SIXSATIONAL!

Giffnock North win all six junior age-group team titles at the Lindsays Scottish National XC Championships. Four individual medallists add even more shine.

Through mud, puddles, pools and ponds, down diabolical ditches and up horrible hills, our youngsters put on an unprecedented show at Callendar Park, Falkirk. They always do the club proud, but this was something special.

UNDER 13s 3.2k

First on stage were the U13 Girls and they didn’t hang about, storming to a fine victory fronted by Freya Scobie in fourth. In the individual medal mix for much of the race, Freya was strongly supported by Eilidh Caldow (12th), Millie Boothman (13th) and Aneesa Philipps (16th) for the team gold.

More stunning running by April Macaulay, Holly Simpson, Eva Saez and Nicole Yates placed them all in the top 30. The cast list in this highly impressive team performance included Amy Gallagher, Isabella Wilson, Niamh McNulty, Gabriella Amorati, Rose Costello, Beth Adams, Anna Ross, Eve Wilkinson, Lucy Campbell and Roisin Shiels. Heroes every one.

At 11:16 precisely (not 11:15 … no we don’t know why either), the U13 lads set off en route to conjuring up another magical race that saw a small group go clear then string out as the soft going and big final hill took their toll. Calum Dick hung in there among what promises to be another keengeneration of Scottish boys, finishing a gutsy fifth to head up team gold number two, clinched by determined efforts from Aaron Reid (14th), Patrick Fraser (22nd) and Ethan Scobie (24th).

Ethan narrowly outsprinted team-mate Finlay Laskie, with further stalwart support from Myles Macaulay, Cameron Mitchell, Joseph Mowat, Nathan Miller, Matthew Hill, Luca Saez and Zac Wright.

UNDER 15s 4.3k

The U15s, lads and lassies alike, enjoyed the unique attractionof their course going twice up the demanding hill at the start. Undeterred, Freya Campbell and Scarlett Wilson attacked the first 200 metres at impressive pace, went with the leaders and made Giffnock intentions clear. However, it was only after 3k of hard racing and on the ultimate hill that Freya actually caught and passed season-long rival Millie McLelland-Brooks (Glasgow School of Sport), then kept a cool head to win by a slender four seconds.

Scarlett flew home eleventh hotly pursued by fast-finishing clubmate Ruth Walsh one place back. Lauren McPherson’s powerhouse effort for 18th split two Edinburgh athletes to help claim the team crown, 42 points to Edinburgh’s 50. It’s worth noting that Edinburgh’s four girls placed 5th, 9th, 17th and 19th:having four athletes in the top 20 is usually enough to win the team event, so our girls’ achievement was well earned. This was a close-run thing, decided by total commitment from the whole squad, which was brilliantly served by the talents of Saoirse McNulty, Hazel O’Donoghue, Ella McWilliams, Scarlett Cunningham, Isla Munro, Ellie Stewart, Lucy O’Donoghue, Lexie Martin and Gabrielle Paddison.Incidentally that’s nine in a row for our U15 Girls: Celtic and Rangers, bring it on.

Not for the first time this winter, Giffnock’s Craig Shennan and Kilbarchan’s Oliver Patton went mano-a-mano in an U15 Boys race. With the pair of them shoulder to shoulder from the gun, neither giving an inch, Craig reprised Freya Campbell’s pivotal move on the last hill and with a raucous, appreciative crowd lining the slope between the team tents, he engineered a little daylight between himself and the Kilbarchan athlete Over the top they went and Craig edged ahead , going on to win by 19 seconds after an exhausting 14 minutes one second effort.

The individual win was made all the sweeter by team-mates Jack Wallace – enjoying a consistently high-class season – in eighth, Oliver Macdonald 12th and Alasdair Nugent 18th. Extra applause to Alasdair for racing so strongly for the team after a bout of Covid.

James Mowat, Calan Chong, Matthew Shaw and Tristan Robin were all in the top 30, with just two seconds covering Calan, Matthew and Tristan. Their points total of 105 would have given them team bronze, but rules is rules is rules. Also starring for the Flying 15s were Lewis Davidson, Ruari Laskey, Cormac Shiels, Zac Meiklejohn, Jude McGuigan and Cameron Fraser. Hats off to all, including Charlie McAllister, ill not long before the start (but still prepared to share his Jaffa Cakes, which gets him a thumbs up from me.)

UNDER 17s 6.2k

So far so golden: four team titles in the bag. No pressure on our U17 Women, then. Did they flinch? They did not, how very dare you! They seized the day and the glory, despitehaving to endure two laps of their circuit, including twice through the ditch at the furthest point of the course. (By this stage in proceedings this aquatic obstacle had earned its own fan club of ghouls, who gathered on the adjacent bridge to take bets on who’d be next to face-plant into the knee-deep water.)

Giffnock’s Hannah Ryding and Garscube’s very excellent Louisa Brown swiftly distanced themselves from almost the whole field. Hannah’s relentless front-running asked endless questions of Louisa but the athlete in blue and white stuck to her task and came up with an answer: striking hard off the top of that final hill she went clear to win by five seconds.

