Junior Update

St.Malachys vs Shimna XC meet

Kicking off this weekend’s running action on Friday at Saint Malachy’s High School, Castlewellan was the annual meet between local schools St.Malachy’s High School and Shimna Integrated College as a warm-up event to prepare students for Districts on the 25th of January.

There’s no surprise that the Newcastle AC runners were a force to be reckoned with. Normally together at club meets and dressed in red and yellow, on Friday it was the white and green vs. The navy and purple. Though familiar faces owned the podium across all races. Saorlaith McAleenan and Connaire Og McVeigh took the first place on the podium for St.Malachys at the Year 8 race.  Hot on the heels of Saorlaith was Eilis Donnelly in 2nd place. Aoife Grant also put in a strong run to be the 2nd Shimna girl home.

School dominance changed in the Year 9 race as Shimna welcomed Fahlin Murphy-McKibbin and Eve McNamara to the top step in their races. Fiachna McAleenan took 2nd place and Sebastian McCaughey ran well for Shimna. It was a 1,2,3 for Newcastle AC with Maisie McVeigh and Parisa Suay Quinn in 2nd and 3rd respectively. A strong Newcastle contingent made up the next few places with Mila Astruc-Kidd, Kate Bradley and Niamh Watson filling the top 6 spots. At Year 10, Jamie O’Flaherty took the win for Shimna with a well paced run.

Castlewellan Parkrun

On Saturday at Castlewellan parkrun had a notable performance from Rónán Grant over the 5K distance that saw the young man run his fastest parkrun in 3 years. This is a testament to the hard work he has been putting in this season across all disciplines.

Mathieson Cup, Mallusk XC

On Sunday, a number of the Newcastle Juniors attended the Mallusk Harriers Cross-Country competition at the City of Belfast Playing Fields. It was exceptionally cold as the weather began to turn. However a flawlessly executed event with very friendly and helpful Marshalls all around the 2 km looped course made for a warm reception.

First up in the primary schools race was the dynamic duo of Harry McVeigh and Rossa McAleenan. The 800m course did not avoid a challenging steep hill at roughly 200m.

This would become a hill that many runners both big and small would find themselves slipping and falling as they tried to get up to the welcoming flat section above. A true cross-country experience.

As with all primary school races, it was a very fast start and the participants sprinted off the line. Needless to say the current Ulster champion, Harry, used his race experience and understanding of his own ability to sit tight for the first 300 m knowing what the craic was before making space for himself to lead the race for the final 500m without a runner in his shadow with a 6 second win.

Not far behind him was Rossa who was using the opportunity to practise his race strategies for the Flahavan Race 3 to take place the next day.

Navigating the field with ease, Rossa was able to find space, too, to create his own racing line and as he turned the final corner he hunted down the runner in front like a man possessed and gave everything to take the young fellow in front well before the finish line to take a top 10 finish.

The Under 13 race followed with both boys and girls racing against each other. For Newcastle AC all 5 runners in this race had competed in the school competition on Friday. For the girls Eve McNamara, Maisie McVeigh and Aoife Grant toed the line beside Connaire Og McVeigh and Sebastian McCaughey for the 2000m looped course including a number of very challenging hills, tight turns and a very fast finish.

Connaire Og has been putting in a lot of work over the Christmas break and was the first Newcastle runner  across the line with a spectacular run, leaving everything out there on the course to secure 6th place in 8.17.

Eve got off to a strong start and this helped her to settle into the lead group of girls. She held this position for the duration of the race crossing the line in 4th place in 8.28. Maisie had a very comfortable run and remained upright over some steep climb to finish in 7th in 8.48.

Sebastian who was taking his new Newcastle vest out on its inaugural run showed grit and determination as he worked his way around the course which includes a very lonely kilometre spent at the far end of the fields. This took a lot of focus and ability the turn the voices in his head off though being met by club mate Rónán on support duties, Seb found his flow again and put in a strong final 400m.

Like Connaire Og over Christmas, Aoife Grant had spent the Christmas break within the hills also pushing herself beyond her comfort zone. Not only did she run for the school on Friday, she completed a strong parkrun on Saturday morning, climbing Slieve na Slat on Saturday afternoon, all before toeing the line at Mallusk for the technical 2k ahead of her. Aoifes performance was by far the best of this season. Finishing in 15th place for the girls.

The Under 15 race was a huge jump to 4k.  So it was a huge ask of some of these young girls and boys who are newly turned 13 year olds. Fiachna McAleenan was one of those 13 year olds and the only Newcastle member to be on the line. He ran a very smart race, a conservative first lap amongst the main group and in the second lap he started to pick each runner off one by one.  As he engaged his infamous stubbornness to get the job done well, Fiachna finished winning a nail biting duel with a St Colmans College runner on the line.

An hour later, Ciara Savage took her place on the line for the Senior Ladies race. The 6k route would challenge her especially on the final lap however she used the well constructed fast and flat finish to earn herself 3rd U20 Lady. Following the standard set by Ciara, Ethan McMullan slipped in amongst the Senior Men’s race. Even though Ethan had put in a tough 2.5 hour session on the hills the day before with the Irish Mountain Running squad and even debated not making the trip to Mallusk, he was quick to break up any lactic acid build up and undertook the 8k which consisted of 4 of the large 2k loops and secured himself a place on the podium as 3rd U20 Man and the 7th Senior Man overall.

Flahavans Primary School Cross Country League

On Monday, it was the Primary School Juniors who were next to represent their schools in the 3rd race of the Flahavans Cross Country League. For the first time, the race was hosted on Dunleath Playing Fields in Downpatrick and even though the sun shone, it was bitterly cold. The ground had held onto the water of the previous flooding and was like running on a wet sponge.

The 1400m, 2 looped route was twisty and deceiving in places however it was perfectly flat. Harry McVeigh commanded the race from the first corner and by 400m had made the race simply a battle against himself. Leading a race for the 2nd time in 2 days he still demonstrated his flawless talent to the onlooking crowd who were mesmerised by the agility and speed of Harry as he cruised over the unfavourable terrain. He was 1st in his race and 1st overall in the collated results by a huge margin of 15 seconds. Setting him up as one of the favourites for the Northern Ireland Final in Mallusk. Putting in a rather impressive race was Rossa McAleenan who fought hard in that lead pack for place. He crossed the line in 14th place. Both Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche boys really showed their resilience and unwavering dedication to the sport for their 2nd race in 2 days. Senan Gosling (St.Malachy’s Primary School) and Rory Quinn (Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche) also ran strong races to finish in 32nd and 44th respectively.

The girls race saw Emily Kerr (Newcastle Primary) and Aydah McKibbin (All Children’s Primary School) stand side by side on the line together promising to race like they didn’t like each other. An additional promise of chocolate at training for a Top 10 finish spared on the adrenalin on the line. Emily ran a smart race and knowing her abilities let the lead runner push early on as she sat amongst the group behind. On the second lap she engaged her next gear and managed numerous cross over attempts to block her path past the front runner, biding her time as she turned the final corner to give a spectacular Parkrun finish, avoiding a stumble near the finish line to take 1st place. Adyah wasn’t too far behind in 5th place and proving she is one the watch in this competition as she is still only Primary 6. Both girls got chocolate at training that evening. Also representing their school was Lily McNamara (Spa Primary School), Sophia and Isabella Sloan (Newcastle Primary School). Lilys School will now qualify for the Ni finals as one of the best performing girls teams in the area.

The cross country season is still far from over with a few more trips out in the cold and wet resulting in masses of mud covered washing still on the agenda.