One of the aims of young athletes as they progress through the junior age groups is to qualify to represent Scottish Schools at the SIAB Cross Country International. The main qualifying event for SIAB in Scotland is the Scottish Schools races that took place in the grounds of Hopetoun House last month, with discretionary places available for those that display the running standard being asked.
After a two year Covid-enforced break, the international event was back on Saturday 26 March at the stunning countryside location of Pembrey Country Park in Wales. Selected to represent Scottish Schools from East Lothian were Corey Campbell (George Heriots), Aidan Page (Dunbar Grammar) and Maja Thomson (North Berwick Law). All three train together with the Endurance Squad at Team East Lothian and are coached by Alister Russell.
Although it was a cloudless blue sky for the entire day, with no mud underfoot, the course was still unforgiving. Much of it was sand-based, uphill and uneven, providing a challenging terrain for the runners. This is what they train for though, and the races were an incredibly high standard with the athletes relishing the opportunity to represent their country and race amidst such a quality field.
Maja Thomson participated in the Inter Girls 4000m race and had an extremely good run to finish well up the field in 13th place. Although England secured top team spot, Scotland had a strong squad racing to pick up the silver team prize. Thomson ran the 4,000m in a very decent 16m 10s and was second Scot home.
The Inter Boys 6000m went off at breakneck speed, with not much let up for the duration of the race. As the race commentator noted, these 15 year olds were running almost the pace of the elite athletes doing the Cardiff Half Marathon the following day!
Corey Campbell showed both his speed and endurance, managing an all-out sprint to the finish line after a gruelling 6k. He ran 20m 47s to finish in a fantastic fourth position overall, and first Scot home. Aidan Page put in a superb effort to maintain his pace and pick up some places in the latter stages to finish sixth Scot home and 20th overall in a time of 22m 19s. Along with some great running from fellow Scots, Campbell and Page contributed to a Scottish Schools team bronze medal.
As noted by Gerald Davies, Chairman of the Welsh Schools Athletics Association: “the event is especially important to those who are representing their country for the first time, it is a massive honour to be proud of, and hopefully a stepping stone to future representation and honours…and perhaps more importantly the event is a ‘beacon of hope’ in these dark and troubled times.
The trio from Team East Lothian were proud to represent Scottish Schools, earn themselves a Scottish vest, and were each rewarded with spot on the podium.