I didn't know what to expect so I'm thrilled," said Cooke, who was previously a scholarship student at Arkansas Tech in the US, which she gave up due to chronic injury problems. However she has since bounced back to form under the guidance of coach - and aunt - Mary Sweeney.
"It didn't work out for her in Arkansas," said Sweeney. "But she came back to Cork and decided to get back running only two years ago. She's a star."
Cooke's victory helped her club to victory in the team race, with Youghal taking a narrow victory over Dundrum South Dublin by 87 points to 89.
In the men's novice event, Stephen Lawlor of St Abban's edged a close finish in 19:54 ahead of Naas's Patrick Roche (19:56) in a race which saw 211 athletes toe the line.
Ennis Track ran out convincing winners of the team event with a tally of just 45.
In the under-age events, Craig McMeechan of North Down AC edged Ulster rival Eoin McCann of St Malachy's to take gold in the under-17 race.
Amy Rose Farrell of Blackrock AC was first home in the girls' under-17 race, adding to the under-16 title she won a fortnight ago in Santry.
An interested spectator in Dungarvan was race-walker Rob Heffernan, whose daughter Meghan finished fourth in the under-13 girls' race, which was won by Newport's Aimee Hayde.