SRAC Runners in Cross Country Action

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The picturesque village of Dores on the banks of Loch Ness was the setting for the annual North Districts – a competition in which Stornoway Running and Atheltics Club athletes excelled as always.

Both the junior and senior competitions boasted good numbers but a trio of SRAC runners were unable to take part largely thanks to the price of continued success.

Defending North Ladies Champion Eilidh MacKenzie and defending U17 champion Connor MacLean had to forgo defending their titles competing instead with club mate Michael MacMillan in the UK Cross Challenge in Sefton Park Liverpool.

Something for sure is being done correctly at the club when three of its athletes need the higher level of competition in Liverpool rather than race at our district championships.

Despite the absence of the trio the SRAC contingent required two minibuses and a car to transport all our athletes to Loch Ness which showcases the outstanding health of the Running Club.

The junior athletes in attendance didn’t need to look much further than to club captain Willie MacRury on to how to run a race from gun to tape. Willie settled early in the race behind team mate Murdo MacKenzie, with the early race, pace setters.

The pair always have good tussles; but it was the shear determination of the captain to drive through the field that saw him cross the line ahead of MacKenzie. The jelly legs, wobble walk on finishing and momentary dazed expression left no one at the finish in doubt that Willie left absolutely nothing on the Rock Ness fields! They finished seventh and twelfth.

There was hope that the team might get in amongst the medals but the six SRAC counters of MacRury, MacKenzie, Rob Jones, Jonny Pritchard, Scott MacRury and Norman Ferguson were 40 plus points behind Highland Hill Runners, so missing the bronze medal.

Regardless of team placing there were fabulous runs from Rob Jones in his first year as a senior runner and Scott MacRury as a ‘country’ debutant. A few more miles a week and some club sessions (Monday 6pm) under the belt would certainly result in even better performances. Another ‘debutant’ to the mud was John ‘Caskie’ MacAskill.

His thoughts during the race evolved from ‘this is torture and not for me’ after a warm down, ‘mmm maybe I should give it another go’. Go on Caskie, see you at the Nationals in February and perhaps a wee practice at the local events in the New Year in the Castle Grounds.

SRAC’s ladies also fielded a reasonable team and were led home by a great run from Alanna Goddard. Alanna has shown on the local race scene she has ability to really move up a gear and produce top times and places. Now on grass that ability has shone through with a super sixth place run! With team runners Ceit Stewart (newly moved up to senior ranks) and Katie MacKenzie bolstered with some of SRAC’s other female runners the team could make a significant mark in future North events! Top performers in the junior ranks were from Kyle Munro (U15b) and Peigi McKellar (U17w). Kyle moved right to the front from the gun showing his intent but the eventual race winner Cameron Main (Moray RR) stretched well clear after half a mile.

Kyle did however keep focus and set about getting his head down, into his running and opened up a comfortable gap to make the runner-up slot his own! Peigi also medalled taking the third place bronze in a very steady performance over the undulating course.

Peigi and Kyle’s efforts will likely be further rewarded with selection to the North team for January’s Inter-District Championships in Hollyrood Park Edinburgh. Kyle picked up double silver on the day with runs from Finlay Emmott (13th) and Ali Binns (15th) good enough to take team silver.

The under 13 boys also acquitted themselves well placing fourth team only three points behind Ross County AC. Leading the charge for the team was the ‘pocket dynamo’ Aodhan Finnegan.

Almost a captain MacRury ‘mini me’ in racing attitude, an absolute necessary ingredient in any runners locker! Aodhan’s sixth place saw him turn the tables on his training partner David Morrison from last months North relays with a 13 second advantage over David (8th) this time out. It will be difficult to predict who will have the upper hand next time out. Supporting them were Mikey Jones and Daniel Wright on their first SRAC cross country trip, well done boys. SRAC’s other new team addition was Calum Mighton, who ran in the under 11 development race, which will hopefully have whetted his desire to get racing in the red and gold again and again.

Another top performance in the SRAC team came in the U15 girl’s two-mile race with Joanna Gillies. Joanna who was in no way overawed by championship racing and got right in amongst the leading group of five.

Joanna did however get detached from the lead group at the back of the course, but stayed focused with a steady run in ‘no mans land’ between the lead group and the chasing pack to eventually cross the line in fifth place and almost certainly guarantee selection for the North team.

Another candidate for selection from the SRAC ranks came from Ellie MacLean. Ellie had hoped last year to have gained selection for Edinburgh, but quickly discovered that competition for places is keen. She was in fact well down the field last year, but her run a year on was so much better, missing out on third by only four seconds.

A great effort and she should join her big brother Connor in Edinburgh 01/14! Ellie was joined by two new runners for the championship, Hannah Mayers and Elizabeth Donner who look like a solid pair to lead the team next season in the U13 event.

Meanwhile a few hundred miles south at Sefton Park Liverpool Connor Maclean, Michael MacMillan and Eilidh MacKenzie competed in the UK Cross Challenge against the UK’s best athletes.

Eilidh found the 8K a tough distance racing against the UK’s senior elite, bu her 55th place put her in the top quarter of the 200+ field.

The boys placed fourth and sixteenth respectively and were first and second Scots finishers in the U17 men’s race.

Absolutely top class performances and great confidence boosters for the big races ahead! It appears the boy’s success in Stornoway vests may have lead to unintentional geography lessons for many at Sefton Park! Competing at this level and having to travel so often and often so far, is a real expense.

So thanks therefore to Duncan MacKay’s and Hebridean Seaweed for their support that helped fund this trip. If there are other businesses that wish to help in the boy’s further development and race opportunities they would be greatly appreciated.

Photo: The Stornoway Running and Athletics Club team at Loch Ness.