Mud splattered calves, sweaty brows and a blur of runners blazing a trail through the Lews Castle Grounds can only mean one thing – the return of the Alex Murray Construction Cross Country Series.
This years opening race set a record entry in the event history with 256 entrants across all the age categories participating despite the ever-changing weather conditions.
First to take their place at the start line was the senior race which incorporated the U17/U20 men and both male and female senior runners.
The mixed race started together with the U17 men and ladies running three laps of the one mile course while the men completed four. The front of the field was led by U20 Scottish International runner, Michael MacMillan.
He held on to win in a time of 22:54 and he was closely followed by Murdo A Mackenzie in a time of 23:42. In the ladies the top three slots were seperated by only 19 seconds over the three mile run. Top point scorer in race one of the series was Lorraine Morrison of Westside Runners in a time of 25:09. She was followed in by Anne Maciver in second place fifteen seconds behind while Katie Mackenzie took third place a further four seconds behind.
The next races in the programme involved the youngest runners of the day, the U9 and U11 boys and girls.
These age-categories had the largest entries with a fantastic total of 186 runners. They came from a minimum of eleven different primary schools with particulary large entries from Stornoway Primary, Sgoil a’Bhac, Tong and Sgoil an Rubha.
Of the top three in each category which accounts for twelve runners there was one from one from Lionel , Tong 2, Stornoway Primary 2, Tolsta 3, Sgoil a’ Bhac 3 and Sgoil an Taobh Siar with one top three placing. The winners of each category were; U9 boy – Iain Matheson, Lionel, U9 girl – Sarah Maciver, Tolsta, U11 boy – Keith Bray, Tong and U11 girl Amy MacMillan, Tolsta.
In the team events there was interesting competition with top two teams Stornoway Primary and Sgoil a’Bhac in the U9 boys. The U9 girls has started with even tighter competition for the team prize with Tolsta, Stornoway Primary, Lionel and Sgoil an Rubha all with a number of runners in the top 20 placings.
In the U11 boys team contest Tong will be making a bid to challenge front runners Stornoway Primary, Sgoil an Taobh Siar, Back and Point.
Meanwhile old rivalries were renewed in the girls U11 event with Stornoway Primary and Back taking up the first two slots. However, Tolsta and Lionel may move up the point scoring on future race performances.
The racing programme continued with the under 13 race over approximately 4000m (4k). As anticipated SRAC’s top two middle distance runners in this category, David Morrison and Aodhan Finnigan, led the field from start to finish.
However, the pair will be very keen to see good competition behind them that will contribute in strengthening the SRAC team for the North Discrict Championships.
This will include Fergus Horton, Callum Mighton and Daniel Wright. Any of the U13 boys that enjoyed a good experience on Saturday are very welcome to train with the U13’s for the club team in mainland events. On the day though, the win went to Morrison in a time of 12:37. Finnagan was second in a time of 13:08 and the fast improving Fergus Horton in a time of 14:14 in third place.
On her return from her mainland cross-country debut at the North District Relays, Gemma MacRitchie had a superb run to the clinch the first victory of the series.
The ever consistent Hannah Mayers put in a steady run for second place and Lisa Mason can be proud of her third place behind two of the most consistent runners.
The U15 boys race was a small but high quality entry which included SRAC’s potential North District team for the upcoming December event in Elgin.
Finlay Emmot ultimately took Saturday’s win, second placed Scott Maciver, third placed John Bain and fourth placed Ali Binns. All will be looking for improvement when next they race and Emmot’s top placing will be strongly challenged.
In the girls U15 race Isla Budge continued to display good strength and stamina over the country which she has done over the past couple of seasons to take a good win from Lizzie Donner and Rosie Sulliven. Meanwhile in the same race, one of the top runs of the day was run by Joanna Gillies who ran a fabulous time of 19:19. Also running well and from the same training group was under 17 male athlete, Kyle Munro who ran earlier in the day in the combined race which included senior men to provide a more challenging race as he prepares for the winters cross-country season at district and national level.