This was the 17th year in a row if you exclude last year’s cancellation due to the Covid pandemic. Local Club Falkirk Victoria Harriers had one of their best ever performances at the National Cross Country Championships with 3 team medals and an individual bronze medal won on an exciting days racing. Indeed only in season 1979 – 80, when the Under 17 women won Gold, and both Under 13 and Under 17 boys won Bronze has the club equalled the team medals won on Saturday.
With over 30 volunteers, made up of coaches, parents and athletes unable to compete, in the park before 8am to lay the course following the recent storms the Vics excelled throughout the day. The first race of 3.2km (2 miles) for Under 13 Girls at 11am set the tone with Emily Christie leading the Vics charge to finish a magnificent 6th position, with Corri McGougan 23rd, Josie Anderson 41st and Ruth Donaldson 94th edging out Hannah Johnson 95th the girls just missed a team medal finishing 4th.
The Under 13 boys inspired by this were next in action. After a fast start Ray Taylor and Hamish Hunter were well placed with the leaders throughout and finished strongly along the Callendar Road section of the course before turning down the drive towards the house. Ray timed his effort to perfection to pass a couple of athletes and claim a well deserved individual bronze medal. Hamish battled hard holding off fast finishing athletes to maintain his position, finishing just a few strides behind Ray in 6thplace. The platform for a team medal had been established and good packing saw strong runs from Cahal McAtarsney in 33rd and Luke Sedman 34th cross the line virtually together. The 76 points team total proving good enough for the silver team medal a feat only bettered in 1976-77 and 1977-78 when the Vics won team golds. You have to go back to 1975-76 for the previous Silver medals with Bronze medals in 1979-80 and most recently in 2005-06 when the current East District Senior Champion, Scott Stirling was a team member.
Hopes were high that the Under 15 Girls could also medal as they had done in November at the short course championships. Eleven girls toed the start line for the Vics ready to take on the challenge of a short and long lap of the park with two challenging hills add to the loop in the golf course. Strong running and excellent team packing was the order of the day as Charlotte Horne in 15th lead the team home followed by Lois Cant 25th, Isabella Ogg 34th and Chloe Davis 35th claiming team Bronze medals backed up by Hannah MacLeod in 44th, Leya Gibb 51st, Holly Holmes 66th, Sarah-Jane Kane 68th, Carys Forgie 98th and Eve Donaldson 101st. The current crop of Under Women being the only previous time the Vics had medalled in this age group since its inception in 1963.
The under 15 boys tackled the same 4.3km course as the girls and were one person short of a team. Luke Cuilton had an excellent run in 13th and Daniel Gray and Elliot Lees had a good race in 52nd and 53rd.
The next race was for Under 17 men and Gregor Hunter had a strong run to finish the 6.2km course in 21st place. Newcomer Broady Grindlay will benefit from the experience of a first national after finishing 70th.
Under 17 women were next to tackle a course now cutting up in places and the mud at the big dip next the bridge in the golf course had claimed a few shoes by this point and a number of fallers. The Vics women had won team bronze as under 15’s two years previously at the last running of the national championships and hopes were high of another team medal. A ferocious pace was set straight from the start as the field climbed the hill on to the “plateau” area before snaking round here, crossing the House lawn and crazy golf area to enter the golf course. The Vics were well to the fore with both Caitlyn Christie and Katie Christie in the leading group and Abbi MacLeod and Erin Hendry not far behind. Injury forced Katie to stop and Caitlyn was unfortunate to incur a heavy fall on the first of the two lap course. Abbi took up the challenge running a brilliant race to lead the team home in 14th place. Erin finished very strongly particularly in the last mile for 21st. With three runners to count Caitlyn in clear discomfort with a hand injury following her fall, bravely battled on to finish further back than normal but crucially in 28th which was high enough to secure team bronze medals.
Three long laps made up the 10km course for the senior women. 2012 Olympian Freya Ross led the Vics on the opening lap and was very well positioned before injury struck and Freya had to stop. Fiona Matheson who has been setting masters age group World Records indoors in recent months was performing brilliant again in a field that had European Cross Country medallists and GB Internationalists. Fiona adapted brilliantly to the conditions and the longer distance to recent indoor efforts, finishing an excellent 57th in what is the 5thlargest women’s field since the event started in 1932. Newcomer Megan Jane Campbell and Karen McAlister were both tackling the National for the first time and ran well to finish 203rd and 233rd respectively. Monica Anderson completed the Vics finishing quartet with a usual determined effort in 253rd.
The Under 20’s now took centre stage and whilst these are smaller fields they are packed with top quality athletes. None more so than the women’s defending champion Megan Keith who is the current European Champion. The men’s race of two long laps totalling 6.8km was first. Calum Little was the Vics sole entrant and ran very well to finish in 26th.
The final race of the day saw the largest field assemble for the start of the senior men’s race. As with all of the races athletes had travelled from all over Scotland including the islands to take part in the National Cross Country Championships. East of Scotland Champion, Scott Stirling led the Vics and produced another outstanding performance to finish 12th in a top quality field which again included British Internationalists, a former World Mountain running champion and many previous medallists. Former Under 15 Boys champion Lewis Pentecost made a good return to competition at this level finishing 165th. Masters Michael Ross, Colin Anderson and Mike McQuaid all ran very well finishing 210th, 222ndand 259th respectively. Peter Faulks had a fine run as the 6th counter in 399th. Malcolm Finlayson currently aiming for a 24hour race was 484th and Martin Gower was another Vic running their first national finished 611th in the massive field.
Full results below available to download
By Andrew Ronald
Thanks to Kenny Phillips for some images