IT could have been the weather or the half term break or just the fact that the event was two weeks later than usual this year, but whatever the reason the number of children taking part in Saturday’s Rollercoaster races at Downpatrick Racecourse was significantly down on last year.
Having said that, almost 200 children braved the biting wind and occasional skiff of sleet and rain to warm the hearts of teachers, parents and us old guys who stand around with five layers of clothing wondering why the kids are fighting for a place on the start line and imploring the starter to blow the whistle. Well done to you all.
The first race of the day featured the P3 girls and saw Helen Barbour and Erin Easton give All Children’s IPS, Newcastle, an inspirational one, two start with East Down’s Aoibheann McVeigh in 3rd. The youngest of the Foster girls was 7th in this race and we’ll wait with great interest to see if she can make a similar improvement to that of sister Kari in the coming year.
The boys’ P3 race was won by Archie Ross from Darragh McAlinden, Our Lady and St Patrick’s and Louis Leblanc, All Children’s IPS, Newcastle.
The P4 girls’ race saw Kari Foster leda an East Down one, two with Erin Moore, ahead of Loughview IPS Sarah Derby-Murray in 3rd. This was a remarkable performance by Kari who was 17th in last year’s P3 race which was won by Sarah with Erin 3rd. Lena Proctor Amos also performed well in this race.
In the P4 boys’ race Alexander Robinson (East Down) gained revenge for his 2016 defeat in the P3 race, turning the tables in the process on his conqueror Jack Hynds, Our Lady and St Patrick’s, with Isaac McAlinden, also of Our Lady and St Patrick’s again in 3rd.
Shea Holland was the winner of the P5 boys’ race, getting St Patrick’s Legamaddy onto the podium for the first time on the day, just as he had done last year on the P4 race, with East Down’s Harry Fitzsimons in second place and another Legamaddy star Seaney Dugggan taking 3rd place.
In the girls’ race Jodi Foster matched her younger sister Kari’s performance in the previous race with a 10 second victory over Orangegrove and Loughview’s Sarah Van Der Linde with All Children’s Robyn Bonner in 3rd place.
The biggest field of the day saw 39 girls line up at the 1K mark for the P6/7 race, and as last year, it was East Down’s Lauren Madine who set the pace and held of the challenge of her club mates Anna Gardiner and Lucy Foster to claim a magnificent 1, 2,3 for the host club. Orlaith Rogan and Mia Proctor-Amos, representing St Patrick’s Primary School, Legamaddy, were two other East Down members to catch the eye
In the boys’ race, Callum Kent set out his intentions from the start and fairly stormed home to win by four seconds from Joe Williams with Beechmount’s Finn Diver in 3rd.
The John McKeag Shield for best boys’ team was retained by Our Lady and St Patrick’s Primary School, their scoring quartet being Jake Harding (4th), Ben Hynds (8th), Cormac O’Hare (10th) and Shea Vaughan (11th), making a total of 33 points, a mere point clear of All Children’s IPS, Newcastle. Our sympathy to them as they lost out last year by just four points. Perhaps 2018 will be their year?
Loughview IPS once again took the girls’ school team prize with Mia Ferguson (6th), Olivia Chandler (8th), Rachel Derby-Murray (9th) and Niesa O’Neill (14th) being their scorers.
The shield and trophies for both team competitions were as ever generously sponsored by Honorary Life Member, the sprightly 94 year old John McKeag, who was on hand to make the presentations.
In the boys’ U-13 race East Down’s George McBratney once again took the honours, winning in fine style from Beechmount’s Criostoir Browne and Newcastle’s Dara Rodgers. Mackenzie Murray was a close up 4th with Declan Hampton 7th.
In the girls equivalent it was Kirsti Foster whose victory made it a hat-trick of wins for the Foster family on the day, ahead of North Down’s Holly Massey and 3rd placed Abbie Ross from Lagan Valley. Colleen Burke battled bravely against the elements to 8th place.
The age 15 and under race saw a disappointing total of just four boys and girls take the line, although it provided an impressive display from Beechmount’s James Jack Gracey who clocked 9.23 for the 2.5k. The girls’ race enabled Niamh McBratney to emulate the winning feat of younger bother George earlier, holding off Beechmount’s Bryanna Catney with East Down’s Aoife Burke in third place.
Newcastle’s David McNeilly proved a more than capable stand in for last year’s winner and club mate David O’ Flaherty, who was there in a purely paternal role, taking the lead from the off and holding off the much improved East Down man Ciaran Denvir, who in fact took 52 seconds off his 2016 time for the race.
Annadale’s Conor McMullan maintained his recent good form and was not far behind in 3rd place.
The over 35 winner was another East Down man Davy Foster with Beechmount’s Michael Magee the first over 45 category and James McCracken from Dromore the first over 55 an across the line.
Gerrie Short from Beechmount proved the old adage that if at first you don’t succeed try, try again, by winning the senior 5k after finishing second in each of the past two years.
East Down’s Laura Gardiner was second with Ballydrain’s former Lagan Valley stalwart Ruth Perioli in third place. East Down’s Cheryl Denvir was first over 35 Lady while Virginia Ervine Mourne Runners picked up the over 45 prize
Aoife Cochrane retained her U-20 crown with another fine run, finishing strongly ahead of Laura Green and Ella Carroll while Matthew McGrattan really mixed it with the big boys, producing a superb sprint finish to take the U-20 male prize and overall 6th place.
A huge debt of thanks is owed to all who braved the elements on Saturday, to the registrars, the sound men, the marshals and officials, and volunteer club members, to the Down Race Club staff and to Caitriona and her family from Wrap’ n’ Roll who provided for everyone the tastiest soup available anywhere.