FORTY MILES AN HOUR WINDS and pelting rain, mud underfoot and the occasional outbreak of sunlight … ah, yes, Scottish cross country at its best! And Scottish cross country runners were at their best too, at last Saturday’s Lindsays 2021 National Short Course Championships, hosted in the gentle sheltered dell* that is Lanark Racecourse.
Not least among the athletes at the pointy end of the racing were Giffnock North AC’s juniors, who bagged two team titles, two team silvers and two individual medals.
The Under 15 Girls were first onto the podium, with storming runs over 2k from Freya Campbell (second), Milli Macfarlane (ninth) and Scarlett Wilson, ahead of East Kilbride and Falkirk Victoria. Lauren McPherson, Katy Donnelly and Saoirse McNulty packed in brilliantly in the top 30. No less than 16 Giffnock U15 Girls turned out and they all did the club proud in very testing conditions. That’s seven team golds from eight short course championships for Giffnock’s U15 Girls.
Next up, the U15 Boys blazed round their 2k loop for team silver. Jack Wallace bravely went for broke from the off, trading the lead with pre-race favourites Oliver Patton of Kilbarchan and Rhys Crawford of Aberdeen, but ultimately had to settle for seventh, pipped by team-mate Alasdair Nugent (sixth) and backed by strong finishing James Mowatt (16th). Oliver Macdonald, Matthew Shaw, Ruari Laskey and Calan Chong were all inside the top 30 in another strong squad effort. Aberdeen claimed team gold, Edinburgh AC bronze.
Our Under 17 Girls’ squads have a fearsome reputation in this event (six wins in seven previous editions) and the 2021 team lived right up to it, earning another hard-earned team gold over 3k. Esme Dougall contested the individual medals for much of the race but was edged into fourth, to lead Kate Paul (10th) and Emma McLennan (13th) to the team title. Megan Smith fought her way into the top 40 despite taking a knock in the slippery, twisting conditions.
In contrast to the girls’ teams’ trophy-bedecked history in this event, the U17 Boys had one individual bronze medal (Harris Paterson season 19/20) to show from seven previous championships. That swiftly changed, as Reuben Macdonald took on Harmeny’s Tendai Nyabadza for much of the race. In an enthralling last 800 the lead changed hands more than once, and Tendai opened a stride or two of daylight going into the final sprint, but Reuben’s never one for giving up and he hit back to seize the day and the U17 crown. Cameron Deverill (eighth) and Josh Adams (20th) clinched the team silver behind an impressive Harmeny team, and ahead of Team East Lothian. Two Matthews, Knak and Cox packed in well in the top 30.
Giffnock’s Ladies couldn’t quite contain Laura Muir over 4k (the Tokyo Tigress powered over the sticky stuff as if it wasn’t there, to be honest, a sight to behold) but landed a fighting eleventh with brave running from Yvonne McNairn, Allie Chong, Zoe Flower (U20) and Frances Lowrie. Allie won silver in the O50 category.
Our men endured a tough time in the worst of the wind and rain: Hamish Armitt and Duncan Robinson both fell, and Duncan lost a shoe (yes, the one with the timing chip) but the team battled on to an official place of 12th for Hamish, Ross O’Brien, Nikolai Gajic and Oliver Traynor … but that placing should be upgraded. Without his timing chip, Duncan’s finishing place wasn’t recorded. Going by photos we reckon he was three or four places behind Jake Wightman (14th). Top twenty on just one shoe after falling? Not bad! The A team was more likely eighth.
Special salute for the redoubtable Alan Stewart, still competing for the amber and royals, in the O70 category. Some man, Alan, brilliant, I take my soaking wet hat off to you.
Ben Shaw and Charlotte McKenna both won team silvers with their University teams, Ben in the green of Edinburgh, Charlotte in Glasgow’s ebony and gold.
The event was graced by the participation of three current Olympians: Laura Muir, Jake Wightman and Andy Butchart (there was a fourth Olympian, but she was too modest to let the course commentator mention it). Many thanks to Laura Muir in particular for posing for all the selfies with the kids, they were thrilled to bits.
Final word on the weather. I have it on excellent eye-witness authority that the wind was gusting so hard it blew the chips off one spectator’s plate. Now THAT’S a Scottish cross country day out.
Thanks as always to the officials, course setters, volunteers, host club Law AAC, South Lanarkshire Council, tent wranglers (you earned your money), coaches, mums, dads, pals, storm chasers, and of course the athletes. Full marks to everyone who turned up and honoured the sport. Every one a hero.
Report by Croy Thomson
*Other descriptions of Lanark Racecourse are available.
Photos courtedy of Bobby Gavin and others.