11 categories encompassed seven separate races and a mammoth 209 runners from under-9 to seniors took to the swampy, sticky mud tracks of the Lews Castle Grounds at the weekend as the silverware curtain came down on the Alex Murray Construction Cross Country Series.
In addition to Saturday serving as the third and final race in the Lewis and Harris Cross Country Series it also saw the medals dished out to the top runners across each age group over the hat-trick of superbly well attended events.
As always the course, one long and one short course for various age categories, were expertly laid out and marshalled by a handful of hardy committee and club members from Stornoway Running and Athletics Club and also some parents. Thanks to all who contributed and assisted on the day and over the three events.
Turning the spotlight back onto the final round of running and the muddy number crunching make impressive reading. The speedy race times and consistent race pace set by all belie the difficult conditions underfoot on a drizzly Lewis Saturday.
The action kicked off at blistering pace with the seniors, both men and women, and the under-17 boys puffing their cheeks with deep breaths as they took on the might of the trail.
Caroline Macdonald broke the tape for the women in first place in a time of 23.01 mins. Caroline went on to win the three race series as well, winning two of the three races and coming second in the other.
She was followed in by SRAC runner Katy Mackenzie in second place and Jayne Miller coming in third as the West Side Runners took two of the top three spots.
Stornoway Running Club’s flying Frenchman Florent Schall was first senior male home around the 6400m race with his time of 24.17 – an even more impressive result after a late night at the club prize giving a few short hours before.
Follwing Schall home were SRAC runners Alasdair Dunlop and Norman Ferguson in 26:15. Ferguson was the overall series winner having competed in all three of the series races.
The under 17 boys race (6400m) threw up the traditional Emmot vs Binns battle to the finish line as Finlay Emmot pipped his rival to the post in his time of 18.54 – just a mere five seconds ahead of fellow SRAC runner Alasdair Binns. Scott Maciver of SRAC took third. The overall series gongs were also dished out in the very same order as Finlay bagged the title after three straight wins in the three races.
Next up were the Under 15 girls and boys (4100m) race and for the girls first across the line was Isla Budge in a time of 21.58 which also saw Isla take first place in the series.
In second place on the day was Sophie Graham from SRAC with a time of 22.37. Good runs and plenty determination saw some good performances from Elizabeth Donner and Rosie Sullivan as well.
In the boys race the winner was David Morrison in a time of 15.58, David’s lead had been so comfortable that it allowed him to take an unplanned body splash in the muddiest puddle he could find, on his way round on the final lap.
Fellow SRAC runners Aodhan Finnegan and Daniel Stewart took second and third place respectively in the race and also in the overall series.
As the tracks became muddier the runners became younger as the series welcome yet younger athletes.
In the under 9s races (890m). 38 young ladies took to the track, battling to try and finish with both trainers on their feet at the finishing line -a number failed hobbling over the line with one muddy, squelching sock and an embarrassed smile.
The eventual winner of the race was young Emily Murray from Lionel School in a time of 4.55 followed by Jess Muir from Back and Zuzanna Rogowska from Stornoway Primary. Emily and Jess secured the same respective positions in the overall series with Emily having won all three of her races. The boys race (890m) followed and with the largest number of runners in this race yet again, it also proved, yet again, to be one of the most exciting races of the day.
The battle to the finish line was consistent from start to the very end, with Jordan Nicolson from Tolsta taking first place in a time of 4.10 with a second and third placing for Tong runners David Maciver and Leon Ferguson respectively.
Jordan went on to win the race series with two wins and a second place with Leon Ferguson taking second in the series.
In the under 13 races (3200m), SRAC runner Gemma Macritchie from Ness, although running for the Nicolson in this race took first place in a time of 14.33, followed by fellow Niseach Rachel Murray in a time of 15.52 with Ellen Mc Murdo from Back in third place.
In the overall series first and second place were the same with Gemma having been first in all three races, Rachel second in all three, but edging Ellen McMurdo out of third place in the series was Amy Macmillan from Tolsta.
The under 13 race (3200m) showed the value of competing in all three races, with only one of the top three, on the day, ending up winning a three race series medal. In first place on the day was Seb Connelly, who has shown improving form and a consistent standard of running, in a time of 14.01.
Andrew Macleod of Stornoway Primary clinched place in a time of 14.10, followed by Calum Mighton from the Nicolson Institute at a time of 14.39. Ewan Murray from Tong, finished third in a time of 14.43, but had the consolation of being the overall series winner with Colin Macleod from the Nicolson in second place and Calum Mighton from the Nicolson in third place in the overall series.
In an attempt to claw back time and try to keep the events of the day as close as possible to schedule, it was decided to run the under 11’s boys and girls races (1600m) together. This saw 67 runners take to the track for the final race of the day. No mean feat for the time keepers and spotters, to ensure they got it right, but they managed the task comfortably.
In the girl’s race the runners went to the wire in relation to the overall race series placings which meant the final race in the series was the key to deciding who took the gold, silver and bronze medals.
Coming out top on the day was Kyla McMurdo from Back who’s first place time of 7.11 saw her pip Sarah Maciver from Tolsta into second place in a time of 7.14 with Isla Mackenzie from Stornoway Primary in third. All three were medal winners in the overall series as well, but in a different order, Sara Maciver came first, having been denied a clean sheet of wins on the final day, by young Kyla, but it was only good enough to Give Kyla third in the series, with Isla Mackenzie pipping her by a point for second place.
The boys under 11 race was to prove equally exciting with the battle for key placings in the final race of paramount importance to the top three runners.
Leading the way from the first two races was Keith Bray from Tong School, two points ahead of second place Charlie Morrison from West Side.
And Iain Matheson, in third place eagerly awaiting either of the top two to slip up. In this instance on the final race of the day, it was Charlie Morrison who took the first place spot winning in a time of 6.29.
All eyes were now on the placing of young Bray who needed a second on the day to win, or a third to be first equal in the series. This is the young man who prefers to have the others behind him, but on the day had to be happy with a second place in a time of 6.40. One cannot help but think that this is the start of the next generation of running battles on the track, following in the shoes of the likes of David Morrison vs Aodhan Finnegan and Ali Bins vs Finlay Emmot.
Although it was the series ender in the AMC XC Series there will be one more cross country event on March 4 when SRAC play hosts to the Western Isles Cross Outcry championships.
Making the trip to Lewis for the event will be athletes from the Uists and Barra on what should be another hugely exciting athletics adventure.