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Cambuslang Harriers, since its formation in 1948, has become one of the premier cross country and road running clubs across all age groups in Scotland. We also have a very talented girls and ladies group who now regularly win major team honours.
The first West Cross Country League Match of season 2023-24 was staged at Kilmarnock in mid November. The value of this competition is that it gives athletes resident in the West of Scotland further opportunities to gain race experience on the country and it is also one of the few events in which athletes under 11 can participate. U11 runners Monica Smith, Amelia Otakoya, Niall Smith and Douglas Gallie duly took part as did the trio of U13 girls Brooke Walker, Eve Campbell and Iona Campbell along with U17 Gabriel Murphy. Both women and men ran together in the U20/senior/masters competition with separate results being produced post race. Senior Woman Catriona Bain and masters Nathalie Brohan, club captain Kirsty O’Brien and Erica Christie were well to the fore in their respective age groups. The senior and masters men had the largest Cambuslang representation. Marathon runners Stephen Fitzpatrick and new M40 Iain Murphy led home club debutant triathlete Lewis Andeson, U20 Ross Noble and the M50 trio of Dan O’Connell, Iain Wallace and coach Iain Crawford.
The prestigious Liverpool Cross Country Challenge which incorporates the trials to select athletes for the U20, U23 and senior age groups to represent Great Britain in the European Cross Country Championships always attracts a quality entry. 10 Cambuslang athletes lined up on the day. Stefanie Tucker was making her Scottish international debut on the back of her excellent runs in the Scottish Cross Country Relays and also in the Scottish 4K Championships. Stefanie justified her place by finishing 44th in a top class field. Eve MacKinnon continued her excellent run of form to achieve 57th place. Catriona Bain also confirmed her recent improvement while Rachel Wardrope put in a solid performance. In the senior men’s race Gavin Smith and Callum Tharme acquitted themselves well to secure 64th and 79th spots in a highly competitive event. Earlier in the day first year U13 Ewan Kennedy set the standard for the club when crossing the line in 16th place and was 3rd Scot home. U15 boy Daibhidh Kinnaird, in arguably the best performance of the day from a Cambuslang athlete, crossed the line as 3rd Scottish club runner in 6th position. He was ably supported by his team mates Euan Reid and Rory Barclay who are progressing well under their coach Iain Reid. On the subject of coaches one of Mike Johnston’s coached athletes, Andrew McGill of Glasgow University and Livingston AC, delivered the goods to clinch a place in the UK U20 team for the upcoming European Championships Event.
The final championship competition of 2023, the West District Cross Country Championships, took place at Strathaven in early December. Several heavy frosts leading up to the event had left the ground bone hard. However, overnight snow had helped to provide a slight cushioning. East Kilbride AC deserve the credit for organising the event on behalf of the West District Committee. In addition to winning West individual and team medals the first 10 finishers in all age groups apart from the U20 men and women were guaranteed places in the West District teams for the forthcoming Inter District Championships in January.
In the opening 2 races U13 girl Brooke Walker in 10th spot and 5th placed U13 boy Ewan Kennedy secured their automatic selection. U13 Eve Campbell in her first season of competitive running also showed promise. Under 15 boys Daibhidh Kinnaird, Euan Reid and Angus O’Neil combined well to capture the team silver medals. By way of a bonus Daibhidh’s individual bronze medal and Euan’s 6th place also qualified them for the West team. Zach Seenan and Sam McCarthy had an engaging head to head contest in the U17 men’s race with the outcome only being settled in the final 100M uphill sprint to the line. Zach clinched 6th place with Sam in 7th spot. Amazingly Sam had run the full race with only one spike shoe on having lost a shoe in the scramble at the start. Nevertheless, he was pleased, as was Zach, to have earned selection to the West team. There were also brave runs by Chris Black and Gabriel Murphy who were recovering from heavy colds. For the record the U17 men were 4th team. Zak Povey, Seonaidh McInnes and Finlay Robb packed closely in 5th, 7th and 8th spots to be awarded the U20 men team title. The race to the line between Seonaidh and Finlay was so close that both shared the same time. Coach Colin Stephen was delighted with the effort shown by all 3. Newcomer Joel MacInnes was on hand in 16th place to offer back up if needed. Unfortunately fellow U20 Lewis Roddis was unable to compete due to illness.
