Newcastle Juniors lead the way at Tollymore Hill & Dale

Report by Siobhán Grant

On Thursday, focus returned to the second race of the Hill and Dale series in our own backyard of Tollymore Forest Park. It doesn’t matter how many times you run around Tollymore, there is always a hill that you have chosen to forget existed until you are half way up it and cursing your great idea to follow this route.

The 4.2 mile course was the same for all. Lots of hills, lots of steep climbs, a brief introduction to the open mountain then a lot of gravity loving downhills before the hill that endures the most colourful of language that Tollymore sees all year long. Under clear blue skies, Tollymore was buzzing with spectators.

For our U16 runners to brave the challenge of the second race, Newcastle AC welcomed Karim Jaidane to the line up and the only U16 female to brave the hills of Tollymore, Emily McMullan.

As the race set off from below the Monument which can only be compared to a stampede of wildebeests. The thud upon the ground vibrated right around Tollymore as 300 runners jostled for position in the early stages.

Series Winner and for the record, still a Junior, Tom Crudginton, led from the front and as he turned the final corner to embrace the last hill, he was 2 minutes clear of second place in 30 minutes dead. It also has to be noted that Tom opted to not race Castlewellan last week however it speaks volumes that this young man offered to tail run at the event and support and encourage those not normally at his end of the field to make it around the course.

After a cracking run at Castlewellan Ethan McMullans H&D season got off to a fantastic start and continued at Tollymore as he relentlessly chased his nearest rivals up the hill displaying flawless hill technique to secure 4th place in 32.45. Also in a turn of events, the 3rd Newcastle AC runner was also a Junior. Patrick McDaid is utilising training and support from both the Junior and Senior training as well as his own plan and it is paying off dividends as he fought right to the finish line to take 7th place in 33.58. With three Juniors to cross the line before any of our Senior runners and secure top 10 finishes, is a testament to their hard work, dedication and talent that they have.

Yasin Brannigan was the next junior to cross the line piping Damien McDaid by 1 second at the line in 35.48 which made for some rapturous applause coming up the final climb. After a strong performance at Castlewellan, Callum Flynn continued to show his talent for hill running, coming in 70th in 40.18. Right on his heels was Karim Jaidane who as an under 16 finished in 2nd place in 40.40.

Within the cohort of 13 runners finishing in the 46th minute was our first Junior Female Ciara Savage who crossed the line in 46.14 for 3rd place in the Junior Female category. Ciara will be sure to impress as she hits the open mountain in the coming weeks and gets further into the series. It was a busy 49th minute too as over 25 runners found themselves fighting for position on the hill where the saw dust smile did not entertain any of the runners at that point. Sophie Neill continued to make her mark on the Hill and Dale Series finishing in 49.17 with friend Ellen Watson seconds behind in 49.22 a valiant effort from these young ladies.

It was the sheer determination of Emily McMullan, the only U16 girl in the whole field that brought it home for the Junior Squad in 51.29, supported on the final climb by Coach Catherine will her up the final push. With her confidence high after last week’s outing in Castlewellan, she found that extra something and is continuing to learn from the challenging routes that Hill and Dale offer on a weekly basis.

The U16 runners will get a small reprieve this week as they are next toeing the line for Race 4 at Binnian on May 4th. However with the Newcastle AC Juniors leading the way in the current club standings, it makes you wonder what seniors are going to make it their mission to catch these young athletes or are their fresh, young legs too good? Next week the U18 squad will be eligible to hit the open mountain in Rostrevor and it will be here that maybe experience might outrun age. Guess we just have to sit back and wait for Thursday at Race 3, Slieve Martin.

Many of the U16 and U18 Junior squad who took on Tollymore on Thursday

Sophie Neill continues to excel on the hills

U16 Emily Mc Mullan finds that something extra in the final climb