JIRCS 2007

Junior Inter-Regional Championships, 23rd/24th June, 2007

The morning started early, and in no time at all we were on the minibus, and after a catch-up with the people who were on it (as well as a catch-up with lost sleep), the final details and a couple of blank maps were passed around for us to look at. We were heading for Malham and Gordale, in North Yorkshire, for the individual competition of the JIRCs.

Nearly there, and we stopped to meet up with the other minibuses and the rest of the squad. Always a great thing about junior weekends; all the juniors are there (fairly obvious, really), and it was good to see everyone, plus a few new. Once we were all together, we were treated to a quick team building (/making the team look like idiots) exercise, and a pep-talk from Jon Carberry. This managed to get everybody’s minds a bit more focused on the day’s race, a very good thing considering it wasn’t that far off.

Looking around, the area was definitely fast and open. Scarily open, in fact; a lot of controls could be seen just from the minibuses, and the fear of embarrassment following any slip-ups on these controls was felt by many. A couple of the large areas of limestone could also be seen, promising the need for some fancy footwork.

I had one of the last starts of the day, so was waiting around for some time before my run. Mixed stories came in with finishers; missed punches, rubbish runs due to slight errors, quite a few “peh, it was ok”s, and a couple of blinders. “Interesting” was the most common comment though. And at about half two, I set out for my own run. After a pretty mean slope to the start kite, the area opened up, and looking at the map as well it became obvious that a lot of the route plans would be simply “sprint hard in THAT direction”. I liked the openness, both because of the speed that could be built over it, and because of being in sight of other runners. The two spectator controls were a good boost (well, I thought so); being forced to run even harder, and at the same time to read the map even more carefully to save from severe embarrassment.

The results showed that minor mistakes or holding back at all could have a big effect; Duncan Birtwistle, Peter Hodkinson and Kris Jones were all within 31 seconds of each other in the top 3 (Duncan with the winning time of 32:22; 5.1 minute kilometres(!), the fastest speed of the day), and Matt Halliday only a minute behind them. I was beaten to 9th by 2 seconds, which was slightly annoying. Great course though; enjoyed all of it.

The M14 race was similar, with Peter Bray of Scotland edging 35 seconds over Mike Beasant of the North West for top spot. The other 4 races were also close, though each had clear winners. Hector Haines had a very clean run, winning the M18 race by four minutes. Charlotte Watson, a fairly recent addition to the North West squad, had a great run to win the W14 course by four and a half minutes, while Mairead Rocke won W16 for the East Midlands by two, and Anne Edwards was two minutes clear on W18.

The evening went pretty quickly. In a choice between footy outside, or being lazy and lying about talking inside, the second won for me. So I can’t say who won that, sorry (though I’m guessing the North West. Obvious, really). At 8:30 was the prize giving for the day, and I’d say that the exam room it was held in hadn’t heard such screams in a long time, as names were announced and called up to the podium. This was the 1st time I heard team results after the races, and it was dead tight at the top; Yorkshire led the Scots by only 4 points (that’s 2 places), and the North West was close behind in 3rd with 14 points fewer. The relays the next day were going to be crucial!

Beds that night were the floors of classrooms. A new experience; I’ve slept while on chairs and desks in English rooms before, but never on the floor in a sleeping bag.

The morning included breakfast, packing, and a bit of rain. As the relays came closer, minds began to be switched onto it. Another short ride in the minibus brought us to a dewy field, and the completely normal sight and sound of a woman screaming as she demonstrated the start/ changeover. There wasn’t long before the relays started, so we pitched the tent and all the M16 boys got warmed up, ready, and walked to the start line. As usual, atmosphere on the line was electric; everyone awake, talking, and up for the run (though with the typical hint of “I’m gonna win, not you!” in those ever-so friendly eyes).

Ready, set, bang, running, opening map, more running. That’s basically the next few seconds. Most stuck close together for the first section, with Duncan Birtwistle setting the pace up the hills. Some unexpected gaffling on the 5th control split everyone up. Duncan came in 1st for YHOA, with 4 other runners in the next 21 seconds- though it was still insanely close, with about the 1st 20 runners within two minutes of each other! It was up to the M14s now.

Quick paragraph for Tom Fellbaum here. After finishing, I looked around for the other three North West teams but couldn’t see Tom, who I’d expected to come in fairly soon after me. I soon heard that he hadn’t actually reached the 1st control. Having hit a very slippy patch on a small bridge, he’d fallen and injured himself, then limped up the hill a bit before stopping to wait for help. An ambulance quickly came for him, while stories went around everyone else of head injuries, broken ankles, broken legs, torn ligaments, etc. Luckily it “only” needed a few stitches, and he packed himself off to Lagganlia only a few weeks later.

The closeness really did affect the 2nd leg runners; Yorkshire was knocked down to 15th, while Peter Bray of Scotland had pulled up from 23rd to 1st! Then, M18s shook it up even more. Kris Jones ran in 1st, though had sadly mispunched. Hector came in next, claiming the win for Yorkshire having reclaimed the lost 14 places (overtaking Jack Wood, also Yorkshire, just before the run-in, who came in second). Scotland got 3rd place.

Meanwhile, the girls were having their own pretty intense race. Alice Leake, Abi Longhurst and Julia Blomquist all finished the 1st leg within 12 seconds, with 9 more in the next minute and half. It was Evie Aitken of SOA (4th on 1st leg) who came back 1st on the 2nd leg, then Hollie Orr had a great run, keeping that 1st place from Yorkshire (who’s come in 1st, 2nd, 2nd) by only a few yards.

That meant that Yorkshire managed to hold on to their overall top spot, to win the trophy for the third year in a row, and on their own turf. Scotland came a pretty close second (their 8th consecutive one. Maybe next year, eh?), both of them miles in front of anyone else. Next came the North East, their 1st time ever in the top 3, having knocked the North West into 4th by just 2 points!!

Thanks to Yorkshire for staging the weekend, and to anybody else who helped. Great areas, great runs, great weekend, great JIRCs.

By Elliot Malkin