Rossa’s Raw Talent Brings Home the Gold

Report by Siobhán Grant

The second instalment of the Fab 5 series was yet again blessed by beautiful clear blue skies and a dramatic drop in temperature as the sun went to bed and our young athletes powered on at Mary Peters Track on, late into Thursday evening.

Feeling better equipped and prepared for this meet the 11 members from Newcastle AC not only shone in their preferred track events but made a long lasting impression on the field events also.

Kicking off the evening’s track events, Emily Kerr and Méabh McCartan took to the track in the U11 girls 60m. Emily was first to run in the first heat. After completing the short distance in 11:22 she proclaimed after the race that it was too short and too clean. Needless to say, I think she would have preferred to have been tearing up The Drinns with mum, Angie at Hill & Dale than on the track where dirt was nowhere to be seen. Obviously short, clean, South Belfast running maybe just isn’t her thing. The club welcomed a fresh young Méabh McCartan to not only track running but it was also her first event representing the club. Full of smiles and an infectious positive attitude she entered onto the track ready to give her best to this race. It was exactly the attitude and determination the young lady needed to smash through the finish line in 11:72.

The U13 Boys and U13 Girls 200m were next on track. With a plethora of events ongoing, the U13 girls had to abandon the Long Jump to complete the 200m and return to the sand. This was managed well by the officials and no one missed out. Connaire Og McVeigh took to the 200m like a raging bull and made up valuable metres around the back bend to finish in 36 seconds dead.

Fresh from the latest epiphany a fortnight ago that she might actually be a sprinter, Maisie McVeigh had to wait until the final heat to make her assault on the 200m and what an assault that was. She led into the straight by 4 strides and when a late challenge from an inside lane was a risk, it was only temporary as she crossed the line in 30.09 to win her heat and take 2nd place overall, missing out on the top spot by 0.06 of a second. With School Districts imminent, there will be plenty of work put into refining form and supporting the transition from middle distance to sprinter. One would even think there would be the makings of a multi-eventer in Maisie but only time will tell.

As Juniors in the U13 Girls Category, Saorlaith McAleenan, Aoife Grant and Lily McMurray toed the line beside some girls nearly 20 months older than them, after being rerouted mid Long Jump to compete on the track, returning to complete their 3rd jump after the 200m. Saorlaith showed impeccable form to come 10th overall in 33.01. Aoife Grant continued to push her limits and crossed the line in 39.25 and Lily McMurray, gave everything she had in the final straight to finish in 46.12. The three girls, on crossing the line, made their way back to the Long Jump to join club mate Eve McNamara for their final attempt on the Long Jump. Eve looked relaxed throughout the competition and showed great power on her run up to the board. Springing off the board on contact she jumped 3.86m as her best jump to secure 5th place overall. 15cm behind her Saorlaith filled the 7th place position with a best jump of 3.71m. Aoife Grant and Lily McMurray jumped 2.17 and 2.16 to place in 19th and 20th respectively.

Little did we know that we were about to witness something special as attention turned to the top of the track and the U11 Boys Turbo Javelin kicked off. After a crash course in javelin throwing using a Nerf Rocket under glorious sunshine in the fields of Liatriom earlier in the week, Rossa McAleenan lifted a Javelin for the first time. Alongside club mate Cuan McMurray and with a cohort of very nervous onlookers, worried primarily about the implications of giving 8 to 10 year old boys essentially spikes to throw as far as they can, there was a lot of hope that no one would end up having to visit the hospital. Yet it was during the practice throws that it became evident that Rossa had natural form and a raw talent for this event. His run up was well timed and his control of the javelin was steady and strong.

As the event got into full swing, throw after throw, nerves settled as it became clear that no one was going to be hurt. Cuan, taking the lead from Rossa, eased into the competition and was evidently really enjoying his first visit to the field event. Once all the participants had thrown and we awaited with anticipation the final results, it seemed there had been a mix up in the officials recording of distances. This led to a tense 10 minutes as the boys waited about wondering what happened, though Rossa knew. He’d listened throughout every throw at the numbers being called and the distances being recorded and had singalled over with thumbs up to let everyone know it was good news. He worked so hard to contain the excitement within and as the boys returned to base, Rossa was clearly the overall winner. He had not won by centimetres, he had annihilated the competition by throwing over 3m further than second place to score a throw of 13.13m. A totally elated Rossa, jumped with joy when he stood on that podium, there was no applause like it that evening as everyone from Newcastle AC cheered him on, helped by the acoustics of the stand. He even jumped gracefully off the top spot on the podium with his 1st place medal and rightly so. An amazing performance and maybe the start of a career in Javelin. Cuan had thrown consistently throughout the competition and took 10th place with a throw of 7.44m.

