Scotland take victory at 2023 Senior Home Internationals – just!
This year the Senior Home International was held in South Wales, with the individual race on Merthyr Common and the relay on Clydach Terrace.
The temperature for the individual race reached about 30 degrees, and there was absolutely no shade on the open hillside. Winning times were long, partly due to the high temperatures, with leading times over 90 minutes for W21 and 100 minutes for M21. Scotland managed to win M21 (with Graham Gristwood and Matt Gooch coming 1st and 2nd) and W20 (with Isobel Howard, Daisy May MacNamara, and Fiona Eades taking the top 3 positions), and come second in W21 and M20 (with a silver medal for James Hammond) which resulted in a tie between Scotland and England on points (top 4 out of 6 seniors and top 2 out of 3 juniors count towards the scoring). To decide the winner of the individual day the outcome was decided on countback, with firstly the relative positions of 5th place seniors and 3rd place juniors considered (also a tie), and then finally the relative positions of 6th place seniors – which Scotland marginally won! This means that all 18 members of the team had crucial contributions to the victory.
Clydach Terrace was used for the JK middle race in 2022, so almost all of the team had a good idea of what to expect. There were big swings in the women’s race, with Scotland having a commanding position going into the last leg, but unfortunately the leading England team passed the first Scottish team towards the end to take the victory, with the team of Kirstin Maxwell, Isobel Howard and Niamh Hunter taking the silver. The second Scotland team of Kirsten Strain, Katrina McLeod and Fiona Eades were also in the fight for second place going out into the last leg, and were narrowly beaten by the 2nd England team, meaning that England had 1st and 3rd scoring teams, and Scotland 2nd and 4th. The men’s race was a much tighter battle, with 4 teams starting within a few seconds on last leg, and 3 teams finishing within 8 seconds at the end, with Graham Gristwood (in a team with Mark Nixon and James Hammond) winning the sprint, and Matthew Gooch in 3rd (in a team with Adam Barrie and Aidan Smith) close behind. But it was also a controversial affair as it became apparent that the 2nd and 3rd placed teams, as well as 2 other teams, had mispunched on controls which were sited too close to each other (well within the allowed 30m). With the best England team, 2 Scottish teams, and a Welsh team disqualified, there was a lot of discussion about what should be done between the controller and the team managers. Options were to leave the results as they stood (which would have lead to protests from the disqualified teams and likely voiding of the day), void only the men’s race (in which case England would win overall), void both the relays (in which case Scotland would win overall), or (as the controller suggested) reinstate the 4 runners who were disqualified on these too close controls. There was no good solution, but the 4 team managers all agreed that the least bad option was reinstatement in order to at least get a result from the day. Of course this option was not universally well received, but it meant that there could at least be some relay results and an overall winner. As it happened, this meant that the relay day was also tied, with England and Scotland each having one 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place! However, taking into account the 3rd teams, England were ahead in both relays and took the win on countback.
With a tie on points in the individual (Scotland winning on countback), and a tie on points in the relay (England winning on countback), nobody really had any idea what the overall result would be, and the England and Scotland management both consulted the rules to see what the final outcome should be.
In the event of an overall tie, first, the team with the most class wins (individual and relay combined) wins – but England and Scotland won 3 each. Secondly, the team with the most individual wins takes it, but that was a tie too. Thirdly, team second places are considered – which was a tie, and then finally individual second places broke the deadlock, with Scotland taking 3 out of the 4 individual silver medals! It really couldn’t have been much closer, with all 18 runners having crucial contributions both days.
Of course the drama of the disputed relay results might taint the result slightly, but nonetheless this was a great team effort from all the runners, and a fun weekend organised by the Welsh.