A young Dromore athlete faces the biggest weekend of her racing career so far, but she says she has no fear.
Rebekah Nixon, 17, will head off to Scotland to represent Ulster at Saturday’s Great Edinburgh Cross-Country races.
The Banbridge Academy student, now in Year 13, has long been one of Ulster’s leading lights in junior athletics. Now she’s off to race on the international stage for the first time, taking part in the U23 section of the six kilometre race.
At an event headlined by British athletics legend Mo Farah, Rebekah could be forgiven for showing some pre-race nerves.
However, she says that’s not too big an issue as she takes much comfort and courage from her relationship with Jesus, particularly from 1st Samuel chapter two verse 30.
“I’ve never raced at this level before and I’m really excited about it,” she beamed. “I’ve been really encouraged by verses from the Bible, where God says ‘Those who honour me, I will honour.’ I know that I have absolutely nothing to worry about because I know that God is by my side and that He will be with me this weekend.”
With the race split into U17, U20 and U23 races, Rebekah is competing well above her years. It’s a spot she has earned after finishing third in the Ulster Championships while she has also raced very strongly against senior competition in a number of local cross-country meets.
“I’ve been dropped in the deep end,” she laughed.
“I have represented Ulster in Interprovincial tournaments but this is the first time I’ve got to go and race on the international stage.
“I just want to use it as a learning experience and to enjoy it. It will be great to test myself at this level and to see how I measure up against the other competitors. It will be a real eye opener for me. I’ll just get out there and go for it.”
Rebekah’s race will begin at 10.35am, when she will at least get a sample of being in the media spotlight with highlights of her race set to be broadcast on BBC. And she has her own plan to ensure she makes the final cut.
My dad has told me to make sure I get off to a good start to get my face on the TV,” she laughed. “The coverage starts at 1pm and there will be highlights of our race with the senior races televised after that.”
And that’s not the only piece of pre-race advice she has got from her dad.
“Mo Farah will be competing too so hopefully after the races I’ll get a chance to meet him. Dad seems very keen for me to make sure I get a selfie,” said Rebekah.
Once she returns, it’ll be back to porridge for the schoolgirl, who has AS Level mocks waiting. While she’s away rubbing shoulders with the greats of athletics, though, the thoughts of the school will be with her.
“Everyone in the Academy is delighted that Rebekah has been selected for Ulster and we wish her every success in this prestigious event,” said Principal Robin McLaughlin. “It’s an absolutely wonderful achievement which reflects Rebekah’s talent and commitment.”
And once her time at school comes to an end, Rebekah has her sights set on a scholarship in America.
She said: “Hopefully I can build on the experience I will gain this weekend and perform well. It all has to happen this year if I’m going to make it over to America.”
If she can do that, the sky’s the limit for the promising Dromore Athletics Club runner.