ALMOST 600 runners took part in Thursday's Borders Schools Cross-Country Championships on Thursday.
Organised by the Scottish Borders Athletics Development Group in conjunction with Live Borders, schools from across the region were represented at Netherdale in Galashiels.
Although the soft going underfoot was not conducive to ultra-fast times, the Primary school races in the morning were run in fair conditions.
But the weather forecasters unfortunately were on the button with their predicted squally showers making for more challenging conditions for the Secondary school races in the afternoon; challenging for the runners and organisers alike, with some strong gusts causing the registration and first-aid gazebos to break free of their moorings and somersault towards the course before some nifty rescue action by nearby officials and spectators.
Scottish Borders Athletics Development Group representative Gregor Nicholson told us: “We’ve seen more evidence at these championships of the strength of cross-country running in the Borders, not just in terms of some impressive running talent but also great commitment and determination from every single one of the 596 finishers, a very slight increase on last year.
"It’s an event which is made possible only with the support of many, including Live Borders, the HNC and HND sports development students from Borders College, Gala Rugby, Scottish Borders Council and our fantastic team of volunteer helpers and marshals. We are very grateful to them all.”
The P6 Boys race started the day’s proceedings and West Linton was the first school on the medal board with an impressive run by Ross Wolfenden who had a massive 27 second winning margin at the line.
His time of 7.46 minutes for the 2k course was quickest of all the primary school races and was bettered on the day only by the winner of the S1 boys’ race.
Jay McGarva from Earlston took the silver in 8.13, narrowly ahead of Danny James from Broomlands who took bronze in 8.14.
Ben Allan and Thomas Hilton from Priorsford were the next two home and along with Danny Lancaster in 10th that secured the P6 team race for the Peebles school ahead of Kingsland and Broomlands.
In the P6 Girls 2km race Burgh’s Isla Paterson showed a clean pair of heels to her 78 rivals and crossed the line for gold in 8.51.
Stella Davidson from Kingsland chased her home for silver in 9.03 with Lucy Weir from Stow taking the bronze a further three seconds back.
The team race went down to the wire. Solid runs from Earlston’s scoring trio in 10th, 15th and 17th gave them a chance, but by a one-point margin the team title went to Kingsland with Hannah Sorrell (7th) and Felicity Diack (32nd) supporting silver medallist Stella Davidson.
The P7 boys race saw last year’s P6 winner Euan Christie from Earlston again taking the title in a time of 7.51, nine seconds ahead of Cameron Rankine of Melrose.
As last year, bronze medallist James Clare was a close third in 8.03 and he led Priorsford to the team title, supported by Angus Carlyle (6th) and Thomas Pickburn (15th).
The P7 Girls race concluded the morning’s proceedings and there was another repeat champion from 2016. Priorsford’s Emily Carrick-Anderson came out on top again to take the gold medal in 8.17 with team-mates Holly Hobbs second in 8.28 and Christina McGorum third in 8.34. Just for good measure Priorsford’s fourth runner Esme Minto was a close 4th. So it was a third team gold for Priorsford who ran out clear winners of the overall Primary Schools Team Championship with 101 points accrued across the four races. Kingsland were second overall on 166 points and Earlston third with 293 points.
With the clouds looking increasingly threatening, the wind picking up and the temperature dropping, the afternoon’s secondary school races were run in typical cross-country weather, drizzle and squally showers dampening vests and track-suits but not the enthusiasm of the participants.
Gregor Collins from Galashiels Academy had won the P6 and P7 championships the preceding two years and he duly made it a hat-trick of titles, racing clear impressively from the off and finishing the 2km course unchallenged in 7.11, fully 42 seconds ahead of silver medallist Blake Hedley from Earlston.
With Gala’s Evan McConnel home for bronze in 7.59 it looked odds-on Academy for the team title but with runner-up Hedley’s team-mates Fraser Rout and Daniel Drane finishing well for 5th and 6th, that secured team gold for Earlston by just the one point, 13 to 14.
