Both Irish junior teams finished fifth in the European mountain running championships in Pamukkale-Denizli in Turkey. Sarah McCormack (8th), Louise Hill-Stirling (10th), and Jake O’Regan (10th) all had excellent individual performances.
First off were the junior women at 8 am in temperatures in the early twenties. The race comprised one lap of 3900m with a 250m run in from the start/finish area. The Turkish runners led the early pace with the eventual winner, Annabel Mason (GBR), biding her time until the climb began in earnest. Fifteen years-old Mason won by a convincing 49 seconds from Turkish runners Sevilay Eytemis (3rd in 2011) and Cesminaz Yilmaz (2nd in 2011 Worlds). Turkey (5) won the team on count-back from Great Britain (5) with Bulgaria (12) in bronze. With Clare McCarthy and Sarah Miles running in mid-field, the Irish team finished fifth. This is the highest ever placing for an Irish junior women’s team.
The junior men’s race was next with Jake O’Regan in the top 15 from the start. The start of the loop brought the runners up an old Roman stone road followed by a steep climb up historical stone stairs before passing through a historical church. A short descent preceded a steep climb up through the woods before a technical twisty descent, followed by a kilometre on road to the end of the 3900m loop. O’Regan had moved into tenth at the start of the second loop and looked full of running as he climbed the stone stairs. Close behind him was Hugh Armstrong running in the late teens. These two held their places on the last lap and with support from Killian O’Connor and Andrew Cullen finished as fifth team just ahead of Great Britain recording a best ever Irish junior men’s team performance . Up front Turkish winner Ahmet Ozrek and runner-up Mazlum Aydemir led Turkey (9) to a convincing win over Russia (29) and the Czech Republic (30).
The senior women’s race represented Ireland’s best chance for an individual medal and hopes were raised when Sarah McCormack was in the top five from the start. As the women climbed the steep stairs on the second lap, McCormack was still within reach of the two British race leaders. However on the second climb through the woods, Swiss runner Monika Furholz moved through as did some other runners who had kept more in reserve. McCormack finished an excellent eight within a minute of the winner and only edged out in a sprint by the 2011 silver medallist Antonella Confortola. Fiona Roche ran a good second lap to catch Sarah Mulligan and help the team to an eight placing. Furholz won by nine seconds from Nadezhda Leshchinskaia (RUS) and Czech runner Pavla Schorna Matyasova. Great Britain (20) won team gold from Italy (30) and Russia (30).
On paper the senior men’s race looked the most competitive with 10-15 previously well placed finishers all competing. The Irish runners found the rising temperatures a challenge as the race progressed. Brian MacMahon was in the twenties for most of the race while Ian Conroy, Tom Hogan, and James Kevan packed well throughout the race resulting in the Irish team finishing tenth. Ahmet Arslan (TUR) won after a close battle with compatriot Ercan Muslu. Ionat Alin Zinca (ROU) took bronze. Italy (16), Turkey (19) and France (48) took the medals.
Junior women individual (4,400m with 240m ascent): 1. Annabel Mason (GBR) 20:25; 2. Sevilay Eytemis (TUR) 21:14; 3. Cesminaz Yilmaz (TUR) 21:45; 10. Louise Hill-Stirling (Clonliffe) 23:35; 16. Clare McCarthy (DSD) 24:17; 17. Sarah Miles (DSD) 24:21
Junior women team: 1. Turkey (2,3) 5; 2. Great Britain (I,4) 5; 3. Bulgaria (5,7) 12; 5. Ireland (10,16) 26
Junior men individual (8,300m with 470m ascent): 1. Ahmet Ozrak (TUR) 35:18; 2. Mazlum Aydemir (TUR) 35:26; 3. Anton Palzer (GER) 36:26; 10. Jake O’Regan (St. John’s Clare) 37:31; 18. Hugh Armstrong (Ballina) 38:38; 25. Killian O’Connor (Sligo) 39:43; 30. Andrew Cullen (DSD) 41:11
Junior men team: 1. Turkey (1,2,6) 9; 2. Russia (4,5,20) 29; 3.Czech Republic (8,9,13) 30; 5. Ireland (10,18,25) 53
Senior women individual (8,300m with 470m ascent): 1. Monika Furholz (SUI) 39:54; 2. Nadezhda Leshchinskai (RUS) 40:03; 3. Pavla Schorna Matyasova CZE) 40:07; 8. Sarah McCormack (Clonliffe) 40:55; 38. Fiona Roche (Raheny) 45:17; 39. Sarah Mulligan (DSD) 46:04
Senior women team: 1. Great Britain (4,6,10) 20; 2. Italy (7,9,14) 30; 3.Russia (2,11,17) 30; 8. Ireland (8,38,39) 85
Senior men individual (12,200m with 700m ascent): 1. Ahmt Arslan (TUR) 49:46; 2. Ercan Muslu (TUR) 49:57; 3. Zinca Ionut Alin (ROU) 50:19; 33. Brian MacMahon (Clonliffe) 55:04; 39. Ian Conroy (Raheny) 57:41; 41. Tom Hogan (SBR) 58:27; 42. James Kevan (Clonliffe) 58:53
Senior men team: 1. Italy (4,5,7) 16; 2. Turkey (1,2,16) 19; 3. France (6,20,22) 48; 10. Ireland (33,39,41) 113