The Scottish Juniors returned from the Junior Inter Regional Competition (JIRCs) victorious after a fantastic weekend of orienteering fun. Read on …

The JIRCs see teams of juniors from the 12 British Orienteering regions go to battle, with individual championships on the Saturday and relays on the Sunday. Each team can consist of 4 juniors in each category of M/W 14,16 and 18.

The JIRCs this year were hosted by the North Ireland Orienteering Association and held at Tyrella,
Ballykinler on 23-25 September 2022. The organisers must be commended for their amazing organisation and adaptability. The event had been in planning for the past year only for it to thrown into disarray a week before the event. Everything had been planned around using the MOD base at Tyrella for the weekend as it is adjacent to the area – accommodation would be in the Barracks and the event assembly areas on the ranges. However, with delays to military training due to the Royal Funeral, their booking for the accommodation was no longer available. Luckily Laggan Valley Orienteers had a good relationship with the Secondary School in Newcastle who agreed to us all sleeping in their Assembly Hall and Sports Hall and allowing access to showers. The organisers then had to work out how to get all the juniors to and from the events each day as all the travel plans had been based on the fact that the teams didn’t need transport during the weekend as the areas were adjacent to the accommodation. A timetable of minibuses and coaches was drawn up with military precision and worked fantastically all weekend. So a huge thank you to the organisers and everyone who helped the weekend go so smoothly – organising individuals, relays, accommodation, food and transport for more than 200 juniors orienteers is no mean feat even when things do go to plan.

Setting up the Girl’s “Dorm” Credit: Judy Bell

Tyrella is a challenging area for orienteering on complex sand dunes. With contours mapped at 5 metres areas that appear flat on the map are frequently interrupted by small bumps and depressions, too small to be mapped in detail but sufficiently large to confuse. There was also the physical challenge of leg shredding buckthorn and dense gorse as well as areas of marram grass and heather to impede progress.

The Scottish Juniors headed off from Edinburgh Airport on Friday afternoon – and luckily had no problems with their flights this time. We were some of the first to arrive at the school and helped put up all the camp beds loaned by army for the weekend. There was then much excitement as old friendships with juniors from other regions were renewed and new friendships made, before they were all ushered off to bed – the girls and female coaches in the Assembly Hall and the boys and snorers (sorry male coaches!) in the Sports Hall.

Saturday dawned as a beautiful sunny day, but with a cold sea breeze as we assembled for the Individual Championships. There was of course time for face painting, before everyone made their way to the starts. Then the coaches got the nervous task of waiting for them to return and losing their voices shouting encouragement. There were some fantastic results for the Scottish juniors but the complex terrain did catch a few out – both technically and physically (there were lots of torn leggings and legs thanks to the buckthorn).

There were excellent performances from the whole squad, with 5 of the Scottish juniors on the podium.
W14: Iona Scott 3rd , Megan Brown 4th , Scarlett Kelly 7th , Esme Kelly 9th
W16: Ruth Gooch 2nd , Ellie Darlow 11th , Katie Hensman 17th , Kate McLuckie 21st
W18: Fiona Eades 4th , Daisy McNamara 6th , Catriona Chapman 8th , Iris Macmillan mp
M14: Finlay McLuckie 1st , Finn Duguid 7th , Matthew Inman 18th , Alex Hunt 24th
M16: James Hammond 1st , Sam Hunt 5th , Michael Bishenden 14th , Yann Newey mp
M18: Ewan Musgrave 2nd , Sam Griffin 4th , Jonas Newey 14th , Jamie Goddard 15th

Points are awarded to each region for their top 2 finishers in each category. This scored Scotland an amazing 250 points, which placed us 2nd to the mighty Yorkshire and Humberside Orienteers (YHOA) with 257 points. It was all to play for in the relays!

There was also lots of football and other games to play. As we waited for the final finishers there was a mass game of football started – not sure how many were on each side – and I’m really not sure the players even knew who was in each time. On return to the school the football resumed with ever changing teams depending on who was in the shower queue!

In case anyone had any energy left there was then a ceilidh in the evening. All the boys beds were carried out of the Sports Hall and the ceilidh swung into action. The band and the caller were fantastic ensuring there was much hilarity and fun. There was a brief pause in the middle to draw breath for the prize giving before the dancing resumed.

The Ceilidh in full swing Credit: Judy Bell

Another sunny day dawned for the relays and time for the serious war paint to go with the secret weapon of the go-faster Scotland relay tops!

War paint on and the 16s are ready for the 1st leg of the relays Credit: Judy Bell

The relays consist of a boys relay of a 16, 14 and 18 and a girls with the same order. The M16s led off the 1st relay followed 10 minutes later by the W16’s. There was no spectator control, but a radio control was able to give some advance warning. There was great excitement in the Scottish camp as James Hammond arrived back first and almost caught out the M14s who were waiting. Shortly after Michael Bishenden and Sam Hunt fought each other down the run in 5th and 6th to hand over to Matthew and Finn. There was fantastic running from the M14s with Finlay returning to hand over to Ewan 1st , followed by Finn who caught Sam Griffin unaware resulting in a mad scramble into the changeover pen to head off in 2nd place for the final leg of the boys relay. Ewan and Sam then battled round the course with Sam catching and overtaking Ewan to gain the win for his team and Ewan running in 33 seconds later to take 2nd place. Maximum points in the boys relays!

Ewen and Sam celebrate! Credit: Judy Bell

Meanwhile the girls were also having a fantastic relay with Ruth Gooch coming in 2nd to hand over to Scarlett Kelly who came back 1st from leg 2 to hand over to Iris McMillan on leg 3, closely followed by Anna Todd from YHOA who handed over to Immy Pieters. Immy and Iris are great friends and adversaries and they battled it out the whole way round their course, with the relays decided at the last control, and Iris taking the victory by 1 second! Two teams from each region count towards the relay scores and Kate, Ellie and Daisy had a great run and came in 6th.

Iris and Immy – friends and rivals! Credit: Judy Bell

There was fantastic racing and results from all 8 of the Scottish relay teams – and what we think may be a record for the Scottish juniors not one single miss-punch in the relays!

It was then time for prize giving – and lots of silverware for the Scots – 2nd Overall Individual, Overall Relay Winners, 1st Overall Boys (individual and relay combined), 2nd Overall Girls, and 1st Overall and winners of the JIRCs 2022!!

The most fantastic thing about the weekend was the team spirit of the juniors as they suppoted each other and celebrated each other’s successes. The whole event is as much about sportsmanship, team spirit and friendship as it is about medals, and the Scottish juniors did us proud on all fronts. Thank you to all the team and to Kate Darlow and Steve Scott who were fantastic helpers for the weekend.

(P.S. We’ve sent some of the ScotJOS facepaint to the Scottish Team for the VHIs next weekend and look forward to seeing their war paint)

Credit: Judy Bell