THE IRISH WOMEN’S cross-country team came in fifth at today’s World Championship race in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Double European Champion, Fionnuala Britton, led the charge from the starting gun, and finished as the top European athlete in 14th place – a result which equals he previous best finish at the elite World Championship level.
Mary Cullen would finish a further 13 places down with Lizzie Lee, Ava Hutchinson and Linda Byrne forming the remainder of the successful outing. But for Irish onlookers, the race was all about Britton’s progress.
With temperatures hunkering below zero and a technically challenging course made more difficult with soft ground, snow and puddles, Britton appeared to eschew the opportunity to maintain a comfortable early pace.
Instead, the reigning European champion kept up with the leading group , with elite African athletes including – eventual top three – Emily Chebet, Ayalew Hiwot and Shitaye Eshete.
The valiant effort soon took its toll on Britton, who lost touch as Hiwot opened up a gap at the front – a pace which she too failed to sustain as she was overtaken in the closing stages by Chebet.
The Ethiopian edged out he compatriot by three seconds at the end with a winning time of 24:24 2 over the eight kilometre course.
Britton would finish 44 seconds later, but will be heartened by the news that her efforts helped Ireland into the top five; behind Kenya, Ethiopia, Bahrain and the USA.