Scots earn podiums at World School Championships in Orienteering

Last week the World School Championships in Orienteering took place in Otepaa, Estonia. The team had a fantastic week, with some really solid results that bode well for the future, especially as many of the youngsters are in the younger year of the 2-year age category.

Scotland sent a relatively small team of 15 athletes to the event – from the Boys M2 School team, Boys M2 Select team and Girls W2 Select Team, with no older teams from Scotland due to a clash with school exams.

ScotJOS lead coach Jon Musgrave joined the coaching team for the first time this year and has sent the following account of the trip.

World Schools – a novice’s perspective

TI have been to dozens of World cups, world championships and similar races but never to an international school event.  2019 was the year of change – a phone call asking if I would like to attend the World Schools as part of the Scotland coaching team was too interesting an opportunity to overlook.

So, on Sunday morning 30th April I joined Blair and Lorna Young at Edinburgh airport at the ungodly hour of 5:30am with 15 juniors – all of whom seemed much more wide-awake and buzzing than I felt.

Arriving at Tallinn mid morning left plenty of time to visit the old town, earn some money busking (juniors…) and go for a wee training session in a local park.

The following morning we met a bus that took us to Otepää, a small town near Tartu in SE Estonia, that boasts of being Estonia’s number 1 ski resort. We had been allocated a small holiday house next to a small pond (ideal for swimming) with 2 separate apartments each with 4 rooms.

The team visited Estonia’s number 1 ski resort

Tuesday saw us visit the model event with a few controls and the opportunity to check out the forest, mapping and control placement. Everyone seemed to enjoy this and we got our first opportunity to meet and chat with other nations. That afternoon we dressed in kilts and with Alastair playing the pipes made a loud and very public entry to the opening ceremony.

The races during the week consist of a long race and a middle race with a special “friendship relay” on the Saturday. These races give the juniors, especially a younger age category team such as Scotland took this year, an experience of international races with all their special organisational traits.

On the Wednesday the team members experienced their first ever “Quarantine zone” with a local school gym hall and playground being taped off to isolate the runners from any contact with the finish and early starters. The call up from here was 45 minutes before the race, in which time the runners had to cover the 2.7km to the main start point, warming up en-route with a few controls on a small piece of map.

Start times were decided by random selection in 5 start blocks (and on the long race none of our team had the dreaded first start). As soon as our last starter (Charlotte) had exited the quarantine zone I legged it back to the ski arena and the race finish.

Angus Ivory was 4th in the M2 school

Here I found the first few Scottish team finishers who were all satisfied with their performance.  As time passed more finished and despite a lack of results (the online system failed to cope with the demand of 800+ juniors, coaches and families all trying to download results) it became apparent that Scotland had enjoyed a good day. Two podium places (6th in M2 select for Ewan Musgrave and 4th place for Angus Ivory in the M2 school). A well-organised prize-giving was soon over and back to our house for relaxation.

Ewan Musgrave was 6th in M2 select

Thursday was the “cultural day” – spent in Tartu with a visit to the science museum, a great place to lose 600+ children – full of lots of fun, entertaining and educational exhibits and interactive displays. After this there was an “O-game” where teams took a tablet and walked through Tartu to the University visiting various check points on the way and answering questions about Estonian history, culture and sport.

The University sports hall hosted the team cultural session; a chance for teams to set out a stall showing off their nation. Most of these consisted of food and sweets with the Scottish team’s fudge, toffee, tablet, oatcakes and Irn-Bru proving particularly popular!  Each team was given a 5-minute slot to present an aspect of national culture and the Scottish country dancing accompanied by the pipes was a great highlight (not that I am biased!).

Friday was the Middle distance race (though as a team member pointed out, a winning time of less than 30 minutes in the long didn’t bode well for a proper middle race time!). The quarantine area was the same as for the long race except no one was sitting outside today – not with a temperature of 4C and snow flurries blowing through. Once again as soon as the last team member had set off to the start I headed to the arena and found several team members there.  Performances had all been a bit mixed but overall by the end of the day Scotland results were better than the long – a more technical standard of race obviously suiting our technically skilled juniors. Ewan Musgrave again made a podium finish with 4th place.

In the team competition the W2 select team finished in 7th place, the M2 school team in 8th place and the M2 select team in 4th place (beating the English boys by 1 minute over 6 counting races!)

Saturday was the friendship relay – teams of 3 chosen randomly across nations with a mix of age and experience.  The teams are given an hour to decide their route round 49 controls, with 3 common controls where they must meet and punch together.  The trick is to balance the speed and skills of the trio and ensure all controls are visited.  Mainly it is aimed at forcing the juniors to communicate with other nationalities and plan the route together. It was interesting listening into the teams – in virtually all cases the common language for communication is English! The afternoon was free – time for the staff to relax and catch up on sleep and for the juniors to play basketball with a bunch of others from a dozen nations.

The evening saw us travel to a large sports hall where the team prizes were awarded and the closing ceremony took place – with the ISF flag being presented to Serbia, who will host the races in 2 years time. A party then ensued with a famous (!) Estonian pop group playing a high quality set and then recorded music keeping the juniors entertained until late.

The next morning dawned far too early – another 5:30am start to get a bus to the airport and a flight home.

For most of the juniors it was a first experience of racing abroad and for all it was the first chance to experience the big-race feel of opening ceremonies, national flags being paraded, quarantine before race starts and then high profile prize-giving and closing ceremonies. Many have said it was one of the best weeks of their lives – so the event must be doing something right!

I would like to think Blair and Lorna Young for inviting me on the trip and all the juniors for making it such a pleasant and positive experience during the whole week.

Jon Musgrave

Full results can be found here:

Photos and more info can be found here: