LAST year, at exactly the same time, conditions in Callendar Park were as muddy as they could possibly be for the last and toughest event in the national cross-country calendar.
This time, the underfoot terrain was firm and, although cold, there was no wind to speak of, so it was a perfect day for the largest field of runners for more than 15 years, which included 26 Gala Harriers.
The junior races kicked off Saturday’s action and despite some grand individual performances from Gala juniors, only one age group was able to muster a complete team so the medals of previous years were sadly not going to happen for 2013. In the under-13 boys’ race over 3,200m, Andrew Hogg (13 minutes 51 seconds) and Jamie Logan (14.04), competing at national level for the first time, nevertheless ran very strongly to finish 23rd and 31st out of 130 runners.
Cara Hogg ran well in her first under-13 girls’ race in this competition to finish in 16.19 over the same distance, well inside the top half of the field of 127 runners.
A complete team of under-15 boys did very well to capture sixth team place over the 4km course, with Thomas Otton securing an excellent sixth place in 14.09, ably supported by Jason McIntosh (15.04) Joe Agnew (15.41), in his first ever national competition, and Nathan Cox in 15.48.
With 2.4km being added to the course, the under-17 Gala men, Rowan Marr (26.55) and first-timer James Mercer, ran solid races, as did the under-17 women Kerry Sandilands (19.54) and Karen Maxwell (21.34).
Coaches Neil Renton and Graham Capper paid credit to all the juniors who had represented the club and Team Borders so ably over the cross-country season with so many good results in a variety of arenas, including the Borders Winter XC series and the District Championship and Leagues.
The senior women’s race covers 8km of the attractive parkland and seven Gala women took on the distance amongst the large field of 214 runners.
Last year, two regular team members, Dianne Lauder and Gillian Duncan were absent due to injury and the team were only able to finish in 18th place overall.
This year, with both Dianne (31.02) and Gillian (35.31) in good shape, as well as in-form Fiona Dalgleish (33.46), Anya Campbell (36.20) Fiona Shepherd (38.06) Eileen Nicol (39.03) and Anne Weir (39.05), the team climbed to an impressive eighth place, beating some large well-known clubs such as Shettleston and Bellahouston into the lower places.
A huge field of more than 500 senior men included eight Harriers who took on the 12km as the last race of the day. Fergus Johnson led the team home in 45.19, followed by Colin Welsh (46.48) and some greatly enhanced times from Colin McCall (46.50), Graham Manczak (47.32), Dave Nightingale (51.09), Paul Daly (51.23), Martin Clarke (51.24) and Billy McCulloch (54.19) bringing home a team place of 17th, again much improved from 2012.
There’s no accounting for how some folk choose to spend their Sundays, but Harrier Keith King opted for some downhill bike action, followed by a scamper around the often-treacherous terrain of Bowhill in the last of the series of Durty Duathons. Keith kept upright to complete the arduous adventure in 1 hour, 51 minutes and 23 seconds, coming home 51st from 124 starters.
And earlier this month at the Masters Indoors Championships, at the exciting new Emirates Stadium in Glasgow, Harrier Bob Marshall achieved an impressive silver medal in his age group over 3,000m, with Wayne McIntosh running well over the same distance in his age category, finishing only just out of the medals.