The National cross country championships, or ‘The National’ is the culmination of the cross-country season in Scotland. For many of us in the Haries, it’s a huge goal both individually and as a team. For Max Milarvie it’s “the only race that actually matters”.
The morning of The National, the short shorts had been looked out, leg hair-and in my case, my great big bushy beard-had been shaved and the term ‘fired up’ had been massively overused.
In the U20 women’s race, to quote Ruaridh Mon Williams, “the girls couldn’t have done much better” and Ruaridh was absolutely correct. The three amigos, Anna Macfadyen, Naomi Lang and Laura Stark dominated in one of the most impressive team performances the Haries have probably ever produced. An assertive run from Anna saw her at the front of the race from the gun. She pulled away from Naomi going up the first real hill on the second lap and after that, a second National title was never in doubt.
Naomi looked strong throughout and did her best to catch Anna in the closing kilometres. She had what looked like an unassailable lead on Laura Stark. However, it was Laura that rounded the final corner in silver medal position. She must have had to turn herself inside out in the last kilometre to overhaul Naomi as evidenced by her spectacular facial expressions in the final straight. Hopefully they’re all still friends after their race.
Carolyn Cameron was racing in her first cross country race this year and did well to finish 17th in the 7.5k race after a string of 800m races indoors. Fresher Hannah Morrison was next up in 25th followed by two debutants at the Scottish Nationals, Polly Edwards and Lydia Blythe in 26th and 28th. Katie Hall was generously given a Saturday off by Run4it to race in her first Nationals since 2015. She finished 30th. Jennie Glass struggled with illness but huge respect for grinding it out and completing the longest cross country race of the season.
Inspired by the efforts of the U20 women, even Obama himself would fail to get the U20 men any more fired up. You should never overdramatise sport but with our shaven legs smoother than Thomas Otton on a night out; we were geared up for a real battle.
Alex Carcas went after his brother on the charge up the first hill. It was a valiant effort but sadly illness held Alex back from what would surely have been a high up finish. As the race wore on, Glasgow uni went backwards and The Hounds moved up. Myself, Alex and Max Milarvie all grouped closely together going up the penultimate hill. The three of us finished within 15 seconds of each other in 11th, 12th and 14th places respectively. Gregor Malcolm was a further 10 seconds off Max in his best-ever showing at Nationals, taking the scalps of all Scottish Triathlon Development squad athletes and nipping Connor Maclean, past winner at The National, on the line.
Álvaro Garrido, not too familiar with the Scottish mud had a very strong run in only his second race this academic year, to finish in 27th. Ruaridh Mon Williams, another non-native enjoyed his first Scottish Nationals and immediately afterwards was looking ahead to the road season where he hopes to crack 16mins in the 5k. Daniel Smith was also happy with his run and it was pleasing to see him out of his horrible PH vest. In the end, the boys in green with the cool bandanas took the second spot on the podium behind Glasgow University. We missed out by 6 points but couldn’t have hoped for better, all four of us finishing ahead of their last two counters. Nothing could have been done against their top two counters Sol Sweeney and Tristan Rees who completed a couple’s silver medal double with Laura Stark. To quote Katie Hall, “couple goals”.
Mhairi Maclennan had no need to be nervous before the Senior women’s race. She was undeniably the favourite after what has been a faultless cross country season. Steph Pennycook and Mhairi performed as promised with Steph bravely taking it out over the first lap. Mhairi reined her in over the second lap and from there she didn’t look back with a furious sprint to the line to take her first National cross country title. Steph stuck to the task extremely well and finished 11 seconds behind Mhairi to claim the silver medal. John Lees must be a happy man!
The senior women’s team repeated the success of Anna, Laura and Naomi; also gracing the top step of the podium with Amy Frankland, in a strong 30th place and Sophie Collins in her very last cross country as captain and as a Harie.
There was an increase from 8 Haries last year in the senior women’s race to 13 this year which was great to see. Everyone seemed to enjoy the drier conditions; everyone embraced the 10k of grind and there was certainly no Amy Bristow-esque moaning this year.
Iona Evans ended her cross-country career as a Harie with an outstanding run; finishing 42 places higher up than last year in 68th. Eliza Cottington cracked the top 100 on her senior debut along with Kirstin Bamford with Ciara Newell just missing out in 108th. We welcomed two new Americans to our ranks; Morgan Blevins who finished in a respectable 55th and Lauren Sallade who finished 127th.
Christine Irvine improved ten places on last years result, running what would be a decent 10k time on the road. Georgia Freeman Mills also ran well in her second cross country appearance this year. Linette Knudsen’s average weekly mileage of 5 miles didn’t stand her in good stead for this race but she fought bravely with only a few tears, describing the effort as tougher than the Copenhagen half marathon.
In the men’s race, the Haries failed to field a full team which was our only poor performance of the day. Not technically a Harie but a Fifer who goes to Edinburgh University, Logan Rees took 4th on his senior debut after a very dogged run. No medal but at least he got a nice picture of himself running alongside a dog. In the yellow and black, Euan Gilham’s run wasn’t quite as orgasmic as last year but fairly impressive nonetheless. 7th place in his first year as a senior is not to be sniffed at.
Jack Eykelbosch was first of the loyal Haries home in 72nd. Tim Morgan was 157th on his first visit to Callander Park and Ben Murphy 217th on his last cross country outing in those lovely green shorts. Québécois, Guillaume Picard Lalonde also did the Haries proud in his first Scottish National Championship. He was seen later on in the evening with plenty of energy left on the dancefloor of The Crème Cheese.
With several Haries moving on up from the U20 age group and if Logan and Euan can be persuaded, a ninth win in a row for the Central Team should hopefully be less certain at next years race.
The National was an appropriate end to a fantastic cross country season for the Haries. Perfection in the U20 women’s race; all the hype was worth it in the U20 men’s race and even more brilliance and superb swansongs in the women’s race. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the day was an appraisal of the Haries by Katie Cutforth’s Dad:
“a nicer bunch of young people it would be difficult to meet”
Onwards to the roads and the inevitable ice rink that will be KB5.