Peebles were third on 27 points.
The secondary boys and girls races were run concurrently and Madeline Collins from Peebles was another to secure a hat-trick of titles after her Primary race wins in 2015 and 2016, crossing the line in 8.50, eleven seconds to the good of team-mate Katie Grieve. Earlston’s Orla Folan took the bronze in 9.10.
The team races were proving to be tight affairs and yet again there was only one point in it, not only between first and second but also this time between second and third. Peebles secured the team title with Rebecca Tolls’s 12th place adding to the Collins-Grieve 1-2 for 15 points, one ahead of Earlston on 16 points (3rd, 6th, 7th) and Hawick on 17 points (4th, 5th, 8th).
It was up to three laps and 3km for the S2 races which saw Casey Bunker from Galashiels take the Boys title in 12.01 ahead of Hawick’s Thomas McAskill (12.13) and Earlston’s Kit McRitchie (12.16). Galashiels also took the team trophy courtesy of Bunker, Marr Reid (7th) and Murray Wilson (9th). Peebles were 2nd with 19 points and Hawick 3rd on 27 points.
There was a third title hat-trick winner in the Girls S2 race with Hannah Little from Peebles following up on her P7 and S1 titles from 2015 and 2016. Hannah crossed the line for gold in 12.49 with team-mate Tilly Leathart taking silver in 13.08. Earlston’s Mairi Forbes got in amongst the Peebles girls to take bronze but with Charlotte Morrison in 4th it was a convincing team win for Peebles with 7 points ahead of Earlston (19 points) and Berwickshire (44 points).
In the S3 Boys 3km race the Peebles duo of Ethan Elder and Craig Angus entertained the watching crowds with an excellent race, Ethan just managing to get the upper hand over the final 500m to take the title in 11.08, with Craig three seconds behind after a brave effort. Team-mate Corran Carrick-Anderson took the bronze in 11.25, giving Peebles a clean sweep of the medals and the minimum possible team score of 6 points. Earlston were 2nd (26 points) and Galashiels 3rd (42 points).
Not to be outdone by the boys, the Peebles S3 Girls race also made it a clean sweep of the medals and the minimum team score. Beth Hobbs looked very strong in reversing places with Charlotte Clare from last year, taking the title in a time of 12.03. Charlotte was twenty seconds behind and Elena McGorum secured the bronze in 12.40. Earslton were 2nd team (28 points) and Galashiels 3rd (36 points).
The Open races concluded the day with Peebles and Earlston again doing battle in the Open Girls 3k race. The individual placings saw first and second reversed from 2016, Katie Rourke from Earlston racing away with the title in a time of 12.03 with Mairi Wallace of Peebles second in 12.20. Zoe Pflug got Selkirk on the medal table with her third place in 12.37. The team race was another which needed the close attention of the officials, Peebles sneaking the title by one point from Earlston thanks to runner-up Wallace, Anna McGorum (4th) and Fiona Grant (6th) for a total of 12 points. Earlston finished on 13 points (1st, 5th and 7th) with Selkirk 3rd on 25 points.
So to the final race, the Open Boys 4k and this time there was no doubting the outcome of the team race with Earlston hogging the podium. Faisal Khursheed was home in 14.33 and despite an excellent effort from runner-up Callum Tharme, he was a more comfortable winner than his one-second margin might suggest. Third home for Earlston and taking the bronze medal was Yousuf Khursheed in 15.21. Peebles and Galashiels completed the team podium places.
Following consultation with the schools last year, there was a change to the rules for the overall Secondary Schools trophy which from this year was decided across the S1 to S3 races only. Whilst some of the team races were highly competitive, none could match the consistency of Peebles High School who ran out clear winners of the overall Secondary Schools Championship for the sixth successive year with 80 points across the six counting races. Earlston were again runners-up with 129 points and Berwickshire were third overall with 345 points.