Report by Croy Thomson
GIFFNOCK NORTH AAC’s distance squad shot to glory at Battery Park, Gourock, in the National Junior Road Race Championships last Sunday.
In perfect, cool conditions on a pancake-flat course, the southside youngsters dished up no less than three individual champions, two title-winning teams, two silver medal winning squads and a further bronze team gong for good measure.
First up were the Under 13 girls and Heather Barnes stormed to victory over 2.5k in eight minutes 40 seconds, four ticks ahead of Inverclyde’s Nuala McCheyne, to lead team-mates Annabel Ballantyne and Kate Richardson to the national crown. Not far behind were the ever impressive squad, featuring Sofia Kirkpatrick, Clare Wallace, Lisa Miller, Orla Lang, Zoe Coyne, Emma Chamberlain, Eve Denholm and Leila Hickey-Fugaccia.
With a typically brave front-run effort, Hamish Armitt added the Scottish road title to his recent cross country gold, and with able backing from Jack Bell and Ethan Carolan claimed team silver behind Kilbarchan. Splendid back-up came from Thomas McAuliffe, Murray Fotheringham, Chris Watson-Sweeney, Eoghan O’Donnell, Andrew Robertson, who together comprise one of the longest selections of names on a team sheet ever.
Hamish’s warm-up included a prolonged last-minute wrestle with his tracksuit trousers which appeared unwilling to come off over his trainers, but such moments raise the heart rate to acceptable race pace, which is undoubtedly a Good Thing, if not for the onlooking coach, who was starting to look for scissors.
Under 15 flyer Erin Wallace delivered individual gold number three, patiently waiting for most of her 4.2k race behind rivals from Edinburgh and Pitreavie before pouncing with 400 metres to go. Nikki Miller and Danielle Kelly completed a fine title-winning performance, supported by Emily Crusher, Lynn McKenna, Charlotte McKenna, Rebecca Kinnear, Sarah Chamberlain and Maia Carolan. Giffnock’s second trio of Crusher, McKenna and McKenna ran in with 46 points, which would have earned them a team bronze ahead of a good Kilbarchan squad, had the rules allowed.
Silver team medals went to Under 17 Girls Sarah Eunson, Holly Still and Rebecca Metcalfe over 4.9k, with Sarah taking the race on from the gun, only to be run out of the medals towards the end by top class rivals including Kilbarchan’s Laura Stark and VPG’s Gillian Black, who exchanged the lead more than once in a ferocious final 200 metres that eventually went Stark’s way.
Bronze was claimed by Under 15 Boys Michael Lowrie, Andrew Love and Harry Nimmo, backed by Joe Lowrie, the resplendently headbanded Jamie Sturrock, Nicolas Boyle, Calum Young and Ben Shaw (who ran so fast he became invisible to the officials and hasn’t appeared on the results sheet, but we know you put in your shift, Ben); Under 17s Oliver Watson-Sweeney, Kalil Shahid and Keir Carolan fought out a hard-earned fifth against Scotland’s strongest road teams.
Top six in the U15 and U17 categories are usually offered places in the Scottish squad for the London Mini Marathon next month and it is hoped that Wallace, Miller, Eunson and Still will all be invited.
Notably, near neighbours Giffnock North and Kilbarchan Harriers have won ten of the twelve junior team golds available at the 2015 National Cross Country and Road Race Champs. Must be the relentlessly refreshing Renfrewshire air we’ve enjoyed this winter.
Many thanks to the officials, stewards, home-baking ladies (World Class fruit loaf in Gourock, by the way), timekeepers, fans, parents, grandparents, fellow coaches, assistants, pet dogs, and the patient wee brothers and sisters. Well done, one and all , it’s been a memorable winter – if you didn’t get a menshie, I’m sorry, but my fingers are sore typing.