East Down AC Step Out Well Into 2022

East Down AC notes for 30th January 2022.

East Down AC notes for 30th January 2022.

Antrim Castle

Suzy Smith and Kelly Smith at Antrim Castle Gardens.

On Saturday 29th January Suzy Smith and her niece Kelly travelled to Antrim for the Born2run event. This was 5th of 6 races in the Run Forest Run Series.

It was an idyllic setting with trees and parkland and they even got fair weather. Both runners were out to take in the surroundings as well as clock a few miles. Kelly even did the Antrim park run as a warm up! Both opted for the 5K distance with Kelly across the line in 25.14 in 36th place overall.

Suzy clocked 27.06 for the undulating route placing her 46th. There were 180 participants so both were well up the rankings and pleased with their efforts.

NI & Ulster Championships

Neil Curran, Gordy Graham, Neil McCartan, and Aaron McGrady.

On Sunday it was back to cross country for the rest of the East Down AC contingent. This time the venue was the QUB Playing Fields in Belfast with a lapped course round the pitches. Apart from a few gentle rises from one level to the next it was reasonably flat and while it was muddy it was manageable.

This was an important event as it was the NI & Ulster Masters and Intermediate Championship so Competition Secretary Barrie Atkinson aided by captains Sharon Madine and Martin Willcox had been nagging members to sign up to form teams to represent the club.

They rallied a good listing but on the eve of the race there were a few drop outs due to niggles and illness. Nevertheless the women fielded 7 runners while the men managed 11.

The East Down AC ladies team at the Masters Race.

Ladies First

The ladies had all opted for the Masters’ Race (athletes aged 35 or over). They lined up for a 2 lap course measuring 4K in total which is relatively short and therefore well suited to those who like to go out fast.

Catherine O’Connor has had a very consistent season and has managed top 20 in all the races so far. She was happy to come 11th in a time of 15.24. Deirdre Weatherall loves cross country or at least she does once she gets there! As she said: “It is never as bad as you imagine and the team camaraderie makes it worth while”. She finished a respectable 28th in 16.23.

Neil McCartan – 3rd in the NI&Ulster Intermediate XC Championship.

Not far behind was Stephney Graham a worthy addition to her new club. She ran well to clock 16.35 in 30th position. Sharon Madine did her captainly duty fitting in the race between her equestrian commitments. She was 38th in 16.57.

Maureen Kelly ran a competent 18.40 in 64th place and Alison Carroll and Roisin Gaffney ended up side by side for most of the race with Alison just edging ahead on the line. 73rd and 74th, their times were 20.09 and 20.12 respectively. The women then were happy to be done and assume the roles of support crew.

Neil McCartan Gets The Bronze

The men had a much bigger ask. Not only were they entered in the hotly contested Intermediate Race as opposed to the Masters but they also faced 8K to the Ladies’ 4K. When the whistle blew it was obvious that this was a field that was going to split even before the first kilometre was over. A lead pack evolved with Neil McCartan holding his place with great determination.

Aaron McGrady was doing his best to hold on to that group and Gordy Graham and Neil Curran found themselves further back running very hard just to stay in touch.

As the race progressed Neil McCartan looked better and better and it became clear that he was in with a medal chance. Aaron and the others may have been off the pace of the podium contenders but they didn’t falter in their efforts.

In the final lap McCartan found himself able to push into 3rd place and know that he had a good enough gap to hold on to take the championship bronze medal in 26.07. A worthy reward for his gritty run.

Wayne Giles and Mark O’ Connor.

Aaron finished 11th in 26.50 not entirely pleased with his race but knowing that he had done his best on the day.

Gordy Graham in 22nd in 27.37 also felt that he had slightly underperformed but looking at the long trail of runners behind him he realised that most had found the 8K a big challenge.

Neil Curran had a good outing making the top 40 in 39th place in 28.50. Mackenzie Murray still a junior was a commendable 48th in 30.02.

With every race he is gaining strength and experience. The Men’s Captain Martin Willcox was 55th (31.20) mid packing the EDAC Team home.

Cheers to the Team

The remainder of the club’s runners all made it across the line in one piece and were congratulated wholeheartedly for turning out to make up the team.

Without the likes of these guys there would be no team and the fact that they are not at the glory end does not in any way diminish their contribution.

Mark O’Connor (63rd) had a bit of gap on a battling trio of Adam Morgan (65th), Stephen Heasley (66th) and Eamon Kelly (67th) which left Wayne Giles to finish on his own.

. Stephen Heasley and Adam Morgan.

In true EDAC spirit some of the other team members who had finished made it their business to run back alongside Wayne to encourage him to the line.

The elation of Neil lifting a medal and the satisfaction of seeing the club members look out for each other on the course combined sums up what is great about cross country and what is brilliant about being in a club.

The final mention must be to thank the supporters who were unable to run on the day but turned up solely to encourage their club. It was a great day out for all concerned.

What’s Next

There are a couple more cross country races to come so it is not too late to be part of the action. Stormont XC takes place on 12th February and Moira XC on February 19th. Log on to Athletics NI to see how to get entered as there are no on the day entries!


JIMMY’S 10 2022

With the entries topping 450 already it is clear that this is going to be a terrific event. The first 600 are guaranteed a race shirt in the 2022 colours so if you are thinking of entering you need to get a move on!

Log on here for details:


Mackenzie Murray and Martin Willcox.