The annual finale to the athletics cross country season, the National Cross Country championships have been held in the picturesque setting of Callendar House, Falkirk for many years, yet it would be hard to recall more unpleasant conditions as those experienced on Sunday. Just as the forecasters predicted, the weather turned on its most biting winds, driving sleet and underfoot glaur imaginable but the park welcomed over 1500 athletes and as many hardy spectators.  A full bus load of Gala Harriers, young and older spilled out onto the muddy parkland to compete their hardest against formidable competition, with many of the juniors stepping up an age group from last year.

The Under 13 Gala girls and boys each fielded teams of three, with the girls packing together well over the 3.2 kilometre course to finish near the top third of the large field of 168 runners.  Rhiannon Fagan (13 minutes and 49 seconds) led home Eilidh Forbes (13.52) by a whisker, with Molly Morris just another 5 seconds behind.  George Godfrey-Faussett (13.11) came in a very creditable 17thplace from a large field of 166, while Jack McDonald and Innes Campbell supported each other round, both finishing with the same time of 15.19.Four Under 15 girls put in good performances in the testing conditions over 4k, particularly Susannah Godfrey-Faussett (15.22) who was 12th in the field of 111, with Katie Rourke (16.39) and Lindsay Jack (16.40) working well off each other and Elena Heger (18.05) completing the set.  130 x under 15 boys lined up next, with excellent performances from all the lads who had represented their club so well in the recent Borders Winter series.  Callum Tharme (14.12), Andrew Hogg (14.27) and Jamie Logan (14.29) led the strong Gala contingent home, with solid performances too from Corri Campbell (14.50) Faisal Khursheed (14.55) Yousuf Khursheed (15.10) and Lewis Bell (15.24) running for the first time at national level. Perhaps the best performance from a junior on the day was from Gavin Bryson who stormed to 6th place in the Under 17 Boys race, taking only 21.57 to eat up the increasingly muddy 6.4k route.  Thomas Otton ran extremely well too to gain 15th position in 22.45 but there were no more counters on the day to ensure a team placing.

 The senior women’s race covers 8 kilometres of the attractive parkland and 10 Gala women took on the distance amongst the large field of 226 runners, with a turnout of some of the best of Scotland’s top endurance women. Dianne Lauder mixed it with the internationalists up front with a stunning 7th place in 29.35, taking some significant scalps in the process. Gala’s women took on the best of the rest in the worsening underfoot conditions, many taking large chunks off last years’ times, with Kirstin Maxwell (31.07) Kate Jenkins (32.45) and Fiona Dalgleish (33.32) being the other 3 counters.  Jenny Forbes (33.53) Rachel Fagan (35.09) Gillian Duncan (36.28) Nicola Porterfield (36.58) Dawn Grant (37.33) and Mairi Struther (38.02)all contributed to an excellent team effort.

 A record-breaking field of 571 senior men included 15 Harriers who took on the even longer12 kilometres as the last race of the day, by which time conditions were clarty to say the very least. Darrell Hastie (42.24 in 36th place) led the Gala team home, followed by Graeme Murdoch (45.53) Fergus Johnston(47.04) and Wayne Mcintosh (47.57) with great efforts from everyone else. (All senior men’s results can be found via the scottishathletics website)

 And in the Emirates Stadium in Glasgow last weekend, Rhiannon Fagan couldn’t quite repeat her bronze medal success from last year in the 800m of the National Indoor Track & Field Championships.  She finished an impressive third in her heat but it wasn’t quite quick enough to take her through to the final.

CARNETHY 5 on 14 Feb – some Harriers decided to share their love with 515 others on 5 tough Pentland Hills, with excellent performances from Fergus Johnston (56.36), Dave Nightingale (1.13.36) James Purves (1.17.36) Fiona Shepherd (1.22.15) and Shelagh King (1.53.20).

EAC Open Graded meeting at Meadowbank at the weekend:  LIAM Shipperlee took an impressive second place in the 5kg shotputt with a personal best of 8.93m and then followed it up with a well-earned 4th place in the indoor long jump with his final leap of 4.63m.