Gala Harrier’s annual club cross country championships took place on a chilly but beautiful morning for running on Saturday. Not only were overhead conditions good, but surprisingly, underfoot conditions were also remarkably favourable for the time of year. 34 club members and 1 guest runner took to the start line at Boleside in nervous anticipation of the tough 5.8 mile course that follows the river Tweed to Yair before steeply climbing up over the Southern Upland Way to the finish at Hollybush.

In the senior men’s race, the predicted pre-race battle between Fergus Johnston and Graeme Murdoch duly unfolded, with both setting a quick pace and matching each other stride for stride over the first 3.5 miles. As they reached the start of the hill, it was Fergus who stayed strongest and built an unassailable lead on the first climb to take a long overdue first title in a time of 36.44 with Graeme finishing 2nd in 37.22. Both times are the 2 fastest times on record for running the course from Boleside to Hollybush. In an equally exciting battle for third place, it was Gavin Bryson (son of last year’s winner Mark) who stormed down the hill to the finish (38.46), passing guest runner Craig Mattocks (38.50) with only 50m to go. Mark Bryson finished 5th in 39.45 with Colin McCall (39.56) running another strong effort to duck under the 40 minute barrier. Junior member Jason McIntosh also ran a really strong race to finish in an excellent 40.02. Other male members completing the course were Andrew Lawrie (41.04), Dave Nightingale (42.59), Steve Martin (43.25), Marcus Naylor (43.47), Derrick Brydon (44.25), Tony Lunn (44.49), Rory Campbell (44.53), Magnus Inglis (44.55), Billy McCulloch (44.59), Tommy Knox (46.08), Keith King (49.26), James Purves (49.44), Graham Pogson (49.47), and club President Gerry Moss (55.53). This was Keith’s last race for the club for some years as he leaves for Adelaide within the week and this was marked in style at the Presentation Night later on.

In the women’s race, Dianne Lauder ran strongly after injury has hampered her progress in recent weeks. Her time of 41.31 was enough to finish over 2 minutes ahead of defending champion and ladies captain Fiona Dalgleish (43.40). Fiona had to work hard over the closing stages and just held off a late challenge from Kate Mattocks (43.41) who is back representing the club after a long spell with Hunters Bog Trotters. Rachel Fagan can be pleased with a solid 44.22, as can Joeleene McKean who ran 47.03. 9 other ladies also completed the course: Nicola Porterfield (49.02), Eileen Nicol (54.12), Dawn Grant (55.53), Shelagh King (67.43), Judy Scott (71.27), Lynn Taylor (71.28), Jill Grainger (72.16), Anne Purves (73.16), and Susan Howel (73.16).

As well as the scratch race, there is also the added intrigue of the closed handicap Neil Potts race, which involves predicting each runner’s time prior to the race and assessing who exceeds this time by the greatest margin. The younger members of the club dominated this year with Gavin Bryson’s time earning him the trophy.

 Fergus Johnston Dianne Lauder

Following the race, the annual Presentation Night was held in the Young Men’s Club in Gala with a great turn out of club members of all ages.  Tony Westbury, Chartered Sports Psychologist and occasional Harrier gave a short presentation about ways to develop mental toughness to ensure maximum performance, before the glittering prizes and vouchers were then presented to all  winners across the past year.  Amongst the many awards, of particular note were the two most improved senior and junior runners of 2013 – Jenny Forbes and Thomas Otton respectively for momentous gains this year, as well as the awarding of the Endeavour Cup to Fiona Shepherd for outstanding service to the club. Medals for ‘representational honours’ – ie selection for national and district levels were also presented to Dianne Lauder, Louise Mercer and Thomas Otton (national) and again to those three as well as Kerry Sandilands, Gavin Bryson, Andrew Hogg and Jamie Logan (district). Tokens of appreciation were also presented to all the club’s coaches by the president Gerry Moss. The musical talents of three Harriers – Tommy Knox, Anya and Rory Campbell, followed by a disco rounded off the evening in style.  Many thanks to the Social Convenor who coordinated the evening, including the very welcome buffet supper.

View the Neil Potts handicap results in PDF form here

First published on 10th November 2013