TWO young athletes on American scholarships, Jane Buckley and Stephanie Cotter, are the most recent recipients of the Cork City Sports Athletes of the Month awards for November and December.
Both had exceptional cross-country victories on the ultra-competitive NCAA US circuit, beginning with Buckley’s win at the Big East Cross-Country Championship. Held at the Highland Park Course in Attleboro, Mass., in sunny conditions, the Providence College student captured individual honours with a time of 20:06 for the 6km race.
This made her only the second freshman (first-year student) to win this prestigious title, the only other time this was achieved was way back in 1982. Buckley finished two seconds ahead of last year’s champion, Georgetown’s Maggie Donahue, who recorded a time of 20:08.
Her win came after just 10 weeks at Providence and she followed that up at the Northeast Regionals in New York when finishing third. This qualified the college for the NCAA championships in Oklahoma where the 19-year-old again led the way, finishing 49th overall.
Speaking at the City Sports presentation in the River Lee hotel, the Newcestown native and Leevale member admitted she had settled in well Stateside: “It’s going well; I thought it would be more difficult but I had done a lot of running here at home during the summer with my coach, Chris Harrington, which had me prepared. The only difference was that the races over there are much bigger and faster.”
Moving into December, Buckley’s magnificent form continued apace. Competing in the U20 race at the SPAR European Championships in Turin, she put up another brilliant individual performance to secure a fifth place finish, an improvement of 25 places from the year before when the championships took place in Dublin.
Stephanie Cotter, a member of the West Muskerry club, has been attending Adams State University in Colorado for the past four years. She is also a past winner of the Cork City Sports Award, firstly in 2017 and then three years ago when she was honoured for winning an individual bronze and team silver in the U23 race at the European Cross-Country.
At this year’s NCAA Division 11 cross country championships in Seattle she raced to victory over the 6km course to finish well clear of the second-placed athlete. Stephanie had previously won the same title in 2019, making her only the ninth athlete in the history of this championship to win it twice.
Earlier in the season, Cotter took top individual honours at the RMAC championships and finished ninth at the South Central Regional championships.
“That Division 11 title was something I wanted to win and it was also great for the team as they became the first team to win three straight national titles on four occasions.
“My time in the States has been up and down, I’m at Adams State which is up a mountain and very isolated but a beautiful place to run. I’m very grateful to win this award here in Cork, it was lovely to come home and to coincide that with receiving it.
“It’s a huge honour, my roots are very much in Cork and I think about that when I’m running.”
The Cork City Sports Athletics Person of the Month Award is sponsored by the River Lee, 96&C103FM, The Echo, Cork Crystal and Leisureworld.