By Rory Morrow – Deputy & Sports Editor
If you cast your mind back to about this time last year, during another gloomy and entirely foreseeable lockdown, one thing was keeping spirits up; the coming release of the sixth season of hit Belfast-filmed BBC crime drama Line of Duty. Whilst the series itself split opinion, there can be no disputing the home woven belters that are some of Ted Hasting’s best and immediately recognisable lines. My personal favourite is the simplistically Northern Irish, “Now we’re sucking diesel”; an apt description for the return of competitive athletics competitions this year.
As I have previously written joyously about, the Belfast marathon (partaken in relay teams by QUB Athletics) was for many their debut to racing properly post-Covid restrictions. Now, as the first month of 2022 is upon us, it feels an appropriate time to reflect on a busy, enjoyable, and extremely rewarding Winter of competitive action.
Competing in relay teams at the IUAA (Irish universities athletics association) Road Relay Championships hosted by Maynooth University just outside of Dublin, the format of the race consisted of one-mile laps and members of each teams running a leg of it. Female teams had four members and ran one mile, two miles, two miles, and one mile stints. Male teams were similar albeit with a three-mile leg sandwiched in between both two-mile legs. QUB were delighted to be able to field a total of five teams (two female and three male) consisting of 23 intrepid athletes journeying down in total. Although our – if I’m being modest – magnificent navy fleeces were outflanked by the numbers of Trinity (TCD) and UCD racing, each QUB team ran strongly amid highly competitive and fiercely fast-paced competitors with many superb individual performances. Amongst them were Niamh Heaney (5th out of 26) in the girls third leg while Callum Morgan was also a top five finisher; he came in 4th in the boy’s leg two. Peter Gracey and Brandon McKeown made the top ten in their respective (third and fourth) legs; these stellar times helping pave the solid times posted by each team. Our female teams were 15th and 23rd out of 26 whilst our males were 8th, 19th, and 29th out of 29 competing teams. The 29th out of 29 placing may dim morale but perhaps emphasises the brutal athleticism of our rival universities. Nevertheless, it should not overshadow speedy and solid runs across the team.
University running has well and truly returned.