Slieve Donard Classic Mountain Race (Hill & Dale Series – Race 6):
On Saturday 20th May 2017, Newcastle AC welcomed over nearly three hundred athletes to Race 6 of their ongoing Hill & Dale Series in Newcastle, County Down; this was 72nd running of the prestigious event.
The ‘Slieve Donard Classic’ mountain race measures approximately 5.5 miles in distance and took competitors from Newcastle Main Street to the top of Northern Ireland’s highest mountain (Slieve Donard), which stands at 850 metres.
Aside from the start and finish along the Main Street (via Donard Park), competitors were free to choose their own way to the summit and back, with some opting for the Black Stairs and others, the more runnable Glen River Path.
Up and coming mountain running star Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) and experienced Ireland international athlete Sarah McCormack (Ambleside AC) secured impressive victories.
In the men’s race, Zak bettered his third place finish at the event twelve months ago. The Northern Ireland and Ireland international led the way to the summit in 37:29, with only IMRA competitors Brian McMahon and Ian Conroy close. Zak descended better than both Brian and Ian to ensure an excellent win in 59:24 (1st place). William McKee made up good ground on those in-front with a fearless descent which saw the Mourne Runners star take 2nd place in 1:01:14, just ahead of North Belfast Harriers athlete and fellow Kilkeel man Andrew Annett, who completed the top three in 1:01:32 (3rd place).
After the race, Zak expressed his delight on social media, posting “What a day! Buzzing to have won the Slieve Donard mountain race today for the first time; biggest win of my career so far and hopefully not the last.”
Well-known and respected Ambleside based athlete Sarah McCormack, a previous winner of the Garmin Mourne Skyline GTR, put in a classy performance to take the ladies title. Sarah reached the 850 metre summit in 42:13, well ahead of local ladies Charlene Haugh (Mourne Runners) and Esther Dickson (Newry AC) who hit the top in 48:17 and 48:19 respectively. Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) was close in 48:46.
Despite impressive descents by the Northern Ireland based athletes, Sarah proved unstoppable at the front and cruised to victory in 1:09:10 (1st place). Charlene continued her excellent return to competitive action, taking 2nd place in 1:13:02 – Esther followed in 1:14:19 for 3rd place.
Top 3 Men: 1st Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) – 59:24, 2nd William McKee (Mourne Runners) – 1:01:14, 3rd Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) – 1:01:32
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Sarah McCormack (Ambleside AC) – 1:09:10, 2nd Charlene Haugh (Mourne Runners) – 1:13:02, 3rd Esther Dickson (Newry AC) – 1:14:19
Provisional Results: Slieve Donard Classic Mountain Race 2017 PROVISIONAL Results