Newcastle & District retain the lead in the NI Cross-Country League after 2 races of the 2016/17 Season

img-20161029-wa0000The 2nd Cross-Country League fixture of the 2016/17 season came hot on the heels of last weekend’s first fixture in Rostrevor. This week it was the longstanding Comber Cup hosted by Ballydrain Harriers at the Billy Neill Playing Fields between Comber and Dundonald. The dry weather of this autumn season continued and the course was once again immaculately presented. That doesn’t mean it was easy. It was pretty uphill or downhill on the 2km lap all the way around but underfoot it was almost firm throughout meaning that once again running spikes were not a necessity.

Newcastle & District AC (NAC) emerged last week top of the League on 26 points (16 for 16 finishers plus 10 points for 2nd team on the day for the aggregate of its first 4 finishers just behind North Belfast who while fast at the front only got 10 runners home). At the front it was fast from the start with North Belfast’s Mark McKinstry leading out NAC’s Seamy Lynch and David O’Flaherty. The pace continued relentlessly even up the tough climb to the top end of the course. A lap from home, McKinstry started to pull away from Lynch in a decisive move to win in 26:26 with Lynch 8 seconds behind and still on the upward curve. O’Flaherty was clear in 3rd coming home in 27:24.

Lynch and O’Flaherty were supported by David Simpson in 8th place (and winner of the M40 category) in 28:14 and David Hicks with another solid performance in 27th in 29:39. This gave the team 40 points, enough for 2nd place behind North Belfast on 22 points with Beechmount Harriers 3rd on 61 points.

For the second week in a row there was a fantastic turn out of red and yellow vests with 22 finishing to score the maximum 16 points in the league. David McNeilly was 5th home on 31st overall in 29:45 with Francis Tumelty preparing well for the upcoming Masters XC International in Scotland in 48th in 30:58. After a 9 month gap on the country, the Hen Kelly made a welcome return with a strong 56th in 31:39, with Aidy Brown slowly making a return to action following another baby in 65th in 32:12 and Richard Rodgers 79th in 33:08.

Then came a glut of red & yellow finishers all within the next minute – Rory McMullan in 84th in 33:26, ahead of Will Owens in 88th in 33:38, PJ McCrickard in 90th in 33:50 whose strong finished took him past Eugene McCann in 92nd in 33:56 who edged out Andy McMurray in 93rd in 33:57. Also making the top-100 was Brendan McQuaid in 97th in 34:08. Club cross-country stalwarts Stevie Rice and Gary Cairns were almost inseparable in 138th and 139th (36:45 and 36:51) with debutants Ronan Barr 156th (38:37) and Tadgh McNamara 172nd (40:30) sandwiching a return to club action for Declan McElroy in 167th in 39:59. Two more Declans, Rice and Magee, were 21st and 22nd home in 176th and 178th in 41:12 and 41:24 respectively, making up a superb effort by the club men to score the maximum 16 points for the team in the League.

So 2nd place at the front end and the maximum participation score gave NAC a total of 26 points on the day, 2 behind North Belfast on 28 points. However, the men from NAC still top the League after two races on 52 points with North Belfast in 2nd on 50 points, North Down in 3rd on 44 points with defending champions Foyle Valley 4th with 42 points. It’s early days yet and with only 4 races to count before Christmas, NAC will sit out the next two during November and make their next appearance at the Malcolm Cup in Ballyclare on 3rd December.

In the ‘older boys race’ head over 6k (3 laps), Jim Patterson once again had another strong run to come home clear in the M70 category in 26:43 over a minute clear of nearest rival Charlie Meban from Larne with Davy Seaton from North Down in 3rd place in 30:22.

League points and positions after 2 races:

    Race 1 Race 2 Total
1 Newcastle & District AC 26 26 52
2 North Belfast 22 28 50
3 North Down 24 20 44
4 Foyle Valley 22 20 42