There will be lots of stories from this year’s version of the Scottish East District Cross Country Championships but almost all will revolve around the challenging weather conditions with heavy and prolonged rain showers throughout the day. Undeterred, some 57 Central Athletic Club runners from Under-13s through to veterans tested themselves against the weather and the deteriorating underfoot conditions to complete their races. There were championship medals on offer as well as selection places for the Scottish Inter District Championships in Irvine in January so much at stake throughout the age groups.
The event, staged in the grounds of University of Stirling on Saturday 4 December, saw the first race start at 11.30am with the Under-13 Girls stepping out. Here Emily Stanford (18th; 14 minutes 12 seconds) and Ciara Middleton (33rd; 15:28) did both themselves and the Club proud in their 3.2 kilometre race. The next Central runners to toe the line were the Under-15 Girls, facing a 4.2 kilometre challenge in the swirling rain. As expected the Central girls all passed their test with Niamh McKinlay (14th; 18:29) leading her team-mates home. The girls finished in fifth team place with excellent back-up from Loren Stewart (22nd; 19:14), Leah Brown (23rd; 19:16), Robyn McKerracher (43rd; 20:38) and Olivia Ashworth (57th; 22:43). It was the turn of the Under-15 Boys next as the athletes became more and more mud bespattered and here Aaron Middleton (23rd; 16:47) led his team-mates home ahead of Alex Dunlop (38th; 18:25), Killian Trenholm (53rd; 19:30) and Jamie Connor (60th; 20:42) with the boys finishing as 11th team.
The medal tap was turned on by Connor Bell’s fine silver medal run in the Under-17 Men’s race as he covered the 5.7 kilometre course in a tasty 19:45. Cameron Kerr (seventh; 20:20) had another fine run, unfortunately without a third counter team medals eluded these top performances. The Under-17 Women also endured a 5.7 kilometre course finishing as sixth team through the enduring efforts of Scarlett Roy (20th; 27:20), Millie O’Neill (22nd; 29:30), Rachel Warden (23rd; 29:53) and Zosia Paddon (25th; 35:20). There were further medals in the Under-20 Men’s category through great runs by Ben MacMillan (silver; 23:08), Alastair Marshall (bronze; 23:20) with Sam Grivell (19th; 28:00) ensuring a set of Team Golds in this age group. Sam Burton (21st; 28:29) and Euan Andrews (22nd; 32:58) provided back-up in the Club’s Under-20 Men’s effort over a 6.4 kilometre course. Grace Tindall was Central’s sole competitor in the Under-20 Women’s race, also of 6.4 kilometres, as she strode round for a fine sixth place with 29:27.
The penultimate race saw the Senior and Masters Women taking on a 8.6 kilometre challenge and here it was the resurgent Morag Millar who raced to win gold with another assured performance covering the course in 32 minutes 50 seconds. The remaining Central team counters here were Catriona Buchanan (tenth; 35:21), Heather Scott (35th; 37:59) and Claire Houston (44th; 39:16) as the team missed out by a single point on collecting team bronze medals. There was great back-up here from Cliona Diamond (54th; 40:41), Kirsten McStay (57th; 40:45), Louise Torr (94th; 44:18), Julia McAfee (116th; 46:56), Alison Lunn (125th; 48:43) and Rhona Scott (144th; 54:17).
The incessant rain had relented somewhat by the start of the of the Senior and Masters Men’s race although underfoot conditions were somewhat yielding. With Andrew Butchart and Jamie Crowe side-lined from Saturday’s efforts as both are due to compete for Great Britain in next weekend’s Euro Cross in Ireland, there was some concern that Central’s Senior Men’s team would be challenged for team gold medals. With top runs from some of Central’s ever dependable runners backed-up by burgeoning young talent any fears were soon dispelled and here it was a fifteenth set of gold medals for Central in this event through Alastair Hay (fifth; 29:23), Calum Phillip (seventh; 29:39), Hamish Hickey (ninth; 29:56), Luca Fanottoli (11th; 30:01), Matthew Sutherland (12th; 30:02) and Tom Graham-Marr (19th; 30:42). Scott Brember’s effort (28th; 31:29) provided back-up as he picked up the individual silver Masters medal. It was good to see some 24 Central finishers in this 8.6 kilometre race with further useful performances from Josh Wood (49th; 32:20), Colin Logan (56th; 32:51), Sandy Holl (61st; 33:04), Andrew Irvine (69th; 33:40), Dale Colley (106th; 35:38), Craig Coull (130th; 37:03), Neil Ferrier (137th; 37:27), Craig Walker (151st; 38:13), Jens Subke (158th; 38:39), Colin McCreadie (164th; 38:48), Charles Graham-Marr (165th; 38:50), Donald Shaw (175th; 39:48), Iain Elliott (180th; 39:54), Iain Dunsmore (194th; 40:49), David Benwell (203rd; 41:46), Allan Gall (248th; 47:48) and Cameron Campbell (250th; 48:28). Central’s Masters team of Scott Brember, Colin Logan and Craig Walker finished fifth Masters team.
Congratulations are due to a great Club effort which saw large numbers of Central volunteers set-up and dismantle the course, provide marshalling and other duties, all ably led by Michael Wright. A determined team of Scottish Athletics Officials also deserve plaudits for their overall efforts but particularly with recording of times and places and producing results in the trying conditions.