Pace-setter McCormack signs off with battling third
Fionnuala McCormack rounded off her cross-country season with a battling performance to finish third at the Antrim International Cross-Country in Greenmount.
In dour underfoot conditions, Kenya's Alice Aprot Nawowuna was first home in the 5.8km race in 18:05, four seconds clear of Bahrain's Mimi Belete. McCormack finished third in 18:13, with Britain's Kate Avery - a silver medallist at the European Cross Country last month - fourth in 18:16.
"It's definitely a positive start in 2016 for me," said McCormack. "I liked it today. It was definitely real cross-country."
With the East African contingent happy to run conservatively in the opening laps, McCormack ended up at the front, a pace-setting role she was happy to accept. "I think the Africans thought they could get around the mud but realised they couldn't," said McCormack.
Though she couldn't live with the surge of Aprot Nawowuna and Belete over the final lap, McCormack battled back strongly from fourth position to earn a place on the podium.
For McCormack, yesterday's race brought the curtain down a cross-country season which saw her finish fourth at the European Cross-Country in Hyeres, France, and was highlighted by her win at the Lotto CrossCup in Brussels. The 31-year-old, who is currently Ireland's second fastest qualifier for the Olympic marathon, will now turn her attention back to the roads.
Her next target is likely to be the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff on March 26. "That's the plan at the moment," she said. "It's a team race so it should be a good chance for a team to be sent."
Further down the field yesterday, Olympic steeplechase qualifier Kerry O'Flaherty was next best of the Irish, coming home 11th in 19:46, while 800m specialist Roseanne Galligan was 13th in 20:05.