National XC 2020: The Green Train

I really wish I could say the sun was out and everyone was excited to get stuck into the 2020 edition of the Scottish National cross-country championships. Sadly, it was freezing, blowing a gale and very rainy! The first challenge of the day was getting to Falkirk. Our first train was cancelled but luckily a few of us managed to jump on the next train and made it to Callendar Park. Sadly, for the later risers (the boys) there was a (classic) Scotrail power cut at Haymarket, meaning no trains were coming or going. The boys ended up getting a very expensive Uber to the race, whilst others chose to get a bus which arrived 15 minutes before the start of their race – something very similar happened last year when Central were worried we were going to win the East League title… hmm!

The next job was getting the tent up, which proved rather difficult in Storm Dennis. Thankfully, a tent-erection expert from another club could see we were struggling and quickly stepped in and helped us. That was us, good to go, ready to race!

First up were the senior women, who ran in, potentially, the worst conditions of the day, putting up with strong hail and sleet into their faces for the majority of the race. Ex-Harie Mhairi MacLennan, running for Inverness Harriers (I’ve heard that’s the place to join now ;)) took the win, covering the 10km course in just under 40 minutes, and another ex-Harie Steph Pennycook wasn’t far behind, finishing in 4th place. The first green vest over the line was Cat Graves, who continued her great run of form, she finished in 9th place in 42.49. Katie Lowery was next home in 18th place, it was a remarkable performance over 10k from the 1500m, track runner! Polly Edwards had a great day out and didn’t let the weather dampen her spirits as she “really enjoyed it” and finished in 27th place, which was just the 58 places better than last year!! Rhiannon Kirk was next over the line, just 20 seconds behind Polly. Laura King finished in 42nd place in a just over 46 minutes flat. Captain Lydia rounded off the counting team of 6, finishing in 63rd place, resulting in the girls winning the bronze team medal, massive well done! 

Photo Credit: Dan Smith Photography

Helen Ockenden finished in 111th place in 50.39 and Sally Stewart continued her fine form finishing just over 30 seconds behind. Louise Adams, who was sporting some very cool orienteering shoes, finished in 147th place in 53.10.

The U20 boys were up next, the race was pretty slow from the start. Despite the sun now being out, the conditions under foot were unfavourable, with a 3ft deep muddy puddle halfway round the course and thick mud throughout the rest. Much loved Freddie Carcas outkicked Hamish Hickey and blew him a kiss on the home straight, making it back to back wins at Nationals. First Harie home was Rob Sparks, who put in a big shift and for one of the first times this winter, finished a cross country race! He finished 15th in just over 25 minutes. Max Bloor was next home, sneaking into the top twenty with a 19th place finish. Fraser Roach continued his injury comeback with a great run, finishing in 24th position, improving upon his 26th place finish in 2017. Josh Liddle rounded off the team, finishing in 28th place, helping the boys to a 3rd place finish, getting beat by strong Central and Dundee Uni sides. Alex Bell transferred his indoor track success onto the mud, finishing in 31st position, bettering his 53rd place finish last year. Ifan Oldfield had a great run, finishing in 38th place and Aiden Horner forgot to wear his timing chip so sadly didn’t make it onto the results.

On the girls U20 side, Inverness Harrier Megan Keith won the race in 25.52, a time only 20 out of 73 boys bettered, running just 7 seconds slower than Max Bloor… Holly Page finished in 3rd place in 27.30 – although she sadly came up 15 seconds short of beating Ifan’s time. Harie, but not Harie Holly Little finished 5th in 28.39, managing to run half the race with only one shoe on! Zoe Pflug wasn’t far behind and finished in 6th place, exactly the same spot as last year. Carly Cameron had a great run, finishing in 20th place, 5 places better than last year and rounded off the girls’ team, helping them to the gold medal. Roanne Lilley enjoyed her run, finishing in 31st place.

Now for the one we were all waiting for. A winter of grind, grass, mud, mileage, Twitter spats and rivalries all came to this day. The day where we tried to stop Central winning their 10th National XC in a row. Jack Leitch lead the Haries contingent and finished in 9th place in 36.37, improving upon his 24th place from last year. Eddie Narbett was next home in 16th place in 37.01 and Alex Muir was next over the line just 11 seconds later, followed by Elisha De Mello who was another 11 seconds behind. A further 13 seconds back Alex Carcas and Max Milarvie crossed the line together – packing at its finest. Sadly, we came up slightly short and Central took the win. In the words of Gregor: “2nd maybe wasn’t what we came for today but keep your heads held high! If someone told me 4 years ago [in first year] that the Haries would be on the podium at the National XC, I’d have laughed at them – it shows how strong we’ve been! 1968 was the last time the Haries medalled at the National and the last time they were runners up (1965) they went on to win 3 in a row…”. It really was special to watch, and the support the boys received from all the other Haries round the course was second to none and likewise the grit and determination every single runner showed was huge. This really is not the end and we’ll definitely be back next year, 11 in a row? We don’t think so.

Photo Credit: Bobby Gavin

Tam Wilson was 7th Harie home, he finished in 31st place and ran the race very well, picking up places as the race went on. Dan Stansfield was next over the line, finishing in 44th place in 38.51. Triathlete Nick Allencontinued his fine form, finishing in 47th place in just over 39 minutes. Gregor Malcolm wasn’t far behind, finishing in 57th place in his senior Nationals debut. Cameron Young ran his last cross-country in a Haries vest, finishing in 64th place, a great return to form after an injury-strucken start to the year. Captain AJ finished in 76th place, finally finishing his first National XC as a Harie, as well as taking fellow North boy James Wilson on the line. Dan Smith had a cracker of a run, finishing in 122nd place, despite wearing a funny looking PH Racing vest. Nick Bennet continued his return from injury taking 171st place and Alasdair Bisset struggled on the mud but finished in 186th place in 43.21. Andrew Carrick finished in 238th place and Jackson Woodruff wasn’t far behind in 261stplace.