After a year break in 2020 imposed by Covid, the Giffnock North Junior Christmas Handicap returned in style at Hutchie’s Auldhouse venue last Sunday 19th December. And while the course was a flat as a pancake, the atmosphere and the action were as fizzy as frothed up foamy Fanta (other soft drinks are available).
Lurking fog did nothing to dim an occasion made especially bright by the attendance of World Championship 1500 finalist Neil Gourley, home for Christmas from his American base, and GB&NI cross country international Hamish Armitt.
RACES AND ACES
The handicappers’ job can be a thankless task, as was ably demonstrated in the very first race of the day, the Under 11 Girls 1.25k, which saw the fearless Ruby McWilliams tear up the form book, tear round the course then tear into the gold medal ceremony, ahead of Mia McCamon and Eva McGrory. Eva had the consolation of running fastest lap – five minutes 48 seconds off her handicap of 50 seconds.
The Under 11 Boys event saw Logan McNulty and Kian Dick go one-two in both the handicap and true times, with just two seconds between them (four minutes 53 seconds to four 55 respectively)
Next up, the U13 Girls faced 2.4k with additional hill – well, okay, gentle embankment thing – and the handicap honours went to Lucy McGhie, Freya Scobie and Amy Gallagher, just 13 seconds covering all three. Freya took fastest lap (eight minutes 53) ahead of Millie Boothman and Amy Gallagher.
All subsequent races were over approximately 2.4k.
Back marker Calum Dick blazed round the U13 Boys 2.4k in the fastest lap of seven minutes 47 seconds, which gave him the Handicap gold as well, off a 40-second allowance. Aaron Reid claimed second and Myles Macauley third.
With a memorable 11 minutes 27 seconds effort, Sophie Black held off Ruth Walsh by nine seconds to win the Under 15 Girls Handicap prize, the pair of them hotly pursued by West District XC Champion Freya Campbell, closing rapidly but seven seconds further back. Freya delivered fastest lap (eight minutes13 seconds) ahead of Scarlett Wilson (eight 52) and Ruth Walsh (eight 56).
THEY’RE BEHIND YOU
A steely performance by Cameron Fraser saw him start first off scratch and never look back in the Under 15 Boys event. With several members of the newly named West Inter District Team out to hunt him down, Cameron simply kept on full gas and flew happily over the finishing line in nine minutes 33 seconds, ahead of Alasdair Nugent and Lewis Davidson. A young Santa Claus look-alike aka Craig Shennan, added a ho-ho-whole lot of colour and smiles in the contest for fastest lap, which was won by Alasdair in seven 28.
Final races of the day were the Under 17/20 Men and Women, who went out as one combined event, with separate prizes. Five seconds covered the first four runners back, with Donald Maclean (eight minutes 31 seconds) narrowly holding off Matthew Cox, Innes McPherson and Glen Griffiths. All eyes had been on pre-race favourite and GB&NI Eurocross international Hamish Armitt, but not even his blistering fastest lap of the day (seven minutes 10 seconds) could overturn the Handicapper’s burden.
Emma McLennan was top girl, first back and fastest in nine minutes 1 second, followed by Esme Dougall (who edged Emma by two seconds and Kirsten O’Donoghue took 3rd.
VERY ELFY TURN-OUT
ghted to report that one of Santa’s Elves took time off from the North Pole (East Kilbride to you and me) to join the U17/U20 fun under his racing name of Cameron Green. Cameron unwrapped a very ‘elfy seven minutes 31 second performance (second fastest behind Hamish), as well as contributing yet more smiles to the miles.
The U13 Girls’ start list was biggest of the day at 18; U11 Boys and U15 Girls both started 17 runners. Total turn-out was 93, probably the biggest ever for the event and as big as any at our Sunday morning park training sessions.
In past years we have used the club’s football grounds at Braidbar as well as Rouken Glen and GHA’s rugby fields but our favoured venue over the last two years has been Auldhouse. The Pavilion there allows us to provide a bit of a Social Function and a much-needed chance for parents to meet and chat. The world class soup, home baking and mince pies have always down a treat previously but this year the hospitality was another victim of the pandemic. It was important to go ahead with the annual event however and it was a thoroughly enjoyable morning.
