THRILLS, spills, a dooking and a little help from Lady Luck saw Team Borders lift five of the seven age-group titles after the final leg of the East of Scotland Cross-Country League at Broxburn, surpassing their three wins in their inaugural season the previous year.
Conditions were mild and calm and word soon spread of the challenge of the revised undulating course and in particular the unavoidable foot-deep mini-lake which had appeared in a dip at half-way.
So far ahead were the U-11 boys going into this final 1600m leg that the only threat to their league win was a failure to get three scorers across the line. Rory Williams (Gala) turned into the 150m finishing straight 25m adrift in third, put on the burners and only just failed to get up for the individual win. Josh Abbott (Gala) was close behind but took a tumble on the rough ground which dropped him to ninth. Craig Angus (Moorfoot) showed he is improving all the time to finish sixth with Jamie Kinghorn (Gala) having one of his best runs of the year for seventh leading to a comfortable team win both on the day and for the season, 83 points ahead of Falkirk.
These wins were mirrored by the U-11 girls though they came into the race with only 15 points to spare over Edinburgh. Rhiannon Fagan (Gala) showed a muddy pair of heels to the field for the individual win. Beth Hobbs (Moorfoot) was close behind in second and Christie Rout (Gala) completed the team score by battling to 18th. Although beaten into second by Edinburgh on the day, the team had a nine-point winning margin to take the title.
The U-13 boys team finished fourth on the day and for the season, but with all their runners eligible in the same age-group next year, a strong challenge is anticipated next season. Scorers on the day over the 2.9km course were Andrew Hogg (Gala) in ninth, Jamie Logan (Gala) 11th and Euan Hood (Moorfoot) 20th. Euan showed great determination and commitment in bouncing straight back up and continuing in some discomfort after a scab-inducing fall and slide on the downhill cinder path with more than 1km still to go.
The U13 girls were contesting one of the closest age-groups and lay second overall, nine points behind Central and only three points ahead of Edinburgh. The Moorfoot trio, Zaynah Aziz fourth, Fiona Grant seventh and Mairi Wallace 12th, were the Team Borders scorers on the day as Pitreavie pipped them for the team race by a single point.
But with Central’s usual strong team seemingly weakened, and Edinburgh’s challenge failing to materialise, Team Borders leaped to the top of the overall rankings for an unexpected league win.
In the combined U-15 girls/U-17 women’s race over 4km, top performer Louise Mercer (Teviotdale) was unavailable so Kerry Sandilands (Gala) in eighth, Sophie Collins (Moorfoot) 15th and Becci Couch (Gala) 30th were the team counters, taking third place overall behind Edinburgh A and B.
The strength of the Team Borders U15 Boys squad and their 19-point lead were severely tested with several absentees from the start line, including usual scorer Kobe Stevens (Moorfoot) through injury, and then Jason McIntosh (Gala) pulled up mid-race with an injured arm after a fall. With Nathan Cox (Gala) and Thomas Otton (Gala) both running well for fourth and sixth, it was down to last man standing Joe Agnew (Gala) to protect the team’s top spot. His strong finish for 16th was more than enough with closest challengers Edinburgh failing to get three counters home.
The U-17 men’s squad was at full strength and dominated their team race with a clear win over Aberdeen and a resounding 91-point margin for the league title ahead of Edinburgh. Jacob Adkin (Moorfoot) took the individual win on the day, pulling away with a very strong second lap over the 5.8km course. Rowan Marr (Gala) in fourth and Selkirk-based Moorfoot Jack Stanners fifth were the other scorersn.
The Borders has been put very much on the cross-country map by all who turned out across the season to help deliver the five league titles. But it’s not just those who regularly score who make the difference. Every place counts, potentially pushing back scorers from other teams.
As at Broxburn, with four fallers and a pulled-up, and some teams with the minimum of three finishers, anything can happen to bring other runners into the scoring zone.
The great commitment shown by many and this could be no better exemplified than by U11 Gala Harrier Colette Kaines who stumbled into the Broxburn water splash for a full dook but got up and finished her race.
Other Team Borders results
U11 boys: 20th Harry Fuller (Gala); 21st Ben Reynolds (Gala)
U11 Girls: 31st Colette Kaines (Gala)
U13 girls: 23rd Lorna Crawford (Gala); 24th Susannah Godfrey-Faussett; 32nd Ailsa Innes (Moorfoot)
U17/U15 girls: 33rd Niamh Shaw (Moorfoot)
U17 men: eighth John McLean (Moorfoot); 15th Lucas Cheskin (Moorfoot)