With a few weeks break before the next cross country in the league (Ballyclare 5th December), 5 Newcastle AC athletes made their way to Bangor to take part in the North Down AC festival of cross country relays.
The ladies race kicked off at 1.20pm with teams of 3 ladies covering 2,600m (2 laps of the course each). The men’s race followed at 2.20pm with 4 men in each team covering the same 2,600m.
It was a short but interesting course. The first section included a short but sharp climb followed by a gradual descent behind the back of football pitches before the second half, which included sharp twists and turns round trees with a few waterlogged patches for good measure!
Newcastle AC athletes were as organised as ever, Sam McNeilly had forgotten her running spikes and purchased a new pair on the way there, Rita Devlin almost didn’t make it because of traffic, and with only 2 men turning up it was thought that only the ladies would be representing the club.
Running the first leg for Newcastle Ladies was Mari Troeng. Mari had an excellent run and set her team mates up well for the following legs. Next up was Rita who ran strongly and successfully handed the baton (a yellow bracelet!) to Sam for the final leg. On the final lap Sam was closing in on Lagan Valley’s Julie Murphy, on the final 400m every other Newcastle AC member was yelling and running along side… Sam managed to overtake Julie, unfortunately it was just after the finish line! The ladies finished with a combined time of 32.26, and 7th team overall. The ladies relay was won by Dromore AC in a time of 28.38.
Both David McNeilly and Patrick Higgins were still keen to run, and decided they would double up and run 2 legs each. Only one problem, Patrick, thinking he would be unable to run hadn’t brought any running gear… David managed to source a pair of trail shoes for Patrick and a pair of shorts were kindly donated from Ballydrain.
The men were ready to go. David was up first and after the first lap it was close between David and Derry Track Club’s Darragh Crossan however David had a strong second lap and handed over the baton to Patrick in first place. Patrick set off in his borrowed trail shoes, shorts and Mari’s Newcastle vest. He had a strong first lap however the second half of the course really required more grip than trail shoes and he handed over the baton in 2nd place.
David was now up for his second run of the day, things were getting close now as David and Patrick would be racing against competitors with fresh legs. David showed no signs of slowing and went to hand the yellow bracelet baton to Patrick. There was a loud sigh from the spectators as the bracelet fell to the ground… several seconds were lost and Patrick managed to grab the baton and sprint to gain back the time lost. Larne AC’s John Neil was starting to close the gap on Patrick on the final lap however Patrick held him off and the men finished a fantastic 2nd place overall in a time of 35.55. The men’s relay was won by Derry Track Club in a time of 34.37.
After all the excitement the athletes celebrated with tea, coffee and scones in the club gazebo. Thanks to North Down AC for a fantastic course and a well organised event.