Harty regains her NI 1500m title as London beckons while McAllister is robbed of a major medal haul

Newcastle AC Notes by Joe McCann
In addition to the Jubilee celebrations, Monday the 4th June heralded the showpiece of Northern Ireland’s Athletics calendar with the NI & Ulster Track and Field Championships held at the Mary Peter’s track.  Newcastle AC was well represented by middle distance queen Kerry Harty and sprint king Neil McAllister.


Kerry, coming off a strenuous programme of altitude training at her California Spring Camp in Preparation for a serious attack on the Olympic qualifying standard was running in the 1500m and her showdown with Portaferry’s Ciara Mageean was billed by the meeting promoters as one of the highlights of the Championships, with a very competitive and fiercely contested race expected. Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances Ciara was not able to start the race which not only disappointed the expectant crowd but meant Kerry was not likely to be tested. The race kicked off but within a couple of hundred metres Kerry was moving well clear of the other three young competitors who looked as if they were probably still at school.

In the end it was a comfortable victory for Kerry and a good lesson in classy middle distance running for the youthful competitors with one of them being quoted as saying “When I grow up I want to be just like Kerry Harty, or Cheryl Cole or maybe Tulisa”.

However, at the end of the day (he said avoiding clichés like the plague!), you can only beat who is put in front of you and Kerry was deservedly crowned the NI Champion for 2012, regaining a title she last held in 2010.


A small gap in Watford

Kerry followed this success with an impressive 3rd place at the British Miler’s Club 3000m Steeplechase held in Watford on June 9.  On a fast track which led to a number of PBs and SBs for many of the athletes on parade, Kerry narrowly missed out on second place, finishing just over a second behind Australian Victoria Mitchell in10:11:01.  The race was won by Polish athlete Matylda Szlezak in 10:00:89.

Not so lucky for Neil

Neil was running in the NI Championship 100m and 200m events and narrowly missed out on taking both titles due to the number of faster people in both races and a very localised head wind which only affected his lanes.  Regrettably Neil did not qualify for the final in either event.  However he has a cunning plan to win a medal next year.  He intends to grow his hair long, plait it and enter the ladies’ sprint event.  He will also insist that his lanes are situated in a wind-tunnel to maximise his performance.


It’s all about the team

All it was a successful Championship with Team Newcastle with 50% returning home with a gold medal; the detail of exactly who won that being unimportant as it was a team effort, according to Neil anyway!  Looking forward to next year Damien Brannigan and Paul Rodgers have already confirmed the participation to bolster the team and Billy McNeilly has agreed to drive the bus, which based on previous experience, will not be booked until the last minute in case there are one or two late drop outs!


Newry City Marathon

Paul Fegan wasNewcastle’s only competitor in the Newry City Marathon held over the Jubilee weekend.  Paul ran a steady race, clocking1:54:31for the first half and finishing in a highly respectable3:59:20.  Once again Damien Brannigan has declared his intention to run this race in 2013 when he fails to commit to running inDublin,LondonorBelfast.  Let’s hope the entry fees are reasonable!


Mourne Way Marathon

Mark Kendall wasNewcastle’s best placed athlete in the Extreme 26 Mourne Way Marathon held on June 9.  From the outset Mark locked horns with teak tough Dale Mathers and the two were never separated by more than a few seconds,  After 26.2 miles of gruelling toil Mathers just edged it finishing third overall with Kendall settling for an excellent fourth, a mere 9 seconds adrift in a time of 3 hours 38 minutes. Kendallwas out with the posse on Sunday morning and left me for dead on the first climb (in itself nothing to write home about, but the day after such an achievement has left me pondering my commitment!).  Alan Strachan, home for a holiday weekend, also competed, a decision he now regrets as he found the second half tough today the least.  Suffice to say he was a very happy man on crossing the line in a time he will probably not record in his diary!  Tadworth Runners will be duly informed of their second claim athlete’s need for hill work over the winter months!

Colin Pascoe had a fine run in the half marathon recording 1:41:08to finish 11th overall.  Well done to all and to our colleagues from Murlough AC and the Burrendale Hotel and Spa who participated in the various events, many setting PBs in the process.  It is wonderful to see so many people from the local parishes involved in so many different events and championing the cause of running.


Hill and Dale Race 8

The dreadful weather forced many events scheduled for last Thursday (June 7) to be cancelled. The one remaining fixture that beat the weather was the Millstone, albeit an abridged version. The 112 athletes who participated commented that it was one of the most enjoyable running experiences they have ever had.  Despite some disappointment that the steep climb to the summit of Millstone was jettisoned to ensure the health and safety of the field, the race itself proved equally challenging in the inclement conditions.  Well done to everyone involved in ensuring a great event in challenging circumstances and to David O’Flaherty in setting a new course record that is never likely to be beaten.  One notable absentee was Audey McVeigh who was recovering from having to change a flat tyre in the late afternoon and got so badly soaked, due to his inability to get the wheel off, that he was forced to go to bed at 6.30pm (a hour earlier than usual!) with a hot water bottle, a Lemsip and his teddy.  And they say ‘Town’ men are tough!  Normal service was resumed on Friday, when, fresh from his lack of exertion the previous night, he charged up every hill in Tollymore to punish us.  To make matters worse John Kelly was conscripted to help with replacing the now mended alloy after the run – in the pouring rain!!!

The junior event was sensibly postponed and has been re-scheduled for the final night of the series on June 29th.


The ‘rat’ and the ‘tortoise’

There are some rivalries that need no introduction: United v City, Higgins v Davis, Cork v Kerry and McEnroe v Borg are but a few of the many examples one could cite where passions run high and emotions are at boiling point.  On the momentous occasions when they have met no quarter has been given.  Last Wednesday one of the greatest rivalries in world sport led Ronnie Horricks take on his perennial nemesis John Curry over a testing 6 mile road loop. To be fair Ronnie had received considerable intensive coaching from one of Newcastle’s greatest gurus while Curry, living in constant pain from a series of career threatening injuries, feasted on Magners and Pringles, the cornerstone of any high quality athletics nutritional programme.  Had Curry been out training?  My sources which include the ever-reliable and unbiased Andy Hall claim to have spotted Curry running hard at odd times of the day.  Was he ‘hiding his light under a bushel’ in a coy attempt to unnerve his more inexperienced running rival?


They’re off

At6.30pmthe starter’s pistol signalled the beginning of the duel which would determine the fate of both men.  Curry was into his stride early and pushed hard over the opening mile, clocking just under 7 minutes.  Horricks was undeterred by this initial burst and allowed Curry to open up a 50 yard lead.  However as the miles passed Horricks grew in confidence and turned his deficit into an unassailable lead.  Through the tough climbs in Maghera he remained steadfast and determined and by the time he crossed onto theCastlewellan Road at the Cup and Saucer the result was beyond doubt.  Horricks clocked an impressive 46.12 for the undulating course to finish around a minute clear of Curry who must also be applauded for a fine run.  Horricks will take a healthy lead into the second race of the series when the action moves to a hilly park trail course in Tollymore in September.  Horricks has already embarked on phase 2 of his training programme while Curry, gallant and magnanimous in defeat has hinted that he may lay off the Pringles!  The post-race banquet was held in O’Hare’s on Saturday and both men were delighted when the aforementioned Hall arrived to proffer some words of wisdom, none of which are printable!