FIVE Dyfed Schools athletes joined their Welsh teammates as a squad of thirty-six endurance runners made the journey to Dublin this weekend for the SIAB Schools Cross Country International.
The annual end-of-season SIAB Schools International Athletic Board Cross Country International in Dublin’s Santry Demesne took place yesterday, Saturday (Mar 23).
Situated next to the Morton Athletics Stadium, a total of almost 150 athletes were in action from all areas of the United Kingdom during the day.
This high standard competition, which takes place in each of the four countries once every four years, returned across the Irish Sea in Northern Ireland and hosted by the Irish Schools Association.
Wales took its turn two years ago to put on the event at the historic and scenic Margam Park near Port Talbot and provided with a great setting for the competition.
In 2018, the international fixture headed to Nottingham’s Wollaton Park where a testing and hilly course awaited the competitors of all ages.
The 2019 SIAB International gave an opportunity to test form against the cream of cross-country talent from across the UK and Ireland.
There were a number of experienced athletes out on show however they ran alongside a number of debutants making their first appearance on the international stage.
On a sunny afternoon watched on by a vocal crowd, Teams of eight from Welsh Schools, English Schools, Irish Schools and Scottish Schools battled it out in the under 15 junior and under 17 intermediate races.
They competed over distances of 3,000m, 4,000m and 6,000m split into a small lap and large lap.
Additionally in 2019, a new 4 x 1500m relay took place for the upper age group, where an additional 2 boys and 2 girls were invited to participant for their country in this element in the final race of the programme.
Strong Showing from Welsh Schools’ youngsters: Welsh Schools pupils wearing the red vest of Wales were selected to run following the Welsh Schools National Cross-Country Championships, in Brecon on 13th February.
The first eight respectively in the under 15 and under 17 age groups that day were automatically chosen to be involved in this season climax match participating against unfamiliar opponents.
Dyfed Schools: Frank Morgan (Bro Myrddin) and Rhys Llewellyn (Haverfordwest High) were the first to run in the second race of the afternoon, the Junior Boys.
Welsh Schools champion Morgan produced one of Wales’ top individual performances on the day, finishing in ninth position (13:23) overall and leading the Welsh squad having enjoyed valuable experience at the event in 2018.
Llewellyn meanwhile was making his debut on the International stage and battled right to the end on his first outing to finish the 4,000m course in a time of 14:36 in 31st.
The next age group up, the Intermediate Boys’ race featured quality runners and saw Wales field a team of eight.
Llanelli’s Adam Beer (Glan Y Môr), having won the Welsh Schools and Welsh Cross-Country Championships in the space of ten days in February, was involved here.
Adam was joined in the same category as Iori Humphreys (Ysgol Harri Tudur) who has been as successful over the busy cross-country season and confirmed his place in SIAB after a top 10 in Brecon.
On Saturday, Beer finished 21st (19:27) and Humphreys in 32nd (20:41) over the longest distance of the 2019 International.
Dafydd Jones (Bro Myrddin) was selected to compete for Welsh Schools in the 4 x 1500m relay which was introduced on Saturday.
He joined up with his teammates Griffiths, Parkinson and Callow for the concluding race against the other three countries. Jones ran the second fastest lap out of the sixteen athletes involved, running a fast time of 4 minutes 25 seconds.
This year’s squad was very much spread from schools across Wales’ four regions, with runners involved from locations such as Barry, Cowbridge, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Bridgend, Carmarthen, Pembrokeshire, Powys, Bangor, Denbighshire and Flint just to name a few.
The Welsh teams were accompanied for the weekend by a management team of seven under team leader Zane Maynard (Morriston Comprehensive).
He was joined on management duties by Delyth Brown, Carol Jones, Joan Goldsmith and John Messum alongside SIAB Delegates Dai Gatehouse and Steve Jones.
An army of parents, coaches and family members also travelled to support the children and country.
Following a dominant display in Nottingham last year on home ground, the powerful English Schools athletes continued their fine form at these Internationals, again coming away from Ireland with a clean sweep of four team titles and victories individually.
It proved to be a successful day for Wales’ up and coming stars with the best result of the day coming in the first race at lunchtime, which was the Junior Girls.
The girls finished six in 29 places to come away with team bronze behind England and Scotland.
There were also strong showings from the other promising age groups who scored full teams.
Several now look ahead to the London Mini Marathon on the final Sunday of April as well as being eligible for next year’s Schools International in Scotland.
Next up in the International calendar will be the SIAB Track & Field International for athletes in the under 17 age group. Grangemouth Stadium in Scotland was the venue last summer but this year, the international will head to Wales and Swansea University Athletics Track on Saturday 20th July 2019.
Countries will select two athletes per event and all disciplines of track and field will be open in the SIAB T&F International where a large and vocal Welsh crowd will be expected to be present in West Wales in a few months’ time.