Mountain runners turn out for Hill & Dale Series ‘Meels’ race

by Ryan Maxwell from NIRUNNING

On Thursday 6th June 2013, Newcastle AC welcomed runners to the eighth race of this years Hill & Dale Series. Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelbeg were the summits of the ‘Meels’ course, which covered 3.5 miles and included a total ascent of 1,800ft.

Great pic of Meelbeg last night by Nigel McKinney

In perfect conditions, the runners set off from the Happy Valley Car Park towards Slieve Meelmore, and it was last week’s winner Stephen Cunningham (Mourne Runners) who moved to the front, with Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC) and Deon McNeilly (Newcastle AC) leading the chasing pack. Stephen reached the top first and his strong descent off Meelmore put some breathing space between himself and the aforementioned men. The ladies race was proving to be a good old fashioned “ding-dong” between Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) and Diane Wilson (Dromore AC), with Shileen climbing strongly and Diane descending at such a rate that she was able to close the gap on her International team mate.

As the leading men hit the top of Slieve Meelbeg, Stephen Cunningham was looking strong; Ian Bailey and Deon McNeilly were behind, as was Neil Carty (North Belfast Harriers), David McNeilly (Newcastle AC) and Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC). Shileen O’Kane reached the final summit first and began the long descent before Diane Wilson. Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC), Mary Mackin (Dromore AC) and Patricia McKibbin (Unattached) followed.

In the end, it was the start to finish leader, Stephen Cunningham who sealed his second Hill & Dale victory in as many weeks, crossing the line in 28:44 to take top spot. Ian Bailey (29:28) secured yet another series podium place, taking 2nd place in 29:28, while Neil Carty (30:15) just beat David McNeilly (4th place – 30:15) to 3rd place. The two were so close that they were rewarded the same finish time.

Diane Wilson’s descending skills once again proved invaluable in the ladies race; the Dromore lady passed Shileen O’Kane on the long downhill section off Slieve Meelbeg to win in 35:12, Shileen followed in 35:36. Anne Sandford made sure that this week’s ladies top three read identical to last week’s race when she crossed the line in 40:00 (3rd place).

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