In the penultimate race of the day senior woman Eve MacKinnon went out hard from the gun leaving her rivals in her wake. Her relentless pace throughout widened the gap even further and by the finish she was 71 seconds clear. This was probably Eve’s best run since 2013 when she lifted the Scottish U17 Cross Country Bronze Medal. With support from 11th placed Katie Clubb who had come down from the Shetland Isles, the ever improving Catriona Bain and club captain Kirsty O’Brien in 28th and 29th spots the women secured the team silver medals in a close contest between the first and third placed clubs Shettleston Harriers and Glasgow University. Marie Kane in only her 3rd race on the country fared well as did club debutant Zara Higgins. Both Catriona and Marie are progressing well under the guidance of coach Iain Crawford. The indefatigable Erica Christie was the leading W65.
The club fielded 17 athletes in the senior and master men event. Hopes were high that the senior men could wrestle the team trophy back from holders Inverclyde AC and also hold off the challenge from a strong Shettleston squad. As the race unfolded it was clear that either Cambuslang or Shettleston would be the victors and it was the red and whites who prevailed by 8 points with Glasgow University in the bronze medal position. Victory was achieved thanks to the sterling efforts of bronze medallist Gavin Smith, Scottish 1500M bronze medallist Jamie MacKinnon, Scottish Internationalist Hill Runner Alasdair Campbell, Scottish Half Marathon Champion Fraser Stewart, Scottish M35 Internationalist Colin Reilly and former Scottish U20 1500M gold medallist Chris McLew. The senior men top the West Senior Men’s Clubs’ Medal Rankings having amassed 28 gold medals, 12 silver and 5 bronze medals since 1976. Callum Matthews was not far off the 6th counter and he was followed home by M40 Stuart Gibson and fellow M50s Justin Carter and Mark Gallacher. This trio just missed out on the masters team gold medal by one point. Nevertheless, with the late withdrawal of a number of masters through injury and illness Stuart, Justin and Mark had given a good account of themselves. Near veteran athlete Ian Hodge was only a few strides behind Mark. Multi European M65 gold medallist Colin Feechan was the first over 60 to cross the line. Senior men Tom Adams and Lewis Anderson were next to finish ahead of the masters trio of Dan O’Connell, Iain Wallace and Iain Crawford. Dan took a break from his club tent duties with Barnie Gough stepping in for him.
The temperature that weekend was much more appealing in Valencia where thousands of runners including Moira Stewart and Ryan Thomson had gathered for the marathon. Both has set their sights high. For Moira her aim was to get under the stringent women’s 2024 Olympic Marathon qualifying time of 2.26.50 and gain selection to the Czech Republic team. To do so she would need to reduce her personal best time by 2 minutes and 38 seconds. She had come so close to gaining a place in the previous Olympic Games having achieved the qualifying time but 3 other athletes had narrowly bettered her time. Therefore, she was determined to book her place this time. However, her carefully prepared travel plans from Prague to Valencia via Madrid were ruined when she was not allowed to board the last flight from Madrid to Valencia in spite of having a boarding pass. The flight had been overbooked. With the airport closing down for the night she was therefore stranded in Madrid and had to find accommodation for the night in addition to booking a flight the for the next day. When she arrived at her hotel it was too late to buy any food. Not surprisingly she did not get much sleep that night. When she did reach her Valencia hotel the next day she discovered that contrary to her booking her hotel had no dining facilities which caused further distress. Fortunately Moira had another day to try to relax before her race. On the big day she was able to put aside her travel problems and focus on fulfilling her ambition. She positioned herself within a group of women who were also seeking the qualifying time. Moira was uncertain whether she was on course to get the time she required until turning the final corner and seeing the finishing clock. Such was her relief she was immediately sick but was still able to push on over the final few hundred metres to set a life time best of 2.25.36 and to make the Olympic qualifying time by 70 seconds. There was further celebration as she had just set a new Czech Republic national record to add to her half marathon and 10,000 metres track national records. Her mum Mia and dad Eddie, both former Czech Republic and Scottish cross country internationalists, were following the race at home on TV and were anxiously waiting as the clock had now reached 2 hours and 25 minutes when much to their delight she appeared on the screen for the first time. Mission accomplished.
Ryan’s target in only his 2nd marathon was to break the 2.20 barrier. 2 years earlier in London when making his debut at this distance he was on schedule to do so at the halfway point – 68.42. However, shortly afterwards he was forced to slow down due to strained calves and ended up clocking 2.37.23. Naturally he was disappointed with his time. As part of his preparation for Valencia he teamed up with top English marathon runner Phil Sesemann of Leeds AC for altitude training in Fort Romeau and thereafter did another training block with him in Leeds. While there Ryan set a pb of 66.11 when taking 4th place in the Manchester Half Marathon. Unlike Moira, Ryan had no travel issues to contend with. He was accompanied by his mum Carole Anne and dad Charlie who were also former Scottish Internationalists along with his girl friend Holly Morrison who competes for Shettleston Harriers. Ryan’s half marathon split of 68.23 was slightly quicker than his previous split in London and with a 2nd half split of 70.23 he crossed the line in the excellent time of 2.18.46 for a pb of almost 19 minutes. His training partner Phil also set a pb and an Olympic qualifying time of 2.08.48.
