Silverware for Team Borders after challenging cross-country season

Gregor Collins of Gala Harriers was a key member of the Team Borders squad (stock image).
Gregor Collins of Gala Harriers was a key member of the Team Borders squad (stock image).

Dechmont Law in Livingston was the venue for the third and final East District Cross-Country League races on Saturday, with Team Borders in action and vying for the title in the Under-15 Boys league.

A chilly but dry and still day provided good running conditions – but with some athletes in a quandary regarding their choice of footwear, given the still-frozen ground in places, combined with soft stretches and slippery turns.

The Under-15 Boys held an eight-point advantage over Dundee going into their race, with Aberdeen hovering only one point further back.

It was a case of quality over quantity for Team Borders, with the bare minimum of three runners for a counting team – the Gala Harriers trio of Gregor Collins, Ewan Christie and Ewan Purves.

The latter was more suited to 800m on the track but bravely did his bit for the team points over the 4km undulating course.

Aberdeen proved the more serious contenders on the day and their first two runners home, in fourth and seventh, exactly matched the score of the first two Team Borders runners, Gregor Collins in fifth and Ewan Christie a close sixth.

All eyes then swivelled anxiously to the home turn, to await the appearance of the third and final team counters.

It was an Aberdeen vest next into view but, right there, hot on his heels, was the Borders vest of Ewan Purves, who just managed to out-dip his Aberdeen counterpart in a sprint for 15th.

This was crucial in securing a one-point team victory on the day and a 10-point winning margin in the final league placings.

Gregor Collins has been a stalwart of the team right through the age groups and it was fitting that he led the team up to receive the Edinburgh Evening News Cup.

Hats off too to McKenzie Power, also from Gala Harriers, who played his part as third team counter in race one back in October.

Without his contribution, there would have been no team, no title and no cup to share round the houses.

The day’s busy programme of racing kicked off with the Under-11 Girls race over 1.6km, in which Gala’s Kirsty Rankine was home in 15th in a time of 7 minutes 01 seconds. Clubmate Jessica Hendry was 21st in 7.07 and Moorfoot’s Ava Mooney finished just behind in 22nd in 7.09.

That placed the girls fifth on the day and a close fifth overall, with 180 points for the season, only 16 points off the podium.

The Under-11 Boys’ team finished eighth on the day, with Gala’s Ross Christie leading the team with his very solid seventh-place finish in 6.18. The Moorfoot duo of Calum Fitzgerald and Toru Keen completed the team score with their 43rd and 46th places in a massive field of 91 runners. This saw the boys finish sixth in the final league placings.

It was up to a testing 3.2km for the Under-13 races and Gala’s Isla Paterson had an impressively strong run in the girls’ race to finish fifth in a time of 12.51.

She was followed home by Gracie Linton of Moorfoot in 20th in 13.46 and her clubmate Elena Lee was 24th in 13.48. The team’s 49 points gave them fifth on the day and fifth overall.

The Under-13 boys’ race saw another big field, coincidentally again 91 runners, and Gala’s Cameron Rankine battled well for seventh in 11.53. Chirnside’s Zico Field was home in 27th in 12.28, just ahead of Moorfoot’s Thomas Hilton, who was only two seconds back in 28th.

While that saw the team finish sixth on the day, across the season, it held on to an excellent third place.

In the combined Under15/Under 17 Girls race over 6km, Anna Fairclough from Gala ran very well for 15th in 16.42, with the Moorfoot duo of Esme Minto and Charlotte Morrison completing the team points with their 35th and 42nd places for eighth on the day and 10th overall.

Team co-ordinator Gregor Nicholson said: “This was a challenging cross-country season for Team Borders, with a good number of non-availabilities across the three races impacting on the team scores, but it was very pleasing to bring some silverware back to the Borders again.

“And, with healthy numbers in the younger age groups, many of whom are bubbling under just outside the scorers and still in the same age group next winter, the future is looking rosy for cross-country in the Borders.”