Whilst the commotion took place over at the Javelin, Emily Kerr had opted to give the long jump a go and see would the addition of sand tick that not so clean box for her. Out of 29 participants, Emily jumped a 2.68m to secure 13th place overall in the U11 Girls Long Jump.

Soon it was back to the track for the U11 Boys 600m. The first of two heats welcomed all 3 Newcastle Boys to the line. Rossa and Cuan fresh from the Javelin, joined by Harry McVeigh. After missing out on a medal at 60m a fortnight ago, he had high hopes to get on that podium running 10 times as far, just as fast. He set off at blistering pace and took the rest of the field with him. Though he was challenged about half way through at 300m and this briefly rattled Harry as he dropped a few places. The fight within this young runner is strong and his race experience, drive and determination would not let him give up. Moving quickly through the gears with 150m to go, he was shoulder to shoulder with the leader with 30m to go however he just couldn’t get past him in the closing stages and took 2nd place in the heat and overall in 1.54.44, 0.43 seconds behind first place. Although upset that essentially the person in front didn’t move over to let him past, knowing he had more acceleration in him, it was also a lesson for the U10 Ulster XC champion that sometimes you need to change tactics and risk going slightly wide to take over in the final few strides. Though Harry knows this is not the end of this chapter, the 600m is on the agenda for the next meet in May and he gets another chance to bring home the gold to accompany his silver. Rossa, fresh from his own podium finish, changed up his focus and put in a steady run ensuring he had something left for an amazing finish to take 10th place overall. Cuan also showed his versatility in switching easily between events and completed the 600m in an admirable 2.35.

Connaire Og had enjoyed his break between the 200m and his next event the 1500m supporting his club mates however he got the spikes on and toed the line in Heat 1 of 2 of the U13 boys 1500m. Again a junior in this category, Connaire Og didn’t let that stop him from making his intentions known and he pushed hard over nearly 4 laps of the track to finish in 5.49 which was an exceptional pace for the 11 year old.

Eve was the first of the Newcastle U13 squad to take on the 1500m race. She ran well and was literally shoulder to shoulder at the line to secure 5th place in her heat in 5.54. Maisie and Lily had been put into Heat 2 and after a strong start matching eventual event winner Lily Foster stride for stride, the impact of her earlier race was evident and she reigned in the pace to finish in 5.47 knowing she had school trials the next day. Lily ran at a 7 minute mile pace over the 1500m and continued to find that little bit extra in the closing stages to finish in 7.11.

The U13 girls had a busy events timetable at Meet 2 and simultaneously as the 1500m was playing out on track, on the field the other girls were tackling the high jump, Lily even had to nip away for the 1500m and come back!  Saorlaith’s gymnastics training was evident as she cleared the pole with ease though 1.10m was just a bit too much for her on this occasion but was good enough for a strong 4th place. Lily and Aoife came 7th overall and definitely enjoyed the new challenge of the High Jump.

As the sky turned darker and the numbers around Mary Peters Track started to dwindle, the dedication of our U13 girls on the field continued as they moved from the High Jump to the Javelin even though it was clearly past their bedtimes. With multiple layers on to keep them warm between throws and parents on the sideline with a cuppa in hand to keep them warm the girls pushed on relentlessly. As 10 o’clock neared, the results came in, it was clearly the impact of Saorlaith’s intense throwing training in the same fields as brother Rossa that earned her 3rd and a place on the podium with a throw of 12.32m. Aoife took 6th place in the event and Eve not far behind in 8th.

So with medals galore and ample good news stories headed for Newcastle, the presence of the Newcastle AC junior squad at Track and Field events is growing and making a notable impression. Many positive comments were heard around the track and in the stands from spectators who have now come to know our athletes in yellow and red and admire their performances as well as the unconditional support that is provided by our own supporters, big and small.

Harry takes 2nd in U11 600m

Maisie adds another Silver to her sprinting collection this time in the U13 200m

Méabh McCartan makes her debut for Newcastle AC

Javelin medals for Brother and Sister Rossa and Saorlaith McAleenan

Rossa McAleenan delighted with his Gold medal