On the following weekend Callum Tharme, Jamie MacKinnon and Gavin Smith participated in the Telford 10K which has a reputation for attracting a classy field and for producing fast times. All 3 produced excellent times. Callum’s time of 29.39 was only 5 seconds outside his pb which he had recorded earlier in the season in London. Jamie who has been more at home over 800/1500M clearly demonstrated that he has improved his endurance this year by setting an impressive debut time of 29.58. Gavin in only his second 10K posted a 69 seconds pb of 30.27. He too is in sub 30 minutes shape but 3 consecutive weekends of hard racing had blunted his edge.
The club Xmas handicap was held on the same weekend. Unfortunately the athletes, helpers and spectators had to contend with torrential rain which made the course extremely muddy in certain areas. 33 runners contested the over 15 to masters’ event. Scratch man U20 Zak Povey worked his way through the field to finish first and was presented with the prize of a magnificent large salmon by Bob Burt. Each year Bob brings down the traditional salmon courtesy of Mowi Asa, formerly Marine Harvest Asa. U17 Sam McCarthy posted the 2nd fastest time with U15 Daibhidh the 3rd quickest. Iain Reid and Steven Fitzpatrick were the fastest master and senior men and Kirsty O’Brien and Marie Kane were the corresponding leading females. 12 young athletes participated in their handicap event and in a very close finish U11 Rory Dodds just pipped U13 Brooke Walker by 4 seconds with U11 Finlay Reid providing the 3rd fastest time.
In the closing weeks of 2023 there were several positive news stories concerning members of Cambuslang Harriers. The new Senior Men Scottish 3 x 800M Relay time set by Chris McLew, Gavin Smith and Jamie MacKinnon during the summer was officially ratified.
Club members Kirsty O’Brien and Zach Seenan were declared winners of the female veteran and U20 Men’s National Triathlon Series. While club captain Kirsty is no stranger to individual national triathlon awards it was a new and welcome experience for Zach in his first triathlon season.
Mark Gallacher, the Scottish M50 3000M Steeple Chase Record Holder, was appointed as an ambassador for the Athletics Trust Scotland Charity whose aim is to make running and its benefits accessible to all, no matter one’s background in terms of finance, ethnicity and disability. He will be part of a team who will spread the word of the charity and publicise fund raising activities including the National Running Week.
Mollie Mae Scott was one of 15 young athletes aged 14-23 to be selected to Athletics Trust Scotland Young People’s Forum. The aim of the forum is to give young people a platform and voice in the sport of athletics and how it can have a positive outcome for young people. This is the 2nd phase of the development project and the YPF will continue to look at the retention of young athletes in athletics and mental health in sport for young people.
Club head coach Mike Johnston was awarded the prestigious Ron Pickering Memorial Award for Services to Athletics gifted by the British Athletics Writers’ Association. He first joined Cambuslang Harriers in 1982 and embarked on a coaching course in 1989. While continuing to run he began to concentrate more on the coaching side at club level and also took on voluntary District and National endurance coaching roles. From 2004 he was employed by Scottish Athletics as Endurance Lead until retiring in 2014. However, he still is very active in coaching a number of Cambuslang athletes as well as athletes from different clubs. He has also mentored the present day Cambuslang coaches as they progressed through their coaching course training. Mike has also been involved in coach and team management roles with Scottish Athletics as well as with Team Scotland at the last 4 Commonwealth Games. He is showing no signs of slowing down as he is the current Road and Cross Country Commission Convenor for Scottish Athletics. Mike’s contribution to Scottish Athletics was deservedly recognized earlier in 2017 by Scottish Athletics when he was presented with the Tom Stillie Award which is given annually to someone who has made a significant contribution to the sport in Scotland. His coaching philosophy is summed up as reported by Peter Jardine, Head of Communications at Scottish Athletics. Incidentally Peter’s son Craig is one of the many athletes coached by Mike.
“I just enjoy coaching. I like to see people improve. It doesn’t have to be winning medals or making teams but I like to see people get the most out of athletics and just enjoy the sport. That’s the key thing”.
The year ended on a sad note with the passing of former member Jim Cunningham. Jim was the club captain during season 1956-57 and was also the coach to the junior athletes and a committee member from 1975 to 1980. His son John whose speciality was the 800M also competed for the club during the latter period.
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