ANTRIM WAS the scene of an historic five in a row NI McCains Young Athletes League team success for the talented City of Derry Spartans Juvenile squad last Saturday.
A long day of track & field competition at U13, U15 and U17 level ended with the young red vests emerging emphatic winners of the Jimmy Murray Perpetual Trophy, well ahead of the other five clubs in the final.
The local club went into the final as hot favourites after dominating each of the three qualifying rounds and, in truth, the only surprise was that their closest rivals Regent House, failed to mount a serious challenge and on the day it was City of Lisburn who emerged as the danger to the coveted five in a row.
However, despite a fired-up Lisburn squad, benefiting perhaps from mopping up recruits from the recently defunct Abbey AC, the Spartans finished on a total of 836 points, more than enough to retain the title with Lisburn on 674 and third placed Lagan Valley on 577 points.
North Down, boosted by a strong Boys U17 squad, were next with 510, followed by Regent House on 487 and the other Derry club Olympian, finishing sixth with 317 points.
The Spartans brought home over 100 medals in total across the three age groups and this included some 21 “A” golds and 15 “B” golds as each club was required to field two athletes in each event.
A terrific reward for a campaign which began back in early May and ended with an energy-sapping eight hour competition last Saturday.
The winning team and their mentors were absolutely delighted with their success and also with the icing on the cake in the form of setting three new NI YAL records.
At Boys U15 level the in-form Shane McGowan claimed new 1,500 metres figures of 4m 19.72s and in the Boys U17 age group the sprint Relay quartet of Ryan McParland, Mark McGarvey, Andrew Bolster and Jack McCloskey sped to an impressive 44.53s for the gold medals and a place in the record books.
The girls were not to be denied and the U17 300 metres foursome of Anna Barr, Ciara Armstrong, Jenny O’Brien and Tamara Boyle scorched to new record figures of 2m 53.94s.
So a record five in a row team victories and a trio of new YAL records brings the track season to an end for most of the young athletes who will now enjoy a short break prior to getting ready for the autumn/winter training season.
Some, however, still have serious competitive action to come, primarily representative obligations and a bunch of the U17 Girls have the Women’s National League Division One Final in Tullamore on August 20th next to prepare for while some of the younger members of City of Derry Spartans still have strong representation in the Celtics and Uk Schools Games.
The Dublin Graded Meeting at Santry last Friday night attracted Pajo Hamilton and JP Williamson who both went over 800m. Pajo warmed up for this weekend’s National Senior championships at the same venue with a 1m 55s outing in the A race and JP brought his PB down to 2m 03s in the B race.
There should be a big North West interest in Santry over the weekend with the Derry, Donegal and Tyrone athletes set to travel in good numbers.
For local enthusiasts Connor Bradley will be worth watching in the 1,500m; Greg Roberts. Declan Reed and Brendan Murphy will tackle the 10,000m team race on Saturday; Aaron Doherty goes over 5,000m and Mary Devlin may double up in the Long and Triple Jump.
Finally mention of the Clonmany Festival 5K this Wednesday evening at 7.30 pm and the Sperrin Harriers 5 Mile Classic in Cookstown on Friday night with a 7.30 pm start time.
For anyone looking at the Waterside Half Marathon on September 11th two convenient upcoming races may be of interest. Letterkenny hosts the Danny McDaid 15K on Sunday, August 14th at 11.30 am and then on Tuesday evening August 30th at 7.15 pm in the Gransha Grounds it’s the annual Dessies Run 10K. More details on both to follow.