Mary Cullen was the story of the Irish today at the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels as she took an excellent fourth position in the senior women’s race.
The Sligo athlete who is on scholarship in the US was in the leading group from the start.
As the field began to spread out Cullen stayed near the top and settled in third place before dropping to fourth behind Portugal’s Ines Monteiro towards the end of the race. Cullen finished in fourth in a time of 28.04 in what was a superb performance from the 26-year-old.
The Irish senior women’s team finished in ninth position overall with the race being won by Holland’s Hilda Kibet in a time of 27.45.
After the race Cullen said; “I am thrilled to finish fourth today. It has been a tough year for me but I went for the race from the start and kept fighting until the end. I found the conditions a lot more challenging than I am used to so I felt myself fighting back on the smoother sections. Today I think I have shown I can mix it with the best and it makes me hungry to finish on the podium in Dublin next year.”
There was disappointment for Ireland in the men’s senior race. Mullingar’s Martin Fagan was in the leading pack before a slip on lap three left him on his knees and he dropped down the field eventually finishing in 24th in a time of 31.57. The next best of the Irish was Alan McCormack in 32nd, with the team finishing 7th overall.
The race was won by the Ukraine’s Serhiy Lebid in a time of 30.49.
Today was also historic for Ireland as Athletics Ireland President Liam Hennessy received the flag for next year’s European Cross Country Championships. The event will be hosted by Ireland for the first time and it will take place at Santry Demesne in Dublin.