BRITISH AND IRISH MASTERS INTERNATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
It had been my intention to travel to Gransha Park in Derry on Saturday to watch the British and Irish Masters International Cross Country Championships. But I suppose to do that it required some degree of pre-planning, such as the very basic, arranging a lift with someone who was prepared to drive there and back. So come Saturday morning around 7.30am and the realisation that the aforementioned requirement had not been met, nor was the next one, to be up fed watered and dressed inside the next hour, likely to be, meant that I had no option but to succumb to the pull of gravity and sink back into the sheets again!
However I am pleased to say that East Down’s proud and latest international Paul Burns had no such difficulty and did himself and the Club extremely well by posting 30.46 in the highly competitive M40 race over a muddy 8K on Saturday afternoon. The race was won in a time of 26.22 so while making up that sort of gap is probably beyond the capacity of any athlete, I have no doubt that Paul can and will make it a point of securing his selection on the team again next year and improving that time. Martin Willcox who was nominated as reserve was unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) not called into action. I am sure he will put himself forward again too.
And of course it would be remiss of me not to Congratulate my good friend big Jim Patterson, Newcastle AC, who at the age of 71 won the M70 Gold Medal by the margin of one second, to add to his World Championship Mountain Runners Gold earlier this year. I hope when I’m his age I’ll be running as well – though given that I’ll be in the same bracket next year I’m not holding out much hope of that!
Declan Teague completed what he described as a wet, muddy marathon on a grassy undulating Curragh Plain on Saturday. It was another of the East of Ireland series and while he described the going as yielding he still managed a “tired” 3.52 time. Memo to Declan, Tired ? Perhaps, but slow? certainly not!
Co. DOWN 5K CHAMPIONSHIPS CALLUM SHOWS CLEAN PAIR of WHEELS – TWICE
Sunday morning saw the first running of the Co. Down 5K Championships on a flat, fast circuit of the roads around the car park and the inner lane of Lr Market St and 3 different races proved popular with both novice and elite runners. Prior to the first 5K race for those who classed themselves in the 30+ minutes category, the School Children had the chance to set their stamp on proceedings by running part of a lap. Callum Kent fairly flew round the course to finish in 2.20 ahead of Aaron Lennon and Lyndsey Kelly. Then he turned out again in the 20+ Race and finished in a superb 7th place overall in 20.05. I have no doubt he could have given the Elite race a go too, but wisely resisted the temptation.
A notable feature of this race was that 15 of the finishers recorded tines well below the 30 minutes, notably overall winner Olivia Mooney 22.02, who it is hoped will soon re-join the EDAC ranks as a prospective scorer in the Cross Country League race. A special word has to go to the likes of Emma Mallon who took up running to raise money for the Help Nicola beat MS campaign last year and who has stuck to the task since, to Sean McCashin, Donna McCartan, Una Wallace and Katherine Dryden, all of whom stuck manfully to their tasks and gave inspirational performances to gladden any heart.
ELITE MEN & WOMEN
A first class line up of the best athletes around lined up to non-stop cheering all around the course at 12.00 noon as the field of 30 set off on their first lap, with pre -race favourites Mark McKinstry North Belfast, leading the way from Foyle Vallley’s Keith Shiels and East Down’s Brendan Teer. Not far behind , came Laura Graham and Rachel Gibson. It was an eye opener to see up close just how fast the runners were going. It seemed that Shiels and McKinstry who were locked in a battle no sooner disappeared from view at one end of the St Patrick’s Square, than they re-appeared at the other. Shiels always appeared to have something in hand over the hard working North Belfast man with Teer running well but safely in third place. Shiels made his decisive move halfway through the penultimate lap and crossed the line in 14.31 with McKinstry 2nd 14.36 and Teer 15.21 holding off Beechmount’s Brendan Guiney 15.43.
An equally fascinating race was taking place for the Ladies title, with Dublin Marathon winner and Irish Marathon champion Laura Graham opening up a sizeable lead over North Down’s Rachel Gibson and Dromore’s Susan Smyth. Laura, who to her great credit supports every local race, runs hard and behaves modestly clocked 16.27 to win from Gibson 17.25 and Smyth 18.30.
This was a very well organised event which, when the word spreads, looks destined to become a top quality fixture to look forward to in the future.
