There were some new traditions set at the Scottish Cross Country Relay Championships, the first being a change of venue from the long-established course in Cumbernauld to the extensive grounds of Scone Palace. The weather stayed fair throughout the event and with firm going underfoot, everything was set for some fast performances.
The day started with the Young Females races with the normal format of an Under-13, followed by an Under-15 and finished off by an Under-17 athlete. While never challenging for medals the Central Athletic Club athletes showed gold star performances for endeavour. The Girls ‘A’ Team saw Fia Watkin lead the challenge to bring the team round with an 11 minute 46 seconds effort over the first of three 2,500 metre laps. Niamh McKinlay (10:55) ran strongly throughout to pass a number of her rivals while Catriona Kane’s effort (10:12) again saw her pick up more places to bring her team home in a fine 20th place overall. Central’s ‘B’ team of Niamh Caldwell (12:55), Carys Gibb (11:08) and Scarlett Roy (11:02) showed true resilience with determined efforts throughout. Maisie Beaton (13:36) may have been the youngest athlete in any team of the day as she led round a team of Leah Brown (11:34) and Millie O’Neill (11:54) to finish off a more than satisfactory effort for Central’s scoring teams. Fine runs from Under-15 runners Leya Gibb (11:35) and Robyn McKerracher (11:36) along with Under-17 Zosia Paddon (11:53), proved they would have fitted seamlessly into any of the teams.
The second race showcased the Young Males in a similar format of Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 and saw Finley MacGregor lead off the ‘A’ team to cover his 2,500 metre leg in 11:36 while Aaron Middleton picked up the challenge pulling his team through the field with a strong 9:42 effort. It was left to Connor Bell to finish off Central’s effort as he picked up some 19 places with a charging run of 8:15. Connor ensured his Central team finished in 27th overall with an almost unnoticed fastest leg of the day by any young athlete. Central’s ‘B’ team of Fraser Kingsley (11:59), Henry Crossley (11:04) and Scott Hill (10:23) again deserved an A for effort especially as Under-15 runner Scott had to cover Under-17 duties.
The Women’s races had moved from the format of three legs to four legs of 4,000 metres and here it was Under-20 athlete Grace Tindall (14:34) who led off Central’s challenge in fine style bringing her team to ninth place at the changeover. It was frustrating to see that successive legs by Sarah Seal (18.41) and Cliona Diamond (16.04) went unrewarded as Central had to finish an incomplete team. The Masters Women were somewhat better served with only three required to make up a team. It was down to Mandy Williams (16:58), Julia McAfee (18:10) and our youngest Master, Claire Houston (15:48), to bring the team home as eighth Masters team, a highly creditable performance.
The traditions did however continue when it came to the Mens’ teams. With the normal four legs of 4,000 metres Central Athletic Club had been on the podium for the last 17 years in a record going back to 2004 and were on a winning streak of two gold medal performances so there was much to defend. If there were any doubts these were soon expelled as Hamish Hickey (11:32) provided his normal confident run as he handed over in second place at the end of the first leg to Under-20 runner Ben MacMillan. Any nerves Ben (11:34) must have been feeling soon disappeared as he opened a gap on his rivals to hand over a significant lead to Andrew Butchart on leg three. Andrew’s record on track, road and cross country is exemplary and here his 11:31 leg opened up an ever-widening gap on his rivals. It was left to current Scottish Cross Country Champion Jamie Crowe (11:29) to finish off his team’s efforts in fine style to clinch gold.
Behind Central’s ‘A’ team there was a more intriguing story unfolding. Central’s ‘B’ team of Cameron Milne (11:47), Calum Phillip (11:50), and Luca Fanottoli (11:39) had moved through into third place by the end of leg three. Tom Graham-Marr was left with a tough task but soon pushed past Aberdeen AAC’s runner to move into second. Tom, in turn, was being pursued by a strong Inverclyde AC team but ran a controlled 11:38 leg to ensure Central ended in gold and silver positions on the podium, an unprecedented achievement since the inception of the Championships in 1974.
There was further superb back-up from Central’s ‘C’ team through Matthew Sutherland (12:20), Sandy Holl (12:22), Josh Wood (12:51) and Dale Colley (12:11) to finish in an excellent 12th overall. Andrew Irvine (14:06) was lead-off runner in a further Central team with back up from Scott Gillen (15:51), Under-20 athlete Sam Grivell with a notable 13:40 clocking and Neil Galbraith-Cobb (16:25).
The club’s lead Masters team comprising Scott Brember (12:29), Ewan Jack (14:12), Craig Walker (14:48) and David Eckersley (14:53) was always competitive and finished a highly respectable seventh in the Masters team race. It was great to see efforts from Donald Shaw (15:37), Iain Dunsmore (16:07), Colin Alexander (17:50) and Hugh Buchanan (16:23) being rewarded with a 15th Masters placing. Central’s Over-50 team of Cameron Campbell, Charles Graham-Marr, Colin Sinclair and Allan Gall have much to teach the younger club members on pure attitude and commitment.