2015: The Year of the ScotJOS

By Tam “Sprint King” Wilson

As I’m sure just about the entire orienteering world knows by now, Maureen and Bill are stepping down as heads of the Scottish Junior Squad at the end of the year, so it fell to the squad to provide a suitable leaving present. A good present would be hard to find, but the JHIs and JIRCs presented a unique opportunity. Whereas vouchers and wine will come and go, the glory from a victory over the English is a gift that one can treasure for a lifetime, and winning would be the only suitable send off.

It was with these thoughts in our heads that the Scottish JIRCs team set off one Friday in late September and travelled the long distance down to the Midlands, where the competition was being held this year, with only a brief stopover in the Ironbridge Youth Hostel. The individual was on the Saturday, held on Breton Spurs (site of the British Middle Champs in 2014), and our ridiculously early start that morning allowed us to get there at least three quarters of an hour before any other team. This however proved to be all part of Maureen’s master plan as there was entertainment provided by the army at the event, in the form of a climbing wall. This allowed for some pretty competitive racing up and down, which was strictly for team building purposes only.

Face paintingAll too soon it was race o’clock and after the compulsory Scotland face painting, the team sprang into action like a poorly-oiled machine. The weather was good and the area was fast, although there was a lot of bracken and brambles in places, but this obviously suited our team as it quickly became clear that Scotland had smashed it with at least one Scot on every podium, namely Alastair “Chapstick” Chapman 3rd on M14, Jake Chapman 1st on M16, Tom Lines 3rd on M16, Sasha Chepelin 1st on M18, Lizzie Stansfield 1st on W14, Eilidh Campbell 2nd on W14, Grace Molloy 1st on W16 and Jenny Ricketts 3rd on W18. The team was in high spirits, with not even the prospect of sleeping on a cold, hard gym floor able to bring them down. We were sitting on an impressive 265 points, with our nearest ‘rivals’ being the North West squad on 211, a whole 54 points behind.

Our humble abode for the weekend was the Weston Road Academy in Stafford, and after a lovely communal shower, it was time for the compulsory game of football: England versus everyone else. All I can say is that unfortunately our mad orienteering skills don’t transfer well onto the pitch. Dinner was catered by O Nosh, and was both plentiful and highly tasty, before the main entertainment for the evening: the Pool A match of the Rugby World Cup of England vs Wales, being shown on a projector in the main hall. This was highly entertaining with English athletes and coaches alike groaning and crying out as the Welsh boys in red gave them a good beating. Feeling satisfied with a productive day of winning, the team headed to bed shortly after and everyone went straight to sleep, with absolutely no talking first or messing about at all.

At 6:30 the next morning, alarms went off and the whole team leapt into action and immediately got ready. The relays were on Oldacre Valley, another fast area that was mainly open, although again with a few tough going sections. The mist was still low as the 16s set off, with Sasha blaring The Proclaimers in a last attempt to stir their patriotic spirt. The girls’ relay was a close fought affair with the W16s all coming in the top 8. This was followed by good runs from the W14s, improving on this and allowing the last leg runners (three of which were W16s running up) to cruise in for 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th place.

JIRC 2015 M16sHowever, it was the boys’ relay that proved to be the crown jewel in an already jewel -filled crown. The M16s all put in top notch performances and all four returned in the top five. At this point the real race was on; not for relay 1st and 2nd, but for the fabled 1, 2, 3, 4 finish - the ultimate relay dream. The M14s kept the dream alive by sending out Sasha and Dan Stansfield with a large lead. The 3rd and 4th teams, anchored by Andrew Barr and myself - Tam “Orienteering God” Wilson - respectively went out in 5th and 6th, but the gap was still catchable. The last leg was an orienteering race at its finest. Sasha and Dan went round together having a nice chat and easily returned in 1st and 2nd, meaning the JIRCs was returning to Scotland; all that was left was to race for pride. Andrew quickly dropped me after a couple of incredibly stupid mistakes, almost causing me to drop into 7th, but after passing Dan and Sasha, on a bit where the course looped round, I was re-motivated and ready to go. I powered round and caught 4th and 5th just as we went through the spectator control, but a stupid mistake in the last loop put me and three good English teams right together with three controls to go. Very careful and very fast orienteering gave me an advantage of a second or two at the last control with 200m of run-in to go. It had all come down to this.

Never before have I run so fast on an orienteering course. The crowd was deafening but you couldn’t hear anything that was being said. However, just like in some sort of film, just as I was about to give in, I’m sure I could hear Dan’s voice over the noise shouting “He’s going to get caught”. “Hell, no” I thought, and pushed on for the glory of the Scottish domination. I did it, just, and Scotland had completely wiped the floor in the boys’ relays.

In fact Scotland had completely wiped the floor in general. We finished on 554 points, almost 100 ahead of 2nd, the biggest ever score, and biggest ever winning margin. If the two non-counting Scottish runners/relay teams from each class were their own team, they would have been the 2nd top region, and if there had been four counters per region, Scotland would have still won against all the other regions combined. Another successful weekend in the bag.

