Young Harriers excel at Holyrood against top opposition

LAST weekend saw a medal fest for Gala Harrier juniors who were competing in the BUPA Great Winter Run and the inter-district cross-country races which make up part of the Great Edinburgh International Cross-country event at Holyrood Park.

Hard work over the autumn and winter months with excellent results ensured that eight young Harriers were picked for East District selection, with five of them coming away with a team medal from their various age group races. Before that, however, the popular Great Winter Junior Run in the park was dominated by green-and-white vests, with Rory Williams taking first place in eight minutes and 13 seconds, closely followed by Jamie Kinghorn, 8.34, in third place, Cara Hogg, fourth in 8.55 and Rhiannon Fagan, eighth in 9.15.

Two senior Harriers were represented in the Great Winter 5km race around Arthur’s Seat, with Nicola Porterfield running strongly in 23 minutes 52 seconds and Becki Couch in 36.31.

The BBC covers the international event from one of the most scenic of locations in the country and Gala runners selected for district representation were rubbing shoulders with some of the best African female runners as well as track athletes who had graced the Olympic stadium in August 2012.

Young Harrier Andrew Hogg, who had stormed home in first place in the Great Winter Junior Run last year, had moved up to district level and along with Jamie Logan ran strongly in the under-13 boys’ race, in which the East District came second. Their times were 11.59 and 11.47 respectively. Thomas Otton (14.25) and Nathan Cox (14.28) had superb runs to scoop gold medals for the East District, finishing in eighth and 10th positions and taking some very impressive scalps in the process.

The under-17 women’s and men’s races form part of some of the international events and both Louise Mercer (fourth in 16.15), Kerry Sandilands (12th in 17.04) and Rowan Marr (18th in 22.05) must have been inspired by the company in the Under-17 races as all three took home silver medals. Both Kerry and Rowan, who had gained district selection last year, shaved considerable margins off last year’s times.

Gavin Bryson achieved district selection and bravely started his race, but had to pull out through illness – the fact that he was there at all was much to his credit. Coaches Neil Renton and Graham Capper were delighted with the day’s performances, justifying “the hard work and dedication put in by all the young athletes during their training sessions.”

Elsewhere, a former Gala Harrier, Katy Anderson, became a county champion in Worcestershire.

Over a hilly and boggy 6km course at Malvern, Katy secured the title.