Monday 24 July 2017

Cooke proves 'star' quality with surprise national title

St Abban’s Stephen Lawlor on his way to winning the Men’s Novice Cross Country
St Abban’s Stephen Lawlor on his way to winning the Men’s Novice Cross Country
Youghal’s Aoife Cooke claimed the Women’s event

Cathal Dennehy

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.

Novice

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.

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