Plenty of impressive performances from Springwell athletes last week

Aaron Craig who secured an Age Group win at the Roe Valley Sprint Triathlon.
Aaron Craig who secured an Age Group win at the Roe Valley Sprint Triathlon.

There was plenty of action this week with the usual mix of Mountain races, Road races, Track events and of course parkrun.

There was also a number of our runners who switched codes on Saturday to take part in the Sprint Tri-athlon at the Roe Valley Leisure Centre.

Niamh Carr (extreme right) finished a fantastic 3rd at the Ulster Schools 3000m Final.

Niamh Carr (extreme right) finished a fantastic 3rd at the Ulster Schools 3000m Final.

Last Thursday night, 19th May, nearly one hundred and fifty competitors took to the start line at the well-organised Wilkies 5 mile road race in Derry/Londonderry, an event hosted by Foyle Valley AC.

This race actually takes place along the meandering, tree-lined, cycle/walking path that tracks the river bank, gently winding upwards for most of the outward 2.5 mile leg, before the runners reach a turning point, then head back along the same route to the finish.

Although potentially a fast, PB course, the out and back nature of the run makes it quite a mentally tough and challenging event.

Finn Valley AC’s Barry Harron cruised to victory in 24:58 while in a good battle for the runners up spot, Gavin Corey (Sperrin Harriers) 26:42, just edged out Michael Crawley (Unattached) 26:60.

NI & Ulster 10,000m medallist and winner of the recent Purple Ladies race, Natalie Hall (Acorns AC) topped the ladies podium in 31:11, with Ballymena & Antrim AC’s Pauline Thom taking the runners up spot in 31:12. The host club’s Martina McMullan completed the ladies podium in 31:37.

Springwell had a good squad out as usual for this event and came away with a fantastic haul of Age Group wins and PBs’!

First home for the club was Anthony Higginbottom in a flying PB of 30:56, followed by James McMullan in 31:32, having a great run and claiming 1st MV50, ahead of team-mate Gerard Mullan, who finished in 32:32, taking 2nd MV50 in the process! Well done guys!

Gerry O’Doherty romped home in 31:50 to take the 1st MV60 prize as did Fran McFadden, finishing in 33:59, to claim the 1st FV45 prize!

A brilliant evening for Springwell was rounded off by PB performances from Warren McIlmoyle, in 33:11, Noel Harkin in 34:19 and Coleraine newcomer Julie Millican in 37:30.

Great run from Warren, considering he has just returned to competitive action after injury kept him out for 4 weeks and also he ran the Strabane-Lifford Half just 4fourdays earlier! Impressive stuff!

Also great to see Julie and Noel continue to progress and develop on a consistant basis.

Thursday, 19th May, also saw Newcastle AC welcome athletes from all over Northern Ireland to Race 6 of the ongoing Hill & Dale Series. On this occasion, competitors faced the Loughshannagh Horseshoe course, which measured five miles in distance with 1,700ft of ascent.

Race organisers set some justifiably strict cut-off times (for safety reasons) and twelve people duly failed to meet the necessary standard.

Springwell were ably represented by father and son pair, Colin and Oisin Brennan, who both produced excellent runs against the top-class mountain running specialists they were competing against.

Oisin was first home in another superb run, finishing 10th overall and 2nd MJ in 47:07, while Colin finished a very strong 38th overall in 52:49, in a race won by local man Ian Bailey of Newcastle AC in 39:33. The Ladies winner was Diane Wilson of Dromore AC in 50:22.

In what was a fantastic run, Niamh Carr finished 3rd in the Inter Girls 3000m at the Ulster Schools TnF Championships, held on the Friday night, in an outstanding time of 10.48, all the more remarkable as this was only her second time racing at this distance.

This also qualifies Niamh for the Irish Schools Championships, so very well done to Niamh!

Then on Saturday, three more Springwell Juniors excelled with Andrew Gordon claiming a fantastic Gold in the 1500m, Ryan Cullen a brilliant Silver in the 200m and a superb Bronze for Aife McSheffrey in 800m. These three brilliant and talented young athletes now progress to the Irish Schools along with Niamh Carr.

Other results saw a gallant effort by Aine McKinney in the 800m Inters, finishing just outside the medals in a tremendous 4th, a brave and gutsy run by the always competitive Hermione Skuce, grabbing an excellent sixth in the 800m juniors and the young flying machine, Jack Culbertson, an equally laudable sixth in the 800m minors.

Having competed in the Ulster Schools Champiuonships myself, many moons ago, I can assure all readers that the standards are exceptionally high and even to qualify indicates a high level of athletic ability from all these young folk.

A big congratulations to all these brilliant Juniors and their very dedicated coaches, Ali Bratten and Philip Tweedie!

Competitors in the Roe Valley Sprint Triathlon faced a 30 length swim (750m) to start, followed by a hilly 20k bike then finished with a 5k run, all just for fun!

First Springwell member home but competing in his Triathlon Club colours, as were the others, was the incredibly rapid Rhodri Jones in a fabulous sixth place overall and a close second in the MV35 Age group.

Strongman Thomas Moore, after a great result in the Liam Ball, again had a great race, claiming an excellent 18th overall, while Junior Coach, Ali Bratten, finished in 51st place, still on the mend from a recent chest infection, claiming an impressive Age Group win in the process!

Young Aaron Craig was also an Age Group winner finishing in 57th position as was first Springwell Lady home, Kerrie McIlmoyle, in 101st place, in what was only only her 2nd competitive event! Kerries’ running has been a revelation this year and she now seems to have taken to Triathlon like a duck to water!

Next of our ladies in was Catherine Butcher in 135th place, also winning her Age Group, in another fantastic display.

On Sunday 22nd, the Belfast One World 10k took place around the grounds of the Ormeau Park, consisting of four laps.

Springwell had two runners taking part on the day with Keith Nixon finishing 28th in 47:52 and Andrew Wilmot 45th in 49:42, although Andrew reckoned it was slightly long at 10.2k, denying him of yet another PB!

The heavy early morning rain cleared , leaving dry and mostly sunny conditions for Saturday’s parkrun. The sand was quite soft in places due to the high tide and the headwind picked up a bit on sections of the return leg.

First finisher was Gary Henderson of Armagh AC in 18.54 and first lady was Tessa Polley in 23.21 on her first appearance at Portrush. First home for Springwell were Glenn Millar and Sarah Chestnutt.

This week there were 124 runners, of whom 14 were first timers and three recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 12 different athletics clubs took part.

Congratulations to Pam Howe who took on the Race Director duties this weekend and did a splendid job!

Elsewhere speedster Jonathan McKee sampled the delights of Antrim for a change and duly was first finisher while Neil McIvor and Lindsay Holden ran PBs’ at Limavady and Elgin repectively, well done all three!