Report by Siobhán Grant
As we embraced a day of 13 hours worth of sunshine, there was no better place to be than trackside at Mary Peters Track for the Lagan Valley Fab 5 Series, Event 4.
The Newcastle AC juniors have made such a positive impact on this series and gracing both track and field events with pride donned in yellow and red. Yet again Lagan Valley AC had an agreement with the Weather Gods and without a drop of rain incoming, the night got off to a prompt start at 6.30pm.
Trackside the U11 Boys had been warming up and preparing for their 60m sprint. Harry McVeigh and Rossa McAleenan were spotted doing quite an eclectic mash up of a warm up but it covered all main muscle groups and it wasn’t long before they were in position ready to get started. With 4 heats in this event, it required the best the boys could give regardless of how everyone else in their race ran. Harry was in Heat 2 and powered up the straight, neck and neck with Jack Vernon of Armagh AC crossing the line in 9.38 to take 2nd in his heat and 5th place overall marking an improvement of two tenths of a second on Meet 1. Rossa put in a strong run to finish third in his heat in 10.21 also improving significantly since the previous meet.
At the other side of the field, the U13 girls had gotten to grips with the Long Jump and Newcastle AC had 4 young ladies partaking in this event. First up was Eve McNamara, its very clear that Eve favours this event and even in her posture before the run up, she is relaxed, in control and has a solid game plan. Jumping consistently over the 4m mark, no other competitor on the night even challenged her. It has to be noted that her longest jump of 4.2m is an improvement of 40cm and a new PB. A well deserved Gold medal for Eve and proves just how good of a multi-event athlete she is. Saorlaith McAleenan was next up and with a powerful run up, soared through the air to make a longest jump of 3.74m. Although a PB, she narrowly missed out on a podium spot to take 4th place overall however she still has another year in this age category. Maisie McVeigh tried her hand at the long jump at this event and improved through every jump finishing in 8th place overall. Aoife Grant wasn’t far behind in 10th place. Refining her form as each event progresses and gaining experience that will stand by her as she grows into this age category.
The 200m event kicked off soon after and it was the U13 boys who got their first taste of the the evenings events. For Newcastle, Connaire Og McVeigh and Fiachna McAleenan took to their marks in heat 1 and heat 2 respectively. Fiachna who was fresh from a clean sweep at St.Malachy’s High School, Sports Day and earned himself the title of Mr Speed had a new found confidence in his abilities and he effortlessly rounded the first 100m and stretched out up the home straight to take a convincing win in 28.23. This was without a doubt a top spot on the podium, winning by over 1 whole second across all the heats. The first trip to the podium for the young Laitroim lad who had other club coaches talking about the raw talent on display. Connaire Og took to the line in Heat 2 and lost his way with what event he was in, crossing his lane to the inside and risking disqualification. It was clearly unintentional and even with the classy moves across the track he still finished in 33.38 to come 4th in his heat.
The U13 Newcastle girls all happened this time to be in the same heat. This time around, it was Maisie who led on the turn into the final straight and it was evident that it was her pure grit and determination that won her the race as she swooped in over the line in 29.54 which is over a half a second faster than the previous meet. This resulted in 2nd place overall. Eve was hot on her heels to take 3rd in her heat and narrowly missing out on 3rd place in a time of 30.55. Saorlaith came in at 32.26 in 5th and Aoife in 38.39.
The series welcomed Erin Easton and Anna Rooney to the U15 girls events and not only did they bring along plenty of craic and encouragement they even got involved in the events and gave their all. Both girls toed the line as juniors in this age category, however their performances clearly proved they are both athletes to watch. Erin came 3rd in her heat in 29.75 and Anna close behind in 33.25. Impressive runs from the two girls.
While all this was going on, the dream team of Harry and Rossa were living their best lives down in the U11 Turbo Javelin competition. Although Rossa threw a personal best by over 1m, of 14.11m it just wasn’t quite far enough to make the podium. Though it shows him that all his hard work is paying off and should be very proud of his 5th place. Harry also showed vast improvement on his turbo javelin skills under the watchful eye of Rossa to take 8th place overall.
At the other end of the field, Erin and Anna had moved off the track to the field and were warming up for the Javelin. There were rumblings that the girls had been getting pro tips from Lynda in the car park, using a stick. Full marks for improvising and it didn’t fall on deaf ears either with Erin securing 3rd place on the podium and Anna proving there was a hidden talent there that needs to be explored further.
The 800m got underway swiftly and ahead of schedule. The U13 boys had just started the Long Jump and both Fiachna and Connaire Og both didn’t seem to want to make their way to the startline. After some stern words from Michelle to get over and get it done, backed up by Siobhan who took the lessons to be learned from the race approach, both boys crossed the track to the startline with their tails between their legs. However the parting words of the faster you go, the quicker you finish must have resonated with Fiachna, as he took off and settled in the main group for the first 200m letting the other runners burn off their crazy as by 400m Fiachna had built up a lead of 25m as the fast starters couldn’t keep up the pace. It was clearly a lesson in 800m running, smooth, controlled and expertly paced, Fiachna cruised over the line to a 6 second win in his heat and a 2nd top of the podium of the night with a time of 2.26.26. Connaire Og had to dig deep and although it was evident that he was in pain he was determined to complete the race and pushed on to cross the line in 3.06.
Needless to say, Fiachna returned to the Long Jump pit with a smile on his face and a new vote of confidence in his all round athletic ability. Using this, he attacked the run up to the pit with gusto and registered a longest jump of 4.20m which was plenty clear of second place to make it a hat trick of Golds for the young man. Connaire Og had to forfeit his final 2 attempts due to injury but had a first jump of 2.51m.
Maisie and Eve took on the 800m for the U13 girls and each put in a race to be proud of. Comparing the results from the same event back in April prove that both girls have improved their times and even to watch them read the race, navigate the field and finish strong shows the level of experience they have gained from these events and confidence they now have in their own abilities.
As the U15 girls 800m was asked to take to the line there was also a call put out for the prize giving for the Javelin. You had to admire Erins dedication to use this to her advantage to skip the 800m to collect her medal. However with all eyes on her from every Newcastle AC athlete, she gave up the fight and told the marshalls to wait until she had completed her 800m. Although she doesn’t favour the track events, she could have easily fooled those looking on. A solid and controlled 800m from Erin which was swiftly followed up by her climbing that podium to accept her bronze medal for the Javelin.
By this stage, all our junior athletes had fully completed their events however they had received support from Joanne Mills, one of our Senior Ladies, throughout the evening and she was joining in the fun and taking part in the 800m alongside the U17s and other senior ladies. Although she nearly missed the start of her race with the schedule running ahead of plan, it was lucky that our Juniors were looking out for her and she made the line with moments to spare. A hard fought battle took place over the next 2minutes and 23 seconds as Joanne glided around the track to secure 6th place overall and 1st senior lady across the line.
Looking ahead, the 5th event will take place in August after a summer break and it is clear that the Juniors will return with a new level of confidence to round the series off.
For Fiachna now, he has set his sights on the Ni & Ulster Combined Events Championships at the start of July where he will undertake the Pentathlon. He has already proven throughout the Fab 5 Series that he has a good grasp on a range of events and will challenge himself to perform well across all 5 events, in 1 day. The club wish him ‘ádh mór sa Pentathlon’ as he takes on this massive challenge which will require him to be both physically and mentally strong to compete at such intensity, across a range of events, in such a short space of time.