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Newcastle AC Enjoy Great Day At Castleward
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Plenty of rewards at Castleward

Race 4 of the McGrady Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series

By Joe McCann

The fourth race in the highly successful McGrady Financial Services sponsored Junior Cross Country Series took place in the resplendent surrounding of Castleward.  The National Trust property provided an ideal backdrop for the young runners as they tackled the course carefully plotted by the young at heart Joe Quinn.  Our thanks to the East Down club for their usual efficiency and attention to detail in organising another superb event. As the series has progressed the numbers have increased and the performances of the athletes are improving all the time, justifying the effort being made by the coaches of the local athletics clubs.  Further evidence of the increasing popularity of athletics can be found in the fact that 98 runners took part in this event and in the 25 new runners competing for the first time, 13 from Newcastle AC and 12 from East Down.

The Newcastle AC junior runners who had a great day at Castleward.

The opening race of the afternoon was for Primary 3 & 4 pupils.  These young runners performed admirable and enthusiastically over the 800 metre course.  They were led home by Conor Murray who managed to withstand the challenge of Andrew Watson and the first girl home was Kate Lenny who was pushed all the way be Eve Keneally.

The next race witnessed the Primary 5 pupils and this was a great success for East Down who claimed five of the six podium positions.  Caiomhe Grace-O’Donnell and Caelan Quinn were convincing winners. Michaela Quinn and Caolan Hawkins were the primary 6 winners; both had 8 seconds to spare over their closest rivals.

A tight finish

The Primary 7 girls’ race was the most competitive of the day with only 5 seconds separating Jenny Black, Emily Forte and Aoife Cochrane, the former holding on to pip her East Down colleagues. Matthew Carrick was a more convincing winner in the respective boys’ race.

Moving on to the post primary pupils there were excellent wins for Aidan Hawkins, Chloe Rooney, Arthur Morgan and Ciara Gibson.  These performances should instil confidence in the lead up to the Down Schools’ Championships.

This months spot prize was kindly donated by Hugh McCanns, Newcastle and the lucky winner was Ruairi Carey.

Schools’ contenders

On viewing the performances throughout the series to date there will be high hopes for many of the athletes on view when the annual Down Schools’ Cross Country championships are run on Thursday 3rd February.  One would expect Ciara Gibson and Ellen Finnegan to be in contention for individual and team honours with Assumption Grammar School, while runners from Shimna College and St. Patrick’s Grammar have been accustomed to winning medals in recent years.  The performances of Ciara Mageean, James O’Hare and Eoghan Totten in the recent past should serve to inspire the current contenders and add to an already impressive tradition among the local schools.

Race 5 in the series will be in Donard Park at 1.30pm on Sunday 13th February 2011.  Parents are asked to ensure that runners arrive in plenty of time to register and take part in the warm up run which will begin at 1.15pm.  Full details of the next race and all the results from Race 4 can be found by visiting the Newcastle AC website (www.newcastleac.org) and following the link to the junior section.

Before that the athletes will have a final opportunity to sharpen up at the Rollercoaster Races on 29th January.  This unique event is a great spectacle and athletes of all ages are encouraged to support the event.

Another McNeilly victory

In other club news Deon McNeilly continued his winning ways, making it four wins from four outings in the Extreme 26 series at Stormont last Thursday night.  This victory was all the more remarkable in light of the fact that the ‘Big Fella’ had not planned to run the race.  He had imbibed an ale or two until the wee hours of Thursday morning before rising at 7am for a swift 6 mile run.  He then did a days work (here I use my writers licence!!), flew across the Irish Sea and decided at the last moment to race since he happened to be in the area! Is there no stopping this man?

His clubmates, and fellow Extreme 26 aficionados Brendan Quail and Eugene McCann also performed well finishing second and ninth respectively.  David O’Flaherty made a welcome return to racing and gave a very good account of himself, finishing strongly claiming fourth place.  Hopefully this will be the first of many fine performances for this highly talented athlete who has been in contention in many Hill and Dale races over the last two years.

Brannigan brings home the bacon

Congratulations to Ian Brannigan who returned with the usual haul of medals from the Nice 10k, a traditional meeting venue for transplant athletes worldwide.  Ian ran a very respectable sub-42 minutes for the 6.25 mile course.  The medal count is mounting and an extension may soon be needed to house the growing collection of awards.

Well done also to Anne Sandford who ran a very respectable 22.31 to finish 33rd at the Antrim IAAF XC International on Saturday.  Anne continues to race regularly and is a great advertisement for the benefits that accrue from regular running and competition.

And finally Cyril!

This week’s contribution ends with the tale of the Sunday morning runners that were pursued by a flock (by flock I really mean two!) of geese as they ambled home from the 8.30am run.  Initially I thought Eugene McCann was talking in his usual high pitched squeak, but soon discovered differently when one of the said fowl waddled passed me – my career has reached a new all time low, given that I thought I was going well at the time!!!