Cumbernauld was yet again the venue for the National Cross Country Relays, where hopes were high after a successful outing at the equivalent East of Scotland event two weeks prior. Historically falling on the same weekend as the more local Jedburgh Running Festival, attracting senior teams has been a real challenge for Gala Harriers in recent years so both male and female captains should have been delighted that seven teams pulled on the green and white vest. Whilst a little soggy underfoot, conditions were generally good on the challenging 4km parkland course on a dull but dry day.

With no junior girls running, it was left to the boys to fly the flag for the younger members of the club. Two boys teams turned out on the start line and were led off by Corri Campbell (10.28) and Mark Purves (12.21). Corri handed over to Joe Wilson (10.26) whilst Joey Brown ran a fantastic 9.20 to pick up 40 places and also claim the fastest U13 time of the day. Thomas Otton (9.01) ran his usual solid race to pick up 10 places and bring the A team home in 32nd place. James Mercer (10.01) also ran a good leg to bring the B team home in 56th place.  For the first timers at this level, Corri Campbell, Joe Wilson, James Mercer and Mark Purves, it was an impressive debut and one that they should be very proud of.
In the women’s race, the same veteran’s team of Fiona Dalgleish, Gillian Duncan, and Jenny Forbes took to the start line, knowing that strong runs may have them in the mix for a medal. Fiona ran a fantastic opening leg (16.10) to set the team up, with Gillian Duncan (17.26) then putting in a strong leg to hand over to the ever improving Jenny. Roared on by the rest of the club, it was 3km into the final leg before anybody actually mentioned to Jenny that she was in the lead. With Falkirk Victoria Harriers rapidly closing the gap, the final 500m saw one of the closest finishes of the day, with Jenny’s 16.14 time and fantastic determination the difference as she held on to take the national title. The last time that Gala girls won a gold in the national relays was in the club’s centenary year, 2002 so an inspirational repeat performance 11 years on. Not to be outdone, the second women’s team also ran strongly to finish 28th overall. Rachel Fagan (16.37) had a good battle with Fiona Dalgleish over the opening leg before Nicola Porterfield (17.41) battled strongly to hand over to debutant Anya Campbell (17.21) who also ran well.
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The senior men needed no motivation after the ladies exploits, and a huge field of 104 teams set off on the first leg. Fergus Johnston (13.41), Mark Bryson (14.41), and Derrick Brydon (16.22) negotiated the mad dash to the first corner before handing over to Colin McCall (14.32), Dave Nightingale (15.40) and yet another member of the Campbell family (this time Rory making his Harriers debut in 16.26). By the third leg, the field have usually spread out and Graham Manczak dug deep to run 14.36. Also on leg 3 were Billy McCulloch (16.37) and youngest member of the team Andrew Lawrie (15.38) who can be pleased with picking up 12 places in his first outing over the shorter distance. On the final leg, Graeme Murdoch (13.28) clocked the quickest harrier time of the day as he relished the chance to chase runners down picking up 7 places and giving the top team a 29th place finish. Sinclair Hill followed last weeks performance with another excellent run to place the vet’s team 61st and a very commendable 6th place in the vets category. James Purves (19.40) was yet another debutant on a great day for the club and he was cheered all the way round the course, enjoying his first run at this type of event.
First published on 27th October 2013.