AZURE skies greeted the 266 runners who descended on Lauder last Sunday for the first round of the Borders Winter Cross-Country Series.
The healthy numbers are testament to how this well-organised series has developed during the past two decades and the expert planning of Lauderdale Limpers who hosted the first in the seven-race series.
Twenty-three junior and 25 senior Gala Harriers ensured it was the most represented club in both categories, and some excellent runs in all age groups ensured that several Harriers progress to the second round in strong positions.
Some very good performances came from young Harriers for whom this was their first outing in this kind of competition.
For the boys, in a large field of 82 young athletes, seasoned runner Nathan Cox romped home in second place overall in 11min 21sec and runner-up in his age category.
He was closely followed by first-timers Thomas Otton (11.46) and Jamie Logan (12.24), both achieving superb first places in their respective age groups. Andrew Hogg (12.29) placed second in his category, with good runs also coming from Marshall Smith (13.20), Rory Williams (13.36), Kieran Bryson (14.17), Mark Purves (14.37), Jamie Kinghorn (14.42), Faisal Khursheed (15.06), Joey Brown (15.08) and Cameron Neil (17.12).
The girls had an equally successful first outing in the Borders country with Kerry Sandilands (12.44) just overcoming Lucy Henderson-Morris (12.57) who nevertheless took top slot in her age category. Becki Couch (13.37) just breasted the tape ahead of Jo Arres (13.38) who again was the first girl home in her category, while Cara Hogg (14.02) secured another second along with her brother. Lorna Crawford (14.57) was just one place down in the same category with gutsy runs coming from Susannah Godfey-Faussett (14.58), Rhona Gowans (16.02), Christie Rout (16.15), Rhiannon Fagan (16.24) and Imogen Dawson (21.41).
An undulating and slightly muddy course awaited the 184 seniors and again the Harriers fielded a grand turnout of 25 runners, with high placings across all age groups, male and female.
The full results can be found on the Borders Cross Country website (www.bordersxc.com), but worthy of mention was ninth-placed Mark Bryson, first home for the club in 28min 18sec and runner-up in his age category, 10th-placed Fergus Johnston (28.28), Steve Martin (30.18 and third for his age), Rachel Fagan (33.23 and runner-up in age group), Martin Clarke (33.25 and first in age group), Gillian Duncan (34.49 and third in age group), Fiona Dalgleish (36.18 and second for her age), Isla King (38.01 and leader in her 16-19 years section), Andrea Pogson (38.53 and first in hers too) – and Paul Morris (41.48) on his return to competitive racing.