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Hiko Tonosa and Michelle Finn claim national cross country titles

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Michelle Finn of Leevale AC, Cork, on her way to winning the Senior Women's event during the Irish Life Health National Cross Country Championships at Santry Demense in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michelle Finn of Leevale AC, Cork, on her way to winning the Senior Women's event during the Irish Life Health National Cross Country Championships at Santry Demense in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michelle Finn of Leevale AC, Cork, on her way to winning the Senior Women's event during the Irish Life Health National Cross Country Championships at Santry Demense in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

For Hiko Tonosa and Michelle Finn this was the kind of day to define a career, the pair producing performances replete with class and courage to claim the national cross country titles in Dublin.

On a splendid, sunny afternoon at Santry Demesne, Finn stamped her class over the senior women’s field from the outset, setting off alone on the first lap of the 8000m race and coming home in splendid isolation, 12 seconds clear of Sarah Healy, with Roisin Flanagan third and Aoibhe Richardson fourth.

“It’s definitely the best run I’ve had over cross country,” said Finn, who missed out on team selection two years ago after finishing fifth at the national championships. “I was trying to win the race rather than just to make the team.”

The men’s race proved a much tighter affair, the 10,000m race playing out in patient fashion, with no significant moves occurring until the second last of six laps.

That was when Tonosa of Dundrum South Dublin and chief rival Darragh McElhinney of UCD, the two pre-race favourites, began to turn the screw on the others. Heading into the final 400 metres it appeared McElhinney had the gold in his grasp, surging into a two-metre advantage over Tonosa, but Tonosa had something left in the locker, sprinting clear on the penultimate turn and hitting the line in 30:32, three seconds clear of McElhinney. It made it a double on the day for coach Feidhlim Kelly, who guides Tonosa and Finn at the Dublin Track Club.

“I trained very well and I was focused for this,” said Tonosa. “I wanted to win. Today is my day.”

Paul O’Donnell and Emmet Jennings, in third and fourth, rounded out a fine team victory for DSD, while Ryan Forstyth finished fifth also putting himself in line for selection for the European Cross Country Championships on December 12.

There was another outstanding performance in the men’s U20 race as Nick Griggs, the European U20 3000m champion, coasted to victory ahead of Dean Casey of Ennis Track, the 16-year-old Mid Ulster athlete unleashing a powerful finish to come home three seconds clear. Jane Buckley of Leevale took victory in the women’s U20 race ahead of DSD’s Emma McEvoy.

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