Nairn Links welcomed athletes from across the North as the XC season returned with the North District XC Relays. The undulating, grassy course held firm underfoot despite some early rain with juniors tackling 2 loops (2.6km) and seniors 3 (4km).
32 MRR’s took part, spread across 9 teams. Unfortunately, due to illness, our girls team didn’t make the start line so it was our 2 boys teams that led the way. U13s Darren Green and Alasdair Jenkins ran strongly, handing over to Connor Cameron and Lewis Paterson for the U15 leg. Both runners pushed hard as the weather brightened, handing over to Rhys Cantlie and Robert Cadmore for the final leg (U17s). With strong teams from Inverness and Ross County battling it out for the medals, Rhys and Robert ran well to bring their teams home. Good experience for our juniors as most were competing at the relays for the 1st time. Well done boys.
The Mens and Women’s Races were combined for a 12.40pm start. MRR were the best represented Club with 4 Male and 3 Female teams raring to go. It was great to meet up again with the runners from other Clubs, bringing a welcome sense of fun and normality after a difficult 18 months for our sport. Medals were definitely up for grabs as the races looked wide open. Motivated by our juniors, there is no doubt that everyone gave 100% over the 4k course. In the Mens Race, Kenny Wilson led the way, handing over to his brother, James, to hold the lead at the end of leg 2. Gareth Jenkins was overhauled and passed in leg 3 by an Inverness Harriers athlete and, despite Ewan Davidson’s best efforts to close the gap, Inverness Harriers were too strong and the team had to settle for Silver. The best team won but it was an honest defence of our title.
There was a real tussle going on in Leg 1 between Stephen Carmichael, Martin Bain and Colin Green with little to separate them as they handed over to their respective teammates, John Anderson, Willie Stewart and Euan Cantlie. It’s always difficult to know exactly where you are placed against other teams, particularly the Vets, so every ounce of effort is required. Our 3rd Leg runners of Andrew Clark, Graham Stephen and Simon Macdonald faced challenging runs as things can get quite isolated by then but they all ran strongly to give the last leg runners the best chance to place as highly as possible. With Andrew Rogan finishing strongly, followed by dad, Paul, and Keith Stewart overhauling the Forres team, Gold plus one other Vets Team Medal looked highly likely but we await confirmation from the official results.
In the Ladies Race, it looked like a 3 way battle between MRR, Forres and Kintore for the medals, with our Vets team in the mix for a medal also. Susan McNairney ran a very strong leg to place us between Kintore and Forres before handing over to Zoey Gordon. With Kintore looking strong, Zoey consolidated 2nd place, handing over to Louise Cartmell to bring home a Silver medal for the team.
Grace Jenkins and Amanda Strang led out their respective teams for Leg 1 with Kayleigh Edwards also running as a non-competing athlete. Debbie Main and Elspeth Jenkins ran strongly over leg 2. Again, it’s difficult to know exact placings so a best effort is required from each runner. It was Karen Norvell and Linda Smith who brought the teams home and a possible Vets medal for Amanda, Elspeth and Karen still to be confirmed.
Well done to all our runners and supporters. The Relays are always a great event and these champs were particularly special as we make a welcome return to racing so a huge thank you to Carolyn, Amanda and Colin for assembling our teams. Hopefully we will see many more MRRs competing throughout the cross country season. Finally, to all the organisers, marshalls and officials without whom these events simply wouldn’t happen – well done and thank you.
Report by: Gareth Jenkins