Berneray was chosen by host club North Uist AAC for last weekends Western Isles Cross Country Championships due to the limited winter timetable on the Sound of Harris crossings.
But this helped to add to the senior and under 20’s championship races as both under 15 and under 17 runners all started at the same time! The under 15 boys, under 17, 20 and senior men as well as under 17, 20 and senior ladies all started together albeit to compete over different distances.
Setting the early pace were young Stornoway runners, Ross Alison, Campbell MacDonald (both under 15), and the talented Robert Jones still competing in the under 17 age group at the front of the group! Similarly in the mixed ladies race it was the young talent of SRAC that set the pace in the ladies event over 4.8k. Though the mixed mass race start included several categories competing over 4.8k and 6.4k, this year saw the best senior entry at the W Isles X-Country for some years. This included runners from the Benbecula club, North Uist AAC as well as a fair sized travelling group from SRAC.
The conditions for running could not have been better any day in January and the course offered most that a country run could possibly offer. Within 200metres of the start there was a deep sided stream to negotiate just at the foot of the first climb over fairly uneven ground with a tremendous descent (not for the faint hearted). At the bottom of the descent another jump as the stream narrowed followed by some open flat machair and plenty of distance till the next climb to recover from the fast start and climb before climbing the second rise of the 3.2k lap. Coming off the second climb it was a good long run with a slight breeze at your back, back to start the second lap with a good cheer from a friendly crowd!
On the second lap the under 15boys and all the female categories ran a shorter lap and there was a big gap between the front runners and the rest. Ross Alison who covered the pace of Jones and the experienced Alastair Dunlop crossed the finish line almost two minutes clear of his competitors. Over the same 4.8K route in the ladies race it was another youngster setting the pace. Having started hard Rebecca Munro held form and established a reasonable gap over the rest of the field to win just over a minute clear of her training partner Ceit Stewart. It would appear their recent successes over 10K have contributed to good strength endurance on the country in Berneray!
The longer distance of 6.4K involving the under 17, 20 and senior men however was a closer affair than the other races in the mixed event. Rob Jones who recently won the Ness 10K showed good confidence and led pretty much most of the race. Shadowing young Jones’ every move was veteran Alastair Dunlop. Each hill climb and descent Jones opened up a gap, but then on every flat Dunlop pulled closer. But at the tape it was another win for Jones over Dunlop with seven seconds between the two.
In the younger category races there were some storming races. Back’s John MacLennan ran well to take a ten second winning margin over NUAAC’s Ben Shepherd in a time of 4minutes 15 in the under 9 boy event. The SRAC colours also took the under 9 girls race as Ellie MacLean worked her way through the field after a very fast start over team mate Isla MacKay.
Kyle Munro racked up SRAC’s third win over NUAAC runner Finlay MacVicar, but it was a hard fought win for Kyle as Finlay made a great race of this 1600m event! The girl’s under 11 race was about as close as a race could be with the top three only one second apart. Cara MacLeod and Ceitlin MacKenzie led the race from the gun, but the determination of NUAAC’s Hannah MacDonald to win on home soil showed as she crossed the line a second ahead of Ceitlin in a very exciting sprint finish.
There was also a sort of sprint finish to the day as the visitors from Lewis and Harris took early leave from the prize giving to get to the ferry on time. All who travelled down for the event enjoyed the hospitality of hosts North Uist AC in great weather on a lovely course in what was a hastily arranged fixture! So well done to all involved in making a success of the day.