Athletics: Gala Harriers escape to the cross country

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THE 2013 season of East District Cross Country events kicked off the weekend before last with the team relays at Deans Community School, Livingston.

Underfoot conditions were perfect over the undulating parkland terrain and although the wind was blustery, Gala Harriers were able to return home with a fine outcome for their first outing on the country.

Young athletes’ teams are made up of junior runners from each age category and in the young male relay, Jamie Kinghorn (10 minutes 4 seconds) Jamie Logan (9.47) and Broc Drury (8.23, the 7th fastest lap) should feel pleased with their result which landed them in a very creditable 12th position out of 32 finishing teams. Christie Rout and Rhiannon Fagan were left without a third team member but nevertheless put a grand effort to finish their laps in 12.25 and 11.41 respectively.

The Harriers were able to field (almost) 6 teams of senior men and women and under their new captain Fiona Dalgleish, the veteran ladies claimed their first medal of the season with an impressive trio of times from their captain (16.05), Gillian Duncan (17.22) and Jenny Forbes (15.58, 22nd fastest lap) landing them in silver medal position in the vets category and 12th overall.

Running as a senior woman for the first time, Kerry Sandilands kicked off the first leg for the ‘B” team in 17.16, passing on to Rachel Fagan (16.13) and Nicola Porterfield (17.52) who both ran strongly to come home in a fine 17th place from 33 teams.

With former Harriers Kirsten Maxwell and Louise Mercer now running for Edinburgh University, it was always going to be a hard task to furnish three complete teams but Dawn Grant (19.54) and Anne Weir (18.42) held the Gala end up proudly but ran out of team mates in the end.

Billy McCulloch’s reign as men’s captain also started off in style with a well-deserved bronze medal for the male vets. They placed 26th overall after the Gala ‘A’ team had stormed home 16 places ahead of them with the team of Colin Welsh (14.34) Fergus Johnston (13.44) Colin McCall (14.27) and Graeme Murdoch (13.27) creeping up the field from 23rd to 10th. Billy’s vets should be mightily proud of their medal with strong runs from post-marathon man Mark Bryson (15.06) Sinclair Hill (14.34) Derrick Brydon (16.00) and Billy himself (16.10).

As a result, the seniors went into the opening East District league fixture on Saturday with renewed enthusiasm following the previous week’s successes. On a day when the weather did not relent, it was perhaps the wettest, muddiest, dreichest opening fixture at the usually scenic Stirling University course.

With the female team decimated with injury and holidays, only Rachel Fagan made the start line, and as usual ran strongly over the two lap course to finish in a time of 24 minutes 24 seconds for 19th place.

In spite of several notable absentees, the senior men turned out a fantastic team of 11 runners, all of who were probably dreading the three lap course which by this time was severely churned up due to five previous races. Graeme Murdoch led the way with a 31.28 (30th position) clocking but was somewhat disappointed that he couldn’t chase down former Harrier Rowan Marr (now Lasswade) who finished just ahead of him. Sinclair Hill took off like a man possessed at the start and quickly found himself stride for stride with some of Scotland’s top endurance athletes. His reward was second harrier home in 57th place in a cracking 33.27. Colin McCall probably wished he’d stuck a little closer to Sinclair at the start as he ran a controlled race and finished fast in a time of 34.00 for 62nd position. Wayne McIntosh also ran solidly (34.08) and he was followed by Mark Bryson (34.50) and Colin Welsh (37.11). Men’s captain Billy McCulloch (37.28) ran strongly over the last lap to finish just ahead of newcomer Andrew Lawrie (37.54) and Derrick Brydon (37.57). Alan Johnston put in a fantastic finish (39.53) with Tommy Knox (41.09) overheard after the race that he was just glad he wasn’t still stuck in the mud.

As a result, the masters team finished in a very creditable sixth place, with a 13th place overall for the club.

Next races for the Harriers are the National Cross Country Relays at Cumbernauld on 26th October and Jedburgh Running Festival on 27th.