Christmas time is the time of year when friends, young and old, gather together to catch up on experiences over the past year. And so it was for the North West Orienteering Club’s present and past members to meet up for the annual Christmas orienteering competition on 27th December at Ballykelly Forest.
The club is celebrating 45 years since it’s first steps in the sport of orienteering and it was especially poignant that three of the club’s pioneers, Anthony McGonigle, Fred Corscadden and Noel Bogle MBE were all participating in this annual event.
Brother and sister team, David & Ruth Blair, planned and organised the three courses on offer. The score event gave competitors 45 minutes to locate as many orienteering markers within the specified time, in whatever order they chose. This type of course suits all ages and abilities with competitors choosing the length and difficulty of course that best matches their individual fitness. Only one marker separated the top two finishers with Ben Powell finishing just ahead of the experienced parkrunner, Nickie Ghann. There was keen competition between the junior runners with only 3 markers separating the top 6 finishers. The brother and sister rivalry between Ciara and Matthew Smyth was decided by only one marker in favour of Ciara.
Judging by the scores of a few past Limavady Grammar School pupils from the class of 82, Katherine McClurg, Roger Owens and Keith Bloomfield it appears that they probably spent much of their 45 minutes catching up and simply enjoying a walk in the forest! They certainly seemed to have enjoyed themselves as much as the faster paced competitors in the longer courses.
The short course kept runners to the forest south of the main road with Sarah Gamble beating Fred Corscadden by 18 secs, and the oldest competitor, Noel Bogle, who celebrated his eightieth birthday just 2 days previously, finishing third.
The largest number of competitors were tempted to compete in the long course, utilising the forest on both sides of the main road, using the underpass to traverse the busy road safely. We were delighted to welcome past members of the club who were home for the holiday, visiting family, and also several runners from other orienteering clubs in Northern Ireland. It was probably inevitable that the winner of the long event was one of NI’s top senior orienteers, Frazer Howe, currently a member of Queens University orienteering club. But to prove that there is still life in the “old legs”, Peter O’Hara from Edinburgh ( a past junior champion) finished in second place, 3 mins 26secs behind Frazer, despite giving him 25 years advantage. Local runners who finished in the top group included Jack Bogle from Eglinton, who helped lead his father, Stephen, around the course. Ross Walker from Coleraine continued his good form in 2017 by finishing in sixth place, 1min.16secs ahead of the ever youthful Anthony McGonigle. Another visiting past member Peter McBride, living near Reading, was only 15secs behind Anthony. Susan Lambe (Northern Ireland Orienteering clubs co-ordinator) from Lagan Valley Orienteers was the first lady finisher.
After the competition, club members and friends gathered together in the Drummond Hotel for lunch and the club’s annual AGM. The lunch was rounded off with an eightieth birthday cake, baked by Ruth Blair, to celebrate Noel Bogle’s milestone birthday and a photograph of the club’s oldest member and youngest member, Matthew Smyth, was taken for the club archives.
The highlight of the AGM was the presentation of the Silva Trophy to Anthony McGonigle. This national award is given annually to someone for a lifetime’s achievement and work within orienteering. Within all sports there are committed competitors, coaches and organisers who quietly, in the background, help and encourage others within their sport to develop and nurture their abilities .Within orienteering, Anthony, a past pupil and teacher at Limavady Grammar , has been competing, coaching, planning and organising competitions for the 45 years of the club’s existence. In addition he has surveyed and produced many orienteering maps, and is still active, having produced a new map for the 2018 NI Open Championships. He is fondly remembered by many past pupils of LGS and NWOC for some memorable trips to orienteering events throughout the UK and France. He has been an active committee member of NWOC and also NI Orienteering for many years and is a worthy winner of the trophy.
Club Chairman, David Blair, thanked everyone within NWOC for their continued help and organisation throughout 2017 and wished everyone good health and fitness for another busy competitive year in 2018.
To all local runners and joggers, why not spice up your running during 2018 by adding the excitement of navigation, and give orienteering a go! Existing club members will be happy to provide help and training to all runners who wish to test their physical and mental abilities. But be warned…. it can become addictive as it proved for those who started in the sport over 40 years ago. Keep an eye on the NWOC website.