A Fitting Finale to a Fabulous Festival of Fantastic Running
by Joe McCann
A large crowd packed into the Assembly Hall Shimna College on Monday 14th March to celebrate the success of the athletes who had competed so valiantly over the six races in the McGrady Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series. As the athletes and their parents assembled for the presentation they were entertained by a montage of photographs from the six races, expertly snapped by Mal McCann and Declan Rice.
The evening began with a talk given by local Physio Marty Smith, the lead practitioner from Move Physiotherapy. In his address Marty highlighted the importance of recognising overuse injuries in young athletes and outlined some of the common problems faced by juveniles. Marty spoke of the need to be aware of the signs of injuries as young people grow and outlined some of the main issues that face young athletes. The keynote of the speech was that prevention is better than cure and emphasised the need to warm up and cool down as part of every exercise routine.
Marty’s insightful words of wisdom were followed by the presentations of series prizes. Special guest Kerry Harty assisted the main sponsor, PJ McCrickard in the distribution of the prizes to the first three athletes in each of the categories.
International athlete Kerry Harty and long-time Newcastle AC member then gave a brief talk about her experiences and successes as a track runner, proffering invaluable wisdom to the junior runners. This is particularly apposite as the spring looms and the track season rapidly approaches. Kerry recalled how in her first few races she did not fare too well, but with the help and advice of the other members of the club, she progressed rapidly and was able to secure several Cross Country Schools’ titles. Kerry also told the juniors that it has taken her a long time to reach her present position of All Ireland 3000m indoor champion and record holder. She reminded the athletes that it is important to listen to coaches, train well, rest between training sessions and look after the body by fuelling it through good nutrition.
Eoghan Totten, fresh from his success in the recent All Ireland Schools’ Cross Country Championships, was a welcome presence to encourage and motivate the younger runners, illustrating, if proof were needed, that talent combined with hard work, commitment and perseverance can yield great success.
Joe Quinn then spontaneously grabbed the microphone and added his tuppence worth before presenting Martina Hawkins with flowers from East Down AC in recognition of all her hard work in making the series such a smoothly run event. These words were endorsed by the hearty round of applause which echoed throughout the hall in appreciation of the time, energy and effort that have epitomised Martina’s contribution to managing the series.
The second part of the presentations saw each and every athlete who participated in the series presented with a certificate regardless of the number of races completed. Those who completed four or more races received a certificate and a kit-bag. These were presented by Eoghan Totten who had previously shared some words about his experiences and outlined his hopes for the future for the junior club.
The evening concluded with the presentation of the shields to the winning teams. Both were contested fiercely throughout the six races, but in the end Newcastle just managed to hold off the East Down challenge and were the inaugural winners in both the boys’ (by 65 points to 38) and girls’ (by 68 points 45) categories. In this series athletics was the real winner as evidenced by the large numbers who received prizes and certificates on the night. The packed hall was told that the sponsorship of McGrady Financial services would be renewed for the 2011-12 season which will secure the sustainability of the fledgling series. As training will move outdoors in two weeks time, Shimna College were thanked for their gracious hospitality throughout the winter. Training will resume for all Newcastle junior members on Monday 4th April at 7pm.