Stornoway was laid siege by some of Scotland’s most talented and most promising athletes last weekend as Stornoway Running and Athletics Club hosted the annual five-team invitational.
More than 200 athletes pulled on their club vests, shorts and spikes for a thrilling day’s action in Stornoway with five talented troupes taking part.
Joining host club Stornoway on the track were the top two junior clubs in Scotland in Edinburgh AC and Giffnock North AC. Also competing were a Uist select athletics squad and Corstorphine AAC.
The brainchild of SRA coach Ross Munro the event has evolved from its original incarnation of 2011 when SRAC took on Corstorphine for the first time. It then grew in to the TriClub match in 2012.
Munro then began to look into the possibilty of bringing two mainland clubs to the island to give the local junior athletes top class competition at home, and to save the club and parents the expense of another trip to the mainland that the club know about only too well.
It also though gave the mainland clubs the chance to travel together, a chance to bond as a team, and enjoy some good island hospitality with their new Stornoway friends, with the Stornoway ceilidhs alone having become an occasion of legends.
As Ross insists himself though, it’s an event that’s gone from strength to strength over the years as SRAC itself has grown as a club and this year was definitely the biggest and best yet.
“The only athletics discipline we didn’t have this year was the pole vault,” he said.
“It’s got to the stage now where the clubs are getting in touch with us, and there’s almost a waiting list. The clubs have come up and have had such a great time, and tell other clubs about their experience so others then want to come, and of course the clubs who have been also want to return as we saw this year.
“A team trip is a unique and great, new experience for many and the travelling clubs love that part of it! In fact we were hearing that some of the kids travelling this year had never been on a ferry before.
“We give the clubs a good, well organised event and a good weekend away. In return we have a top class athletics match at home.”
Giffnock North had travelled with a large and strong squad, while Edinburgh and Corstorphine had travelled with smaller squads, with Edinburgh having only just returned from the Athletics Young Athlete’s League Final in Birmingham a week before where they came out as the top UK Junior club at U13 & U15 level, with the U17s and U20s 4th overall.
While a number of Edinburgh’s top performers were having a well earned rest, there were still many talented athletes on show from all of the clubs, with many of those visiting the island ranked in the top 10 in their events.
Despite blustery conditions with light showers, the value of the SRAC Club Invitational was evident for all to see with PBs throughout the SRAC and Uist select teams, as they upped their game against the top class opposition from the Central belt.
A typical example was the boy’s U13 100m. Despite a fairly strong headwind, local Stornoway lad, David Morrison ran the Scottish no. 6 Max McHarg from Giffnock North close with only a photo-finish separating them and Max taking it by just two hundredths of a second.
David’s reward was a new PB of 13.82, his first sub 14 second time and a new national ranking of 24. David also took 4 seconds of his 800m PB as he chased home the top ten ranked David Addison of Corstorphine and Murray Fotheringham of Giffnock North – recording a new best of 2:26.40 which sees him finish the season ranked at no. 19 in Scotland.
With three of Scotland’s top five U13 girls running the 100m and 200m, it was always going to be a tough one for the SRAC girls.
They performed really well though, with the top performances coming from Mollie MacSween finishing a fine third place in the 100m A race with a new PB of 14.84, and Angela Horne taking third place in the 200m A race with a PB of 30.53.
Another big part of the Club Invitational ethos is the chance to try new events and pretty much all of the U13 hurdlers and high jumpers were giving it a go for the first time.
Extra specialist practice sessions were arranged over the last few weeks and the SRAC youngsters did fantastically well in their new events. So well done to the young hurdlers - Maryanne MacPhail, Gemma MacRitchie, Krysta Bray, Matthew MacLeod and Ewan MacLeod and also to the high jumpers, Angela Horne, Ellie MacDonald, Fergus Horton and Mikey Jones. This is just the start of their athletics journey.
Not to be outdone, there were also some fine competitive performances from the older Stornoway junior members which also saw them make headway in the national rankings as they fought for team honour on their home track.
Amongst them were U17 sprinters Andrew Horne and Ali Rigby who recorded sprint doubles, with both winning their 200m races in sub 24 times for the first time, and despite the headwind. Andrew ran 23.90 to win the A race with Ali top in 23.94 in the B race, which sees them ranked 25 and 26 in Scotland.
In the 800m races, SRAC U15 training pals, Scott MacIver and Ali Binns took a fantastic four and six seconds of their PBs as they responded to the stiff mainland competition, with their new times - 2:18.58 and 2:20.70; their fellow training group member U17 girl, Joanna Gillies, took two seconds of her 800 PB as she ran a really strong 2:26.16 to move to 23 in the national rankings.
U20 athlete, Michael MacMillan, had a good 800m / 1500m double after two good competitive and exciting races with North Uist U17 boy, Paul Morrison who came second in both races.
Both boys have had fine seasons and finished high in the national rankings, and it was great to see them both racing so well on the Stornoway track once more.
Their 800 / 1500 one, two double were perhaps the most impressive island athletes winning margins of the day!
U15 girl Sian MacDonald had a fine sprint performance as she won the 100m ‘A’ race with a strong run, and then took a great second place in the 200m ‘A’ race, with a new PB of 28.03. U17 girl Eilidh MacLeod, who’s had a great season, also had a good day with a second place in the 200m and 300m, with the 300m run of 42.78 her second best time ever.
Special mention also to Calum MacLennan who stepped in at the last minute to make his SRAC and HJ debut as an U15, despite being an U13. His fine 1.30m clearance saw him finish second in the A event, and it also sees him ranked at no. 29 in Scotland – what a result.
Summing up the ethos of the event though was the ‘can do’ attitude of U17 SRAC girl, Freya MacLeod, as she stepped up to the plate for the team.
She competed in the LJ, hurdles, and HJ - taking part in the latter two at short notice, and came away with a first, second and third, gaining valuable points.
Freya also recorded new PBs in all of them, her 1.35m clearance in the High Jump being the pick of the bunch, and she also ran in the 200m as a guest , running another PB.
In the end though it was the strong Giffnock North team who took top honours, and their dominance in the relay with three of the four wins showed their strength in depth.
While SRAC were worthy runners up this year, the real winners were all the clubs themselves, and in particular the young athletes and their coaches.
In addition to taking part in a top class athletics match, new friends were made, as always, during the day and at the post match ceilidh. These are friendships that will only make the athletics world in Scotland a smaller and better place.
The influx of young athletes over the weekend will also have been a welcome boost to the hotels and accommodation providers in Stornoway late in the season!
Thanks go to Stornoway Wind Farm - the event sponsors - and also to the Calbost Harriers, DR MacLeod and the many parents and volunteers who worked together to make it happen.