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25 November 2013

East Down had 2 representatives in the Co. Down team which contested the inter county cross country championships in Santry Park near Dublin on Sunday past.  Brendan Teer placed 55th and Neil McCartan 95th  to help take 2nd place in the Grade C category, a step up from last year's Bronze medal winning position.

At the same venue Laura Gardiner did very well to take 35th place  in the Under 16 Girls race with Laura Green competing for the County Down team in 141st in the Under 14 Girls race.

Te Club also had 3 competitors in the Under 14 Boys county team and despite some travel sickness all performed with credit, Tim Prenter, Owen Edwards and Christopher O' Connor taking 117th, 135th and 153rd places respectively.

The same weekend in Cardiff, Barrie Atkinson was representing Northern Ireland in the British and Irish Cross Country Masters Championships and in a highly competitive Over 35 category he clocked his best ever time of 28.04 for an 8K cross country race, a fine acknowledgement of his first representative honour.

Sunday was a perfect day for running in Saul, as has come to be expected in the shadow of Slieve Patrick around this time every November, indicating perhaps that the man on the hill has definite influence with the Frank Mitchell's of this world. Hard to believe but this was the 5th running of the Griddle 10K and Fun Run which is now established as a serious test of endurance.

The winner of the 5K race, which is actually 6K, this year was East Down's Laura Gardiner who seems to enjoy road running while the first male home and very close behind was her clubmate Christopher O' Connor who is recovering impressively from a painful knee injury. Self proclaimed “I'm a sprinter not a long distance runner” Matthew McGrattan proved himself wrong by romping home in 3rd place overall with Tim Prenter,  Aoife Cochrane and Elisha Surginor making up it an all East Down AC   top six. Other stirring performances came from Aisling Kinsella, Louisa Byrne, Dionne McEvoy, Amy McGrattan, Clare Rice, Beth Collins, Grace Surginor, Caitlin Burke and little Cora McLoughlin in her first attempt at the distance.

Well done to all the young ones who took part and clearly enjoyed what is a far from easy course.


The 10K race was dominated by Brendan Teer who was untroubled in finishing in 34.06, well over 2 minutes clear of 2nd place Richard Coey from Ballydrain 36.45 and Orangegrove's Thomas Leitch 3rd in 37.24.

This race is promoted as Co Down's most challenging 10K and I would go so far as to say it is probably Ulster's, yet year after year runners keep coming back to take it on and in the process set new best times. For example Michael Cultra records 38.04 against his 2012 time of  40.39, Stephen Heasley 42.13 ( 43.07) Dermot Cahill 42.16 (44.14), Richard Gill 46.41(47.36). There were others too like Tom McClean 45.49 (47.15) Phillip Kinsella 47.31 (48.18) and among the Ladies Cathy Burke 52.05 (55.20) and Aurla McLoughlin 50.10 (51.07) but the award for most significant improvement must go to Michael McCreesh 46.30 (55.33) who carved a massive 9 minutes off last year's time.  Well Done to him and to all who beat the Griddle.

The Ladies race was won overall by Heather Foley 38.20 Lagan Valley's Catriona Donaldson with Sinead Murtagh from Castlewellan AC in 3rd place.

East Down won both the athletic club team competitions with Saul GAC winning both non-athletic club team trophies

Sincere thanks are offered to St Patrick's Primary School principal Mark McGrath for the use of his delightfully decorated and welcoming premises,a real credit to all concerned,  to the Ladies Committee for serving a veritable feast of food, drink and fruit to satisfy all tastes and appetites, the PSNI  personnel, First Aid providers, the Registration and Results crew, all who marshaled and helped in any way.  A big thank you too to the event sponsors, Flowers By Tracey, Conor Polly, Bargainland and ASDA supermarket. A special word of appreciation and thanks to James Byrne for his invaluable and very legible work as number official at the finish line. He is probably the youngest  official in athletics anywhere and never put a foot wrong.

And another first for the Griddle 10. Race organiser Chris McLoughlin of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and Sgt John McKenna PSNI walked the route in full fire fighting and riot gear respectively to raise money for the Declan McMullan Fund. They were back before the bulk of the runners and just before they needed to call on the emergency services for help themselves.  Well done to them and thanks to all who donated, in excess of £350 was raised on the day.

Next weekend it's Seeley Cup action in Ormeau Park on Saturday, without a hill in sight!  Boring or what? While on Sunday it's round 4 of the McGrady's Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series in Kilbroney Park

Joe Quinn

24 November 2013

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