However, all of this was only the warm-up act for what is the main course of the ScotJOS calendar: the Junior Home Internationals. Being held in Northern Ireland this year, with both days on Magilligan Dunes, they proved to be even more of a trek away then the JIRCs, involving a ferry and pretty much a whole day of travel on the Friday. Accommodation was in the army camp right in the middle of the map, and was pretty superior for orienteering accommodation. After getting there, with definitely no driving issues involving a level crossing, we overwhelmed the quiet local fish and chip shop with two minibuses of hungry athletes. We decided an early night was in order but after finally getting the M14s to calm down, the Welsh down the corridor began to get rowdy, but a few stern words for Captain Sasha sent them running.

JHI 2015 Winning TeamThe next morning we awoke to horizontal rain, and although this did die off a bit by the first start, it was still pretty nasty weather all day. The area was a classic sand dune area with a lot of spiky bushes and spiky grass, meaning legs of steel were needed to quickly pass through the terrain. Luckily ScotJOS are a hardened group of youngsters and as a team we got a lot of good performances in, putting us on 71 points, only 8 behind England. Podium places came from Ali Chapman 3rd on M14, Jake Chapman 1st on M16, Sasha Chepelin 1st on M18, Daniel Stansfield 3rd on M18, Lizzie Stansfield 1st on W14, Grace Molloy 2nd on W16 and Emma Wilson 3rd on W16.

After lunch and a quick shower back at the army camp, it was straight out to do a bit of tourism. First stop was the world famous Giant’s Causeway, which everyone seemed pretty impressed by. Even the M18s had fun despite standing too close to the edge and getting soaked by a huge wave. Twice. The next stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge - a particularly impressive rope bridge out to a small, rocky island. However, just as we got to the crossing, we had to shelter as a strong wind and load of rain hit, and we had to wait for that to pass as the bridge was too dangerous. In doing so we did see some dolphins and a pretty good rainbow, so it was still an enjoyable trip.

After dinner, back at the accommodation, was the prize-giving (where a particular highlight of mine was seeing the English coaches have to tell their team to make some noise and sound excited when there was an English runner on the podium - not an issue for the Scottish team), followed by the compulsory JHI ceilidh, and some entertainment laid on by the army in the form of shooting things.

What followed was a fun few hours of pretty much running the ceilidh, as the women running it seemed only to know about two Irish dances, so we took it upon ourselves to educate the masses. This culminated in a huge Strip the Willow, where I think even many of the English begrudgingly had fun. Interspersed in this was a go with a BB gun on a shooting range and a team laser shooting game that involved hitting as many squirrels as possible. Scarily, this revealed that the Scottish W14s are a very good shot.

Then next morning was, as usual, another early start. A motivational speech from Sasha and myself set out clearly what had be done to retain the title, and how very achievable it was if everybody did their part. The relays began in the usual style with all the W16s stampeding out the field, with the M16s going a few minutes later, followed by a long period of waiting nervously, hoping the first body to appear on the hills at the end of the run-in was in blue.

It was. A stormer from Grace Molloy meant she returned with a lead of over a minute. Then came the pack with the Scots in 3rd, 7th and 8th. The W14s went out and did the job of any good 2nd leg - keep in the running and don’t mispunch - so after 2 legs the standings were Scotland, England, Scotland, England. Very much all to play for, with just one leg to go. Jenny Ricketts was out on the leading team, with the English only around 50 seconds behind. It was a close race and valiant effort by the English team, yet ultimately they couldn’t cope under the pressure and cracked, leaving Jenny with all the glory and a gold medal in the bank. Clare Stansfield, running up as a W18, came in shortly after, securing the bronze after beating off many older runners. All that remained was for the boys’ teams to at least draw on points for Scotland to take home the title.

JHI 2015 1st Men's RelaysComing off the back of such a monumental JIRCs win was difficult, but the M16 lads clearly know no fear and returned in this order: Scotland, Scotland, gap, England, big gap, Scotland, England, Scotland, gap, England, England. The other M18s and I would like to take credit for the relay results, but to be honest, all the hard work was done by the first two legs and we ended up just doing a victory lap. The first two Scottish teams came back with a massive lead of over 4 minutes to the next English team. This allowed Sasha and Dan to once again go round together, chatting about control codes, racing and just life in general, meaning that even with Dan pretty much walking near the end, after getting an inch-long thorn in his shin, the 1st and 2nd places were in the bag. Scotland had retained the JHIs. As put by one of the English coaches, “Last year England lost the JHIs, this year Scotland won it”.

It’s worth noting that the 3rd and 4th teams to go out on last leg were also Scotland teams, allowing Andrew and me to run round together, taking it fast but avoiding mistakes. We did get caught near the end by English team 1, but a sneaky route to the penultimate control allowed me to cruise in for 3rd, with Andrew coming in in 5th. Or so I thought, except my 2nd leg runner can’t check a three digit number against another three digit number and tell they’re the same, so I was disqualified and cruelly robbed of my bronze.

However the pain was fleeting, as Scotland had won the JHIs for only the 3rd time ever, and the first time off Scottish soil, which definitely made the long trip home pass much faster. As a last year M18, there could not be a better way to finish my ScotJOS career, nor could we have done more for the leaving of our coaches. The might of the Scottish team in both competitions is pretty astounding, and on behalf of all the leaving 18s, I’d really like to thank the whole squad for their efforts and Maureen and Bill for everything they’ve done over the years for the squad.

 

Expertly written by Tam “Sprint King” Wilson 

Photo of authorLast edited: 17th Nov 15
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