UNEVEN AGE GROUP CHAMPIONSHIPS IN STRANORLAR
Last week was one of the busiest weeks East Down’s juniors had in a while. On Sunday, 12th November the squad travel to Stranorlar, Donegal, at the home of the Finn Valley AC, for the NI & Ulster Uneven Age Group Cross Country Championships.
The races kicked off at 11.30 am on what was a changeable day in Donegal with hailstones, rain and sunshine throughout the day. In the U11 girls race the ever-improving Erin Moore who ran a gutsy race through the muddy conditions. Also running in the Undr 11 race was another star of the future Jodi Foster who qualified for the All Ireland Finals in Waterford by virtue of her 7th place finish. Well done girls!
In the U11 boys race we had a solitary competitor Kieran Trainor who fought his way through the field in an impressive display of running in the mud. His efforts have landed him with an opportunity to represent Co Down in the All Ireland finals in Waterford. James Smyth was also the sole EDAC athlete in the U19 boys race. James ran with the sort of determination that will see him get to the podium very soon. Well done lads!
LAUREN AND THE UNDER 13 GIRLS
The highlight of the day has to be the performance of the U13 girls team, Emily Burns, Kara Trainor, Lucy Foster, Kirsti Foster, Anna Gardiner and Lauren Madine, who all stepped up to the longer distance of 2000m to bring home a team gold and individual gold!
The race itself had the largest field of the day with 109 athletes completing the gruelling 2k in the mud. All of the big clubs from NI and Ulster had their teams out to try and get their hands on the winning medals. However, from the gun, EDAC made their intentions clear to the competitors and spectators who were present. Lauren Madine made her way to the front of field and was in 2nd place at 800m. Lauren was closely followed by Kirsti, Lucy, Anna, Kara and Emily. As the race unfolded with 500m to go, Lauren made her move to the front and was determined not to let it go. She broke the tape to win her individual gold in 8 minutes 36 seconds managing to hold off the threat of City of Lisburn and Shercock athletes. With 200m to go, Anna Gardiner followed by Kirsti Foster and Lucy Foster emerged like a freight train from the exceptionally boggy part of the course. All 3 girls were determined to hold on and push to the line in a super 10th, 11th and 12th place finish. Next home was the determined Kara Trainor, a relative newcomer to Cross Country running, and there is no doubt this athlete has a bright future in athletics. The team’s youngest and most improved athlete Emily Burns was next home giving the spectators a performance to savour. Those present realised that EDAC finished well up the field and waited with excitement on the team results. As it turned out, the EDAC girls won the team gold by an amazing 19 points ahead of their nearest rivals Finn Valley and Shercock AC. The EDAC girls are now training hard for the All Ireland Finals in December and we look forward to hearing how they get on.
To put all this in perspective, this is EDAC’s first ever team gold in Ulster over the Cross Country. As a club we have had individual gold medals in days gone by. My sources tell me that James O’Hare, Joanne Mills and Laura Gardiner are Ulster Gold Medal winners over the Cross Country and now Laura Madine is added to that list, but the team gold is a first and hopefully not the last! Take a bow girls!
GARETH AND HIS GIRLS
If a race mentions mud, obstacles and water in November most runners would gracefully decline but Gareth not only signed himself up but the rest of the family with him. I am not sure if it a for reward or favour but the 4 girls did him proud – wading through water, scaling barriers and wallowing in mud. Gareth said it was enjoyable but that next time he will look for a event held in a warmer season! He also turned out for the “Run in the Dark” which is held in Stormont and involves running up the hill to the Carson Memorial in the dark. Gareth sure knows how to keep life interesting! It is held annually with proceeds going to research into a potential cure for Spinal Cord Injury which is a very worthy cause.
HOMESTART SANTA RUNS
This weekend on Sunday, the Home Start 2, 5 and 10K Santa Walk and Runs take place beginning at 11.30am from the East Down Clubrooms, so if you haven’t got an entry for the Joe Seeley 10K the day before, or even if you have, get your Santa hat or costume and your entries in for this one, online at www.athleticsni.org though entries will also be taken on the day from 9.00am onwards. Refreshments and spot prizes afterwards.
Joe Quinn & Peter Morgan
20 November 2017