Future is Orangegrove as Kelly leads the way
The Athletics NI championships at Belfast's Victoria Park were a resounding success for host club Orangegrove Athletics Club.
Featuring age group races as well as the full range of senior and masters' events, a record 83 squads were in action, much to the delight of the sport's leading officials who, along with Dame Mary Peters, were out in force to encourage participants in their quests for medals.
And while there were certainly some first class performances by the senior athletes, the day really belonged to those who made up the majority of the teams in that they were simply out to shine for their clubs, no matter how far down the field they came.
So while Kelly Neely (Lisburn) ran a blistering anchor stage to take her club to victory in the senior women's 3 x 3380 clocking 38.51, and Andrew Wright ran a great leg for Willowfield in the senior men's 4 x 3380, it was runners of all shapes and sizes from clubs as diverse as Orangegrove itself, Newry AC, new Club East Coast AC (a splinter group from Larne AC), another fairly recent new club Balmoral AC, to the mighty North Belfast who drew the most applause.
Annadale Striders duly retained the senior men's title in 41.41 thanks to the relatively young quartet of Ryan McDermott, Glenn Phiar, Andrew Agnew, and Owen Carleton, while the Lagan Valley senior women's team, silver medallists behind Lisburn in 39.51, had the outstanding 400 and 800 starlet Katie Kirk tackle for the second year, her anchor stage stint over 3380 metres – 'just a bit of fun' according to coach dad Mark!
The whole affair reflected superbly on Orangegrove, a club formed only three years ago and which is rapidly setting standards in event organisation.
Making full use of modern technology the club used You Tube and the Athletics NI website to broadcast a short pre-event promotion film clip, a possible first for the sport here, and will shortly send race day clips to all participating clubs.