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A small squad of ten junior athletes from SRAC accompanied nine seniors to compete in this winter North District Cross Country Championships in Nairn and had very successful results for such a small team.

The course at Nairn was described by SRAC’s Eilidh MacKenzie the defending champion as “a challenging course” which had significant stretches of leg zapping sand at the start of each lap. It was indeed a challenge to all the runners and besides the sand it also included two water crossings; one fairly shallow river and a narrow but much deeper burn! From the opening section of beach the course turned onto nice open machair leading to the river crossing and then into Culbin Forrest’s twisting climbing and falling trails complete with sand dunes! In the final run in to the finish (or second lap) there were faster open trails, if your legs were able to respond and push for the finish? Oh and the narrower but deeper burn which was just that little bit too wide to clear in one leap! All great stuff for cross country running, character building for sure!

In the boy’s under 13 race, Finlay Emmott put in a gallus run to take a very good sixth place and his team mates Alastair Binns and Scott MacIver worked well through the course to place 14th and 15th respectively! Their efforts secured SRAC’s first success of the day and the team were delighted with their third place bronze medals! The race also brought individual success for Uist’s Finlay MacVicar as he took the runners-up place.

SRAC’s best team performance was however in the under 15 boy’s team a race dominated by Western Isles runners from SRAC and North Uist AAC! Uist’s Paul Morrison was the top isles runner finishing third and showing to be somewhere back to his best form! SRAC’s Lewis MacAlpine was next runner across the line in fourth place, followed by Owen Johnson in fifth and Uist were looking good for the top slot! But solid performances and fighting for each place to attain the lowest possible team aggregate were Hugh McKenzie (7th) and Kyle Munro (9th) to just pip Uist for the team gold! A great result indeed for the isles clubs’.

In the under 17 men’s race SRAC’s Connor MacLean was the clear favourite to win, but Ross Gollan of East Sutherland who has been unbeaten in the North league was a bit of an unknown quantity to race. Fears of anything other than a convincing victory for Connor were quickly allayed as he sped to the front of the field and onto the Nairn sands. Throughout the 6.4K course he continued to pull away from the field and finished a minute and a half from the chasing Gollan. Michael Macmillan has shown to be one of SRAC’s most improving young athletes this season with stunning track P.B’s and over the Nairn course dug deep to take a good 5th place. Michael and Connor’s top placings were complimented by the dogged run of Kenny MacSween which secured a second team place for the SRAC under 17 men.

SRAC did lack in number to field female teams throughout the age groups, but that did not prevent excellent individual successes! Peigi MacKellar really set off on her 5k race with focused intent and took the race on from the front. In a great tussle with Inverness Harriers Lauren Fraser and Nairn’s Rachael MacLennan Peigi had to settle for second place ahead of MacLennan. But in a very keenly contested and exciting race to watch Inverness’s Fraser was a good winner.

The ladies success for SRAC continued with a steady run from Eilidh MacKenzie in the senior ladies event over 6.4 K. After taking time to recover from the opening sand section Eilidh got into faster running on the machair and forest section and opened up a good lead. But with a “K” to go she got a stitch and though worried about the second athlete, Forres’s Moira Davie coming through still won with an 18 second margin. Eilidh has now won the senior ladies title three times in the last four years. Perhaps with a full ladies SRAC team, the team title could come across the Minch for the first time?

SRAC’s men fielded eight runners and the top man this year was Murdo MacKenzie in 15th position overall.

Thanks to the Nairn clubs’ for their hospitality after the event and Lewis and Harris Sports council for assisting SRAC for this very successful trip to the North Championships.