Report by Siobhán Grant
On Thursday evening, the track and field stalwarts of the Newcastle AC junior squad, headed for Mary Peters Track for the final event of the Fab 5 Series, expertly run by Lagan Valley AC.
This year, there has been a strong and growing cohort of our junior squad embracing track and field. Many tackling new events and growing in confidence as the series progressed.
There has been a notible presence on the podium of yellow and red as a result of this commitment from the squad the coaches and their parents. This in turn opened new doors and events to our young athletes as they excelled in multi events and at national level.
Kicking off the evening timetable was the Under 13 Hammer. To those new to this concept, the Hammer Throw is best described by reverting attention to Mrs Truchball in Matilda. The 2kg metal weight suspended from a metre long wire with a handle.
Participants need to build up speed and momentum through static swings before actively spinning in unison before letting go of the implement and seeing how far it goes. The Grant family had recently been spotted in Moneyscalp using a freshly baled field and make shift turning circle made from hay to streamline their technique. This paid off as Rónán Grant threw 14.89m to secure 3rd place in the U13 boys and sister Aoife managed to keep the nerves at bay to throw 10.63m for 2nd place in the U13 girls.
Beside them, Eve McNamara and Fiachna McAleenan had endured a crash course in many of the events new to them this year and threw 14.50m and 19.64m respectfully for 1st and 2nd place in the U13 girls and boys. These two multi eventers have excelled throughout the series and have proven that there is no end to their talents in both the track and field events.
The cage wasn’t long without another Newcastle AC shirt as Coach Siobhan Grant and Coach Angie Kerr, inspired by the attitude and no fear approach of the Juniors, had spent the summer critiquing their throwing techniques and entered the Woman’s Master Hammer Throw and Discus.
Siobhan threw the 4kg Hammer with intent out of the cage. Even though she faced competition from NI Champion Lyndsey Glover, her maiden journey to the cage produced a 3rd place Podium finish with a throw of 15.01m. Angie later on in the evening showed flawless technique as the Discus glided through the air to take 2nd place in her category with a distance of 11.33m with the 1kg Discus. Both ladies have been invited to attend the NI Masters Track and Field Championships though that will be an aim for next season.
Emily Kerr had a fantastic evening. Proving that although a cross country runner at heart, she can still produce a stunning display on track. The U11 girls 800m race showed the relentlessness of this young lady. Sitting tight for the first lap, with 300m to go she changed gear and her finish was spectacular to secure 4th place. This came after she had jumped nearly 3m at the long jump pit only 30 minutes prior.
Not far away, was the dream duo of Harry Mc Veigh and Rossa McAleenan. Both amazing support for each other throughout this series and a clatter of medals between them. In order to keep the nerves at bay before they undertook the 800m. Both boys took on the Shot Putt and surprised us all. Harry McVeigh finally secured his first gold of the series throwing 4.65m with Rossa in third place throwing 4.40m. Both boys soon headed off to warm up for the U11 800m on a high from their throwing achievements. The U11 Boys race was a controversial one. With Harry holding strong at the front with another runner, it looked at 600m like he was ready to concede the win however that is not how this young runner rolls and engaging that infamous go hard or go home attitude, he stormed up the final 100m and was placed to take over the leading boy.
With 10m to go, the lead runner, put his arm out as Harry veered to take over him and physically held him back. A dismayed Harry crossed the line genuinely unsure what had just happened and was that even allowed. Though with many officials on hand, it was dealt with swiftly and professionally and sadly the young runner was disqualified from the event, with Harry being the rightful winner in 2 minutes 30seconds. Rossa wasn’t too far behind and had a solid run around the track finishing in 8th place.
The U13 100m was the largest event of the evening with multiple races for both the boys and girls event.
Fiachna stepped up for the Under 13 boys race and won his heat by 0.3 of a second in 14.05. However he was pipped to the post and had to settle for 2nd place overall. The girls 100m was a 3 heat affair, with Newcastle AC fielding runners in all 3 races. Aoife Grant ran her strongest 100m this season in heat 1, Eve won her heat in 14.78 to take 4th overall and Maisie McVeigh secured 3rd place overall in 14.56 in heat 3. Superb performance from the club in the Sprinting events.
The Blue Ribbon Event of the much anticipated 1 Mile Race finished off the track events for the night.
Ni and Ulster Pentathlon Champion, Fiachna McAleenan, took a little convincing to even toe the line. Having already 2 silver medals in his pocket, he would have happily stood trackside and watched. However gentle encouragement from running legend himself, Connaire McVeigh ensured Fiachna put any doubts aside and gave the 4 laps of the track a rattle. A well paced and managed first 3 laps, sitting in tight with the lead group, allowed Fiachna to conserve energy for the final push. His ability to engage a whole extra level of push was instrumental on his final assault. He broke away from the group and began chasing down the 1st place runner who soon looked behind and spotted the flash of red and yellow in his sight. A few more metres and it would have been a different outcome, however it was the most exciting race finish of the evening and Fiachna found himself on the podium for a 3rd time that night.
Maisie and Eve run a similar strategy in the girls U13 event. Sitting in tight with the lead group and breaking away within the final lap. The blistering pace of Lily Foster was going to be tough to match as she made a mid race push to break away from the other runners. Maisie powered around the 1600m in 6 minutes dead to secure 3rd place. Eve kept in control and a steady pace as she used the last lap to dig deep and find something special. Making huge gains in that final push to come home in 5th place. With Cross Country Season nearly upon them, there is excitement growing for this age group and what performances they’ll produce away from the track.
The evening ended with Newcastle ACs Joanne Mills, toeing the line in the Mixed 1 Mile race against the U17, Senior and Master Women. Always a pleasure to watch and always supportive and willing to share hints and tips with the junior track squad, Joanne ran a phenomenal 5.10 mile to secure 3rd place in her event.
With Track and Field Season soon coming to an end, it has been a successful and eventful one for the Newcastle Junior Squad. With Autumn comes a new list of challenges including another McGrady Financial XC Series which will keep young athletes focused and continue the successful squad development at grassroots level.