Behind them, Esme Dougall delivered a superb fourth, and the ever-consistent Kate Paul was twelfth, holding her concentration well despite having to run solo in no-woman’s land for much of the race. Kate’s run brought home the team crown (it’s just three to count in the U17 Women’s event) but the squad was also more than ably supported by Emma McLennan, Ella Youngs, Tuscany Wright, Megan Smith and Kiara Meiklejohn. Valencia Wright, who has starred at Falkirk in previous years, started but had to drop out – see you racing again soon, Valencia!

So. This was it. Could the U17 Men bring home the mythical, legendary sixth junior team gold? Every Giffnock North coach, parent, supporter and their pet dog held their breath for the next 6.2k (not easy) while simultaneously biting their nails and peeping from between their fingers …

Reuben Macdonald toughed it out with a gnarly lead group that included East Lothian’s highly rated Corey Campbell as well as our own two Camerons, Deverill and Green. Ultimately Corey broke clear and went on to win, but with a trademark sprint finish Reuben out-dipped Dundee’s Warren Lorente for silver, both runners given the same time (20 minutes 50). With the Camerons finishing eighth and ninth (also both same time 21:29) everything then depended on our fourth counter. The quietly consistent Matthew Knak in 15thbrought home team crown six. Part of Matthew’s reward was having the podium announcer mispronounce “Knak” as just “Nak” – the crowd in the mosh pit put matters straight with cries of, “KIH-nak! KIH-nak!”

Backing up the counters for good measure were strong runs from Matthew Cox, Innes  McPherson, Josh Kenny, Findlay Pryor and Jamie Davidson. Some effort, some squad.

UNDER 20s 6.8k

Our Under 20 Men suffered the finishing place that nobody wants: fourth, just outside bronze. There was no lack of effort, though, with brave runs over 6.8k from Duncan Robinson (individual fourth, just to rub in the frustration), Blayne Wright (just back after injury), Jacob Luc and Ross O’Brien.

Duncan had settled into the lead group and looked in contention for an individual medal until the ditch claimed him. The heavy fall, alongside fellow GB international Lewis Hannigan of Kilbarchan, meant too hard a chase to the line. The cooling scrub-down in the flood ponds afterwards was scant consolation. Ethan Carolan, in the unfamiliar colours of Aberdeen, ran a solid 27th, good to see you moving well, Ethan.

We had no U20 Women in the Championships but hopes are high for next year. I’d like to mention Kirsten O’Donoghue here for her efforts over the winter, flying the flag for us in more than one tough event. Thanks, KO (knockout initials, btw).

Duncan Robinson

SENIORS 10k

Giffnock’s Ladies finished 10th, with super work over theirthree-lapper (that’s three time through The Ditch, ouch ouch ouch) from Yvonne McNairne (34th), Allie Chong (53rd and second W50 by my reckoning), Frances Lowrie, Jacqui Campbell, Hilary Carswell and Stephanie Lille.

The Men claimed 17th in the always hard-fought Senior race. Let’s hear it for the redoubtable Sandy Nimmo (once upon many a time, Sandy won medals as a GN junior), Cameron Drummond, Andrew Campbell, Kieren Mooney, Alastair Stables and our athletic artist-in-residence Jordan Orr. Backing the first six were Andy Macdonald, Cris Walsh, Ian Miller, Ricky Saez, Rob Crusher and – in the Peter Pan Category – Alan Stewart. I can’t find Calum Young in the finishers’ list, so we hope you’re okay, Calum. As a Junior Olympic triathlete you shoulda been able to swim the ditch?

GIffnock Ladies

ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE YOU

Nice work, Lynn Mckenna, in Glasgow Uni colours, on your terrific twelfth in the Senior Ladies race, five places ahead of ex-GN racer Megan Crawford (now Fife AC). Another ex was Ruth Joss (Shettleston) in 36th and everyone shout, “Hoorah!” for Bella RR’s Tony Connelly (76th) who is a Coach  time  with our U11s. If I’ve missed anyone out or spelled your naem worng, I apologise.

FOLLOW THAT

Six Scottish National team titles. How do we top it? Join us again next year and let’s find out! Together we can do anything.

THANK YOU ONE AND ALL

We talk about six titles, and it’s a fantastic feat for sure, but the really important number, to my mind, is however many athletes it is who train all winter and race, plus their coaches, parents, relatives and supporters. Add the volunteer helpers, officials, time-keepers, course setters, stewards and host club Falkirk Victoria. Never forgetting far-sighted sponsor Lindsays who have stuck with the sport through two years and counting of pandemic. Cheers everyone, it’s a privilege to be part of it. Onwards.

Another fabulous report from our resident wordsmith ! Thanks again Croy . A superb insight on the National XC for those not present on the day and a great tribute to all our athletes, coaches, parents and supporters!

And  many thanks also to Laurence McGregor for brilliant set of photos!