National Cross Country Championships

The Scottish National Cross Country Championships took place last Saturday at its usual venue of Callendar Park in Falkirk. Thankfully the weather for this year's championship was significantly better than for the 2015 event.

The day started with glorious sunshine as Robert Carson and Iain Morrison assembled the tent, positioned to catch the sun's rays, and finished with the aforementioned two being assisted by Cris Walsh and Stuart Miller in dismantling the tent.

The first race off involving Harriers was the boy's under 17 and the club were represented by Jack Heathwood, Robbie Ferguson and Robbie Smith. The race went off at breakneck pace and Jack came through the field to finish in 33rd place, ten places better than last year with Robbie Ferguson in 64th and Robbie Smith in 94th.

The second race of the day included a fine run from Fraser Armstrong who finished in 49th position in the men's U20 race whilst Calum Ferguson, who had stepped from the under 17 age category, managed 60th position.

The senior ladies race was next on the agenda over the two-lap, eight kilometre course. Thirty-nine more women ran this event than in 2015 when the club counters were Bernie O'Neil (103), Erica Christie (110), Emma Bryce (157), and Claire Norman (182). The 2016 championship saw a significant improvement in performance despite the bigger field with Bernie moving up to position 86, closely followed by Erica in 88th, Katherine Hylands running well in 136th and Susie Boyle completing the course in 204th spot. This was a significant improvement and one of Bernie O'Neil's best runs in the national for many years, helping to move the ladies team into a nineteenth position in the team competition, two places better than last year.

Twenty male Harriers took on the tough and undulating 12 kilometre route, some for the first time including Neil Nairn who finished a creditable 431st. In a field of 631 runners it was a day when the men's team ran really well and moved from 19th place in 2015 to 14th, elbowing aside such illustrious clubs as Bellahouston Road Runners, Carnethy, Giffnock North and Gala Harriers. This represented the best performance on the men's side since 1990.

At the end of a long winter season which started back at the West District Cross Country Relays in October, it is not uncommon for injuries to occur. Ally Scott was at Callendar Park to cheer the team on with Jack Arnold injured and on quiz duty, while David and Gregor were unable to attend due to prior commitments. It was left to Harriers on the day to step up to the plate.

The team were well led home by Colin Thomas who, on his return to Scotland from a training stint in Kenya, finished in 53rd place. The second counter was a resurgent Crispin Walsh, back to fitness and form in finishing 97th and improving 104 positions on last year. Brian Douglas, fresh from morning and afternoon day time sessions, ran a cracking race to come home in 150th.

Craig Lamont, building on a good run at the Strathaven Half Marathon, improved as the race progressed to finish 183rd. Stuart Miller was a double counter last week, following Craig home in 193rd and being a leading member of the victorious quiz team. Ian Sim finished well in 200th place, setting down a marker in advance of his London Marathon this spring.

John Whitener started off very quickly and hung on for to finish in 219th. Ten Harriers were in the top 250 including Darren McQuade, Paul Clawson and the irrepressible Francis Gilroy in 244th, sixteen places better than last year. Perhaps one of the best runs of the day was by Alistair Sinclair who improved by almost one hundred places. In the 2015 race, the Harriers 6th counter was Stuart MacDougall who would have scraped into 8th place in 2016; a significant improvement for the men showing more strength in depth and with a few of the injured guys to return.

The Harriers were very well supported by large turnout of club members. The club also exceeded its required quota of volunteers with Katy Smith, Robert Carson, Christopher Steward and Lynne McDowall marshalling. Performances at the nationals are hard earned and 2016 saw both teams moving forward.

The last big race of the winter calendar is the Scottish National Road Relays in Livingston and the club looks well represented. Special mention to both club captains Darren and Caroline for organising, cajoling and encouraging club members to participate successfully this winter.

Tom Keenan

Full results can be found here.

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