On Friday 22nd February, more than 300 school children descended on Wilton Lodge Park to take part in the annual Cross Country races. The Teviotdale Harriers event saw 3 races take place over the course of the morning with races for P6 and P7 pupils followed by a combined race for the S1 and S2 writes Euan Welsh.
The first race to get underway was the P6 and P7 girls race and the race was intensely fought for from start to finish. 132 girls from the 7 primary schools within the Hawick cluster lined up and after a fast start and some runners sprinting into a lead it was Drumlanrig pupil Maddi Patterson who controlled the race in the early stages. As the leaders approached half way, Carla Bonini and Ellie Benstead had arrived alongside Patterson and the trio would push each other over the next 1/4 mile, however it was here that having to set the pace of the race would take its toll on Patterson and the other two would build up a lead on the rest of the competitors.
Turning for home, it was a two horse race with Benstead and Bonini, both of Trinity, fighting it out right until the end where Carla Bonini would use the last of her energy to take the title in 8:06. Ellie Benstead made it a Trinity one-two with her impressive time of 8:12, and Chelsey McCuaig of Drumlanrig completed the podium in a time of 8:22.
For the girls’ team trophy, Drumlanrig emerged victorious with Chelsey McCuiag (3rd), Maddi Patterson (4th), Erin Landels (7th), Allie Carmichael (9th) and Chloe Inglis (19th) securing the Westender’s 41 points, with Trinity (73 points) second and Wilton (75 points) third.
Next up was the P6 and P7 boys and 115 pupils lined up to tackle the 1850m course. Once again there were some rather eager participants who went all out over the first hundred metres but they soon ran out of gas and the suspected favourites for the title settled into a rhythm at the front of the race.
Louis Bonini was a hot favourite for the gold after he finished second in the race last year, Charles McKay has been in good form for Teviotdale Harriers this season and is known for his very determined attitude and despite having to run a little further than the 90m and 200m that he is used to on the Border Games circuit, Connor McLeod would certainly be up for the challenge after a good run 12 months previous.
These three would run side-by-side over the middle part of the course and with every stride widened the gap between them and the chasing pack. Going round the green hut, with only 700m to go, it seemed highly likely that it would be these three who would take the medals but who would take what colour was still very much up in air. It was at this stage that the distance seemed to get the better of McLeod and it allowed Bonini and McKay to head into the home straight with just each other standing in their way.
McKay upped the pace just a little at the turn for home and although it was matched by Bonini to begin with, his race was run and Charles McKay, representing Burnfoot would sprint to victory in 7:31. Louis Bonini of Trinity could not match his sisters efforts in the previous race but like last year ran a very gutsy race to take second in 7:38 and despite falling off the leaders in the latter stages, Connor McLeod held on to take the bronze for Trinity in 7:47.
Trinity would take the boys’ team trophy with Louis Bonini (2nd), Connor McLeod (3rd), Harry Weir (7th), Shay Farmer (11th) and Shaun Chapman (25th) giving them 48 points, 10 points better than Drumlanrig (58 points) in second and Denholm (67 points) in third.
The trophy for overall Champion School was secured by Drumlanrig (99 points), with Trinity (121 points) taking the silver position and Denholm (209 points) completing the podium.
In the final race of the day, 96 S1 and S2 girls and boys from the high school took to the start line under race starter Barty Yule’s orders. The start was messy with all 96 fighting for their position, some more ferociously than others but after the hectic situation of the opening 100m, the expected performers of Harriers runners Irvine and Robbie Welsh and Ava Hughes had worked hard to catch and pass prize winning sprinter Ryan McMichan.
Although Hughes was the first girl by quite some distance over the opening half mile, Rhys Elliot, who had achieved second place when in P7 was within striking distance of the Welsh brothers who were happily pushing each other on and working off one another and with every stride they took, they were increasing the gap between themselves and any other challengers.
As the race carried on, Hughes looked evermore dominant as the leading girl and powered on through the middle stages of the race and looked very determined to go on and win the Schools Cross-Country race for the third time in a row having won the P6 and P7 race in 2017 and 2018.
Likewise, Irvine Welsh was bidding for his third consecutive win over this course and distance and into the last few hundred metres looked set to do so as he started to increase the gap between himself and his brother. Irvine continued to stride out and would glide to victory with professionalism and class in a superb time of 6:59. Older brother Robbie roared him home and ran a good race himself, completing the Welsh one-two in a time of 7:10. Rhys Elliot had done well to stay within touching distance of the Welsh brothers but was unable to compete with their skilled running in the long run in, but completed the podium in a respectable 7:25. As Hughes entered the final third of the race, fellow first year Chelsea Atkins had clearly worked hard throughout the race to catch Hughes up but the latter is known for her strong finishes in races and, determined to get her hat-trick, dominated Atkins in the final 100m where her well trained mind knew when to make her burst for the line and took the title in 8:03. Atkins took silver with a hard earned time of 8:07 and Lexie Keown took bronze in 8:48.