Slideshow - Cross Country champs

Woody’s Express Western Isles Cross Country Championships had it all last Saturday in Lews Castle Grounds; race day nerves, pre-race excitement, groans of exertion, close run races and outstanding individual performances.

After weeks of high winds and rain the day could not have been better for all those that travelled from all over the islands’ to run in the Lady Lever Park!

There were youngsters from South Uist and Eriskay that had started the day at 5.45am and still bursting with excitement to get running. North Uist AAC came in large numbers with runners in almost every category and schools from all over Lewis.

The race timetable started with a massed race that included senior men and women and under 17 men. There was little doubt that SRAC’s National champion Connor MacLean would lead the race and dictate its pace. Training partner Michael MacMillan covered his move as best as possible and the pursuing pack were headed by North Uist’s fine 800/1500m runner Paul Morrison racing stride for stride with SRAC’s senior runner Willie MacRury.

However, the massed start was not all about the ‘hares’ at the front end of the race as there were all sorts of abilities and ages slogging it out over the castle grounds turf and mud.

For the men that was a distance of 7.5K and for the ladies and U17 men 5K. Stephan Smit and Peter MacInnes may have bee a wee bit ‘off the pace’, but what better, tougher preparation for London Marathon than 40 some minutes of undulating character building terrain! In Stephan’s case also the added bonus of being first veteran.

For those spectating it took just under 18 minutes before they got to cheer the first Woody’s Express Western Isles champion over the line. Connor MacLean took the line first ahead of Michael and Paul Morrison clocked a good time of 18 mins 28 for third place. Jayne Millar of Westside Runners took the ladies title in 25.46 ahead of Laura Jane Davies and Ceitlin Smith.

There were youngsters from South Uist and Eriskay that had started the day at 5.45am and still bursting with excitement to get running.

North Uist AAC came in large numbers with runners in almost every category and schools from all over Lewis.

The race timetable started with a massed race that included senior men and women and under 17 men. There was little doubt that SRAC’s National champion Connor MacLean would lead the race and dictate its pace.

Training partner Michael MacMillan covered his move as best as possible and the pursuing pack were headed by North Uist’s fine 800/1500m runner Paul Morrison racing stride for stride with SRAC’s senior runner Willie MacRury.

However, the massed start was not all about the ‘hares’ at the front end of the race as there were all sorts of abilities and ages slogging it out over the castle grounds turf and mud.

For the men that was a distance of 7.5K and for the ladies and U17 men 5K. Stephan Smit and Peter MacInnes may have been a wee bit ‘off the pace’, but what better, tougher preparation for London Marathon than 40 some minutes of undulating character building terrain! In Stephan’s case also the added bonus of being first veteran.

For those spectating it took just under 18 minutes before they got to cheer the first Woody’s Express Western Isles champion over the line. Connor MacLean took the line first ahead of Michael and Paul Morrison clocked a good time of 18 mins 28 for third place. Jayne Millar of Westside Runners took the ladies title in 25.46 ahead of Laura Jane Davies and Ceitlin Smith.

The Lewis and Harris XCountry winter series seems to uncover new stars of the future and Westside youngster Charlie Morrison who ran so well all winter did well to hold off strong opposition to win the U9 race.

Kieran MacIssac from South Uist was second and wee Joseph Ross from Sgoil nan Loch put in a very eye catching finish for third place. This particular race demonstrated the spread of talent in the Western Isles with eight different schools or clubs listed in the top ten.

The girls U9 event was dominated by strong representation and top performances by the children from Tolsta and Lionel. Tolsta’s Mairi MacIver won from Lionel’s Caitlin MacDonald with another Tolsta runner young Francesca Greenstock picking up the third place medal. Coaches keep helping the young stars and let’s make our 9 year old champions the 19 year old champions of the future.

The Tolsta success story continued as Cameron MacDonald ran an absolute screamer of a race to win by 11 seconds over Calum Mighton.

Mighty Mighton himself had a gap of 12 second over Liam MacKinnon from South Uist. But all three enjoyed race success with podium medals, certainly a worth while early start for young Liam from South Uist.

The under 11 boy’s event was in fact the second (equal) biggest field of the day with 21 runners.

From the 21 runners in the girls U11 1.6K (1 mile in old money) the girls team from South Uist were highly impressive with three runners finishing in the top four and another not too far behind in time.

But as per Charlie from the Westside, Lionel’s Gemma MacRitchie was once again dominant over the Castle grounds as she had been in the winter. Gemma winning time was 8 minutes 13 which gave her a 32 second advantage of her nearest rivals.

Eilidh and Lucy Campbell of South Uist and Eriskay crossed the line as one and shared the runners-up slot.

Eilidh and Lucy were followed very closely across the line by club mate Heather Campbell; we may be seeing the start of a new running phenomenon with the SU&EAAC Campbell girls.

The U13 girls race featured the closest finish of the day as SRAC’s Isla Budge who had led most of the 2.5K race was challenged by NUAAC athlete Jayde Brannigan.

It all looked to be ‘in the bag’ for Isla, but what a brave effort by Jayde as she responded to the huge cheers of the travelling support to try and reel in the SRAC runner. Isla dug in and pushed along side and finally kicked one more time to win by one second.

SRAC’s Hannah Mayers did enough to fend off club mate Elizabeth Donner for third. This race also demonstrated the ‘spirit of competition’ a little further down the field with SRAC’s Sydney MacIntosh and Sophie MacDonald NUAAC sprinting each other to the line for 13th and 14th respectively. Well done girls keep the attitude, everyone enjoyed see you both race it out.

Aodhan Finnegan and David Morrison SRAC raced what must be now ’part 10’ or so of their ‘ding-dong’ races with one another. Both always keen to win and so little between them.

But David had just that little more this time to take the Western Isles crown ahead of his close training buddy.

Fergus Horton showed consistency to take third place for a SRAC 1,2, 3. Teams are exactly that and so Aodhan and David have good support for future mainland team races with Fergus.

Another top performer on the day was SRAC’s Finlay Emmott who really seemed to just ’click’ on the day in the U15 race.

The characteristic long stride covered the ground very efficiently and it was difficult for Scott MacIver to challenge. However Scott managed to keep a distance from third placed Ali Binns for a SRAC 1,2,3.

Running over the same distance were U17 girls Joanna Gillies SRAC and SUEAAC’s Katie Campbell. Joanna rounded off a very good winter season in this race by ‘mixing it’ with the boys who were not too far ahead of her.

A great winter and the track season looks very promising! Your scribe has seen many the good young runner start their running in the castle grounds and watching Katie Campbell it would appear ‘the grounds’ has seen another!

Strangely the fourth South Uist Campbell to have a good run in the Championships.