THANK YOU, SPRINTERS
This year’s entry of 93 was probably the largest yet, with even a few sprinters gracing the start line. Thank you, Zander and Austin! Next year we’ll have to offer a Giffnock North version of the New Year Powderhall Sprints over grass and make it an all-club event.
NEW OWNERS FOR AULDHOUSE?
We will have to talk nicely to Giffnock Soccer Centre about using the facility next year as it is now intended that they will be taking Auldhouse over from Hutchie. In the interests of sporting solidarity during these troubled times we are sure they will give us resounding approval.
This year saw races at U11/U13 /U15/ U17 and a combined U20 Category. As the results show, the Handicappers had mixed fortunes as did the athletes although the overwhelming view on the day and in comments since was that a great day was enjoyed by all – the mood from first to last was of pleasure at being out and about, participating in a worthwhile, fun occasion.
The course is flat and compact and attractive from a spectator’s point of view, although we did seek limited numbers attending again due to the increasing risk and fears surrounding the dreaded Omicron. Several of our athletes were unable to take part as already dealing with the virus or in self-isolation along with parents. We wish every one of you a speedy recovery. We missed you and we will see you next year hopefully for more of the Christmas Handicap shenanigans.
£700 TO CHARITY
In previous years we offered the catering donations to a homeless charity Glasgow City Mission, prompted by Catriona Gourley in the first year of the volunteers’ soup makers. This year we decided to give all the entry fees to charity plus the money raise in the Raffle of the Day – this included generous kit donations from Neil Gourley, particularly his World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 backpack, all helping raise an outstanding £425. Adding the entry fee takings, the club collected over £700, to be split evenly between local East Ren Foodbank Barrhead, and Glasgow South-East Foodbank.
NEIL GOURLEY HAS A GIFT
Not only did Neil donate kit, he also came along to the event, drew the raffle, chatted with all the athletes and posed for countless photos before heading off to a 14-mile training run at Whitelees Windfarm. The run went well, according to Neil’s dad. We’re tempted to say that running at a windfarm is always a breeze, but then again not. Thank you, Neil, for the donations, for your support and for giving up precious Christmas time with your family and girlfriend Katie.
HAMISH’S CRACKER OF A WEEK
We also are proud to say that none other than our GB&NI athlete Hamish Armitt – freshly returned from gold medal team success at the Euro XC Champs in Dublin on December 12th – put his experience to impressive effect one week later in the Handicap and banged out fastest time of the day. Many thanks, Hamish – the young athletes were all chuffed to get those photos with you, and it’s always inspiring for everyone to watch an international athlete giving his best when giving back to their club.
TEAM OF THE DAY
Great days cannot happen without great teams, and we have one of the greatest. Applaud bigly for all who mucked in and created success: the coaches, the course setters and the stewards Mark Hamilton, Paul Tyler, Danny O’Donnell, Heather Stewart, Joe Bryers and Chris Nugent.
Time-keeping was by Alan Potts and Gordon Johnstone. Recording was by Tina Callan, Rowan Wallace, Clare McAuley, Jennifer Laskey and Starters Assistant – Amanda O’Donoghue.
Declarations and more by Catriona Bark, Hannah Sluman (who couldn’t run following her recent appendix operation but came to help, some girl), and Caroline Munro.
Raffle prizes and Christmas presents organised by Lynda Scott and Nuala O’Donnell.
Cheers to the mums, dads, relatives, pals, fans and all who gazed on in wonderment at our Christmas stars.
As always, the Handicappers insist on anonymity and who can blame them?
What an all-round top effort. Thanks folks. We’ve got you ID’d for help at West District XC League especially when Giffnock North is hosting.
Full results here – clock those fastest times!
Erin Lough bagged Neil Gourley’s Doha World Indoor Champs backpack.
Finlay Shennan, Aidan O’Donoghue ,Andrew Church,Francesca Davidson took home the other prizes T.shirts and Kit bags
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY HEALTHY NEW YEAR TO ALL
Report by Clare Stevenson and Croy Thomson