Borders schools XC event provides exciting close finish

Eventual P6 girls winner Izzy Molyneuk (wearing 17) from Kingsland in Peebles, starts well.
Eventual P6 girls winner Izzy Molyneuk (wearing 17) from Kingsland in Peebles, starts well.

The Borders Schools Cross-Country Championships, organised by the Scottish Borders Athletics Development Group, in conjunction with Live Borders, took place recently at Netherdale, Galashiels.

Well over 500 runners from schools all across the Scottish Borders took part, from P6 up to S6.

Although the soft going underfoot was not conducive to ultra-fast times, the primary school races in the morning were run in reasonable, if chilly, conditions.

But the late morning drizzle gave way to more persistent rain, making for more challenging conditions for the secondary school races in the afternoon.

The P6 Boys 2km race started the day’s proceedings and Earlston was the first school on the medal board, with a strong second lap by Ross Christie moving him to the front and an eventual six-second margin at the line, in 8 minutes 18 seconds.

The Kingsland duo of Shaun Pyman and Kieran Fulton had led the pack through halfway and they held on well for the silver and bronze in times of 8.24 and 8.26 respectively.

With team-mate Gregor Wells home in 12th, that comfortably secured the P6 team race for the Peebles school, ahead of Priorsford and Duns.

More medals were soon heading Kingsland’s way when Izzy Molyneux showed a clean pair of heels to her 85 rivals in the P6 girls’ 2km race and crossed the line for gold in 8.52, an excellent time which was bettered by just one girl in the older P7 race and only the three medallists in the S1 race. Izzy had a 16-second winning margin from West Linton’s Kelsey Brain, with Erin Gray, from Glendinning, picking up the bronze in 9.15.

Good back-up from Kingsland’s Rosie McLean in fourth and Elena Lee in sixth saw Kingsland win their second team gold by 20 points from Priorsford and West Linton.

The P7 boys’ 2km race saw last year’s P6 winner, Ross Wolfenden, from West Linton, again taking the gold medal in a time of 7.51, seven seconds clear of Ben Allan and Thomas Hilton from Priorsford.

With the third Priorsford counter, Danny Lancaster, home in ninth to secure the team gold by 10 points from Kingsland and Broomlands, that saw the team contest between the two Peebles schools really hotting up.

The P7 girls’ race concluded the morning’s proceedings and there was another repeat champion from 2017. Burgh’s Isla Paterson came out on top again to take the gold medal by an impressive 31-second margin in 8.34.

Howdenburn’s Amylia Temple took the silver in 9.05, with Priorsford’s Sophie Logan home a clear third for the bronze in 9.11. The team gold again went to Priorsford, with Kirsten Duncan in ninth and Jess Colledge in 12th adding to Sophie’s points for a 22-point winning margin from Kingsland and Earlston.

So, with two team golds and two team silvers for each of Kingsland and Priorsford, it was nip and tuck for the overall championship trophy, with team points accrued across all four races.

Calculators were deployed and after several checks, the announcement was made that, by one single point, the 2018 Primary School Champions were Kingsland.

Ewan Christie from Earlston HS had won the P6 and P7 championships the preceding two years and he duly made it a hat-trick of titles with victory in the S1 race, racing clear impressively from the off and finishing the 2km course unchallenged in 7.35. That was 18 seconds ahead of team-mate Cameron Rankine, who was home in 7.53 for silver, and James Clare took the bronze for Peebles in 7.59.

Elliot Hedley’s fourth place saw team gold head Earlston’s way, seven points ahead of Peebles, with Berwickshire third on 27 points.

The secondary boys and girls races were run concurrently and Emily Carrick-Anderson from Peebles was another to secure a hat-trick of girls’ titles after her primary race wins in 2016 and 2017.

She crossed the line in 8.24, nine seconds to the good of Anna Fairclough of Earlston. Esme Minto from Peebles was home third in 8.50 and, with their third counter, Christina McGorum, just two seconds behind in fourth , Peebles took the team win. Earlston were second and Berwickshire third again.

It was up to three laps and 3km for the S2 races, which saw Gregor Collins from Gala take the boys’ title in 11.30, ahead of Earlston duo Blake Hedley (12.07) and Dylan Perry (12.16). Far from put off by the extra distance, that was the fourth consecutive Borders Schools title for Gregor.

Galashiels also took the team trophy, courtesy of Collins, Evan McConnell (fifth ) and Iain Houston (seventh ). Earlston were second with 17 points and Peebles third on 35 points.

Hawick got on the medal table with a resounding win for Maisie Ballantyne in the girls’ S2 3km race. She crossed the line for gold in 13.27 with Madeline Collins from Peebles taking silver in 13.40. Earlston’s Orla Folan was third home in 13.50 to take bronze.

The team contest was tight, with Earlston prevailing by four points from Peebles, and Jedburgh third.

In the S3 boys’ 3km race, Jay Coltman from Peebles stretched into a clear lead early on and, despite his lead diminishing over the final lap of three, he held on well for gold in 12.20. Gala’s Casey Bunker narrowed the gap to four seconds come the line and Earlston’s Andrew Berlanski took the bronze in 12.40.

Team gold went to the Peebles line-up of Coltman, Maxwell Drummond in sixth and Euan Maciver in seventh . Earlston took second and Kelso third.

Not to be outdone by the boys, the Peebles S3 girls also swept to team gold but it was Earlston’s Ruth Farnsworth who was very impressive in taking the individual honours, crossing the line for gold well clear in 13.17.

She was followed home by the three Peebles counters, Charlotte Morrison (13.32), Hannah Little (13.40) and Eilidh Mooney.

Earslton were second team and Kelso took third.

The Open races concluded the day with Peebles and Earlston again doing battle in the girls’ open 3k race. Katie Rourke from Earlston pulled away in the closing stages to take the title in a time of 12.20, with Ailsa Innes of Peebles second in 12.23.

Beth Hobbs from Peebles took the bronze in 12.33 and a fourth-place finish for the third Peebles counter, Charlotte Clare, saw them secure the team title from Earlston and Selkirk.

So to the final race, the boys’ open. They raced over 4km in what by now were pretty dreich conditions.

Earlston’s Callum Tharme was an impressive winner in 15.14, with younger brother Lewistaking the bronze in 15.56. The Tharme brothers were split by Hawick’s Fraser Clyne, who took silver in 15.26.

Back-up from William Taylor saw Earlston comfortably secure the team title from Gala and Peebles.

The overall team championship for secondary schools does not include the Open races and is decided from the S1, S2 and S3 races only.

It proved to be another case of getting the calculators out and double-checking the scores accrued across the six separate boys’ and girls’ races, with little to choose between Earlston and Peebles. This time, there was a five-point winning margin, with Earlston declared overall secondary school champions for 2018 with 92 points to Peebles on 97 points.

Scottish Borders Athletics Development Group representative Gregor Nicholson said: “The championships saw medals being won by a good range of schools and we’ve seen more evidence at these championships of the strength of cross-country running in the Borders, not just in terms of impressive running talent but also great commitment and determination from every single one of the 521 finishers.”

“Pleasingly, we had 43 primary schools in attendance and all nine secondary schools. Some might say we have also seen the ‘natural order’ successfully challenged, with Peebles being toppled for the first time since 2012, as overall secondary school champions, by Earlston.

Gregor added: “It’s an event which is made possible only with the support of many, including Live Borders, the Year 2 HND Sports and Exercise students from Borders College, Gala RFC, Scottish Borders Council and our fantastic team of volunteer helpers and marshals. We are very grateful to them all.”