The Junior Home Internationals: where battle lines are drawn between the 4 great nations of the United Kingdom. This is the definitive weekend in the Junior Orienteering calendar, when one of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is crowned the victor. Consisting of both individual and relay competitions, 24 juniors are sent forth from each nation, this year competing in the challenging Caledonian forests near Pitlochry. 4 Juniors from each of the M/W14-18 classes are selected to make up the team, sourced from every corner of the country. Due to an unfortunate clash between the JHIs and the Junior European Champs, several of the top performers had been called away to Switzerland. This left particularly the English contingent feeling rather devoid of runners, but after some digging the selectors managed to come up with my name, and so I donned my England top fresh from its packet, ready for whatever the Scots threw at us!
Sadly, the sun did set, and as expected, it rose again the next day, rather too early for my liking! The ‘activities’ of the day before had certainly worn us out, and today we faced an even bigger challenge of the relays!
Bonkseid is (surprise, surprise!) also a fairly typical Scottish forest, but a rather beautiful one at that; quite like the previous day, but with far less hill, and far more contour! It was mostly very runnable coniferous forest, with a mix of rock and marshes throughout, making for an exciting relay competition.
From assembly, you could see the final few controls of each leg, making for a tense wait for the duration of each of the 3 legs of the relay. Each of the boys and girls relay made for an exciting start, with the M/W16 runners charging off down the field, plunged straight into the terrain.
After all the excitement of the first leg run through, the next leg was off, with the 14s generally holding onto the positions they had been sent out in, and soon handing over to the 18s to conclude the race. Interestingly, there was very little changing of position after the first leg, with many having relatively clean runs in what was a very runnable and high-visibility area on the whole.
Sadly, despite England holding up a good fight, the performances were not enough to get the better of Scotland, who took a convincing win, with 143 points to England’s 114. All that was left was the prizegiving (which of course wasn’t complete without some bagpiping!), before we commenced the long journey back home for some well deserved sleep!
Especially as it was my first JHIs, the whole weekend was thoroughly enjoyable – the ceilidh, meeting up with friends from all over the UK, and of course the races – all made for a fab weekend away, regardless of the effort required to get there, and reminding me that orienteering if far more than the course.
My thanks of course go to Jeff Butt for organising Team England, and to our team coaches/minibus chauffeurs: Nev Myers, Will Heap, Jacky Dakin, Pete & Jenn Hudd – without their efforts we literally couldn’t have got anywhere!
Results from the event can be seen here.
Photo Credits: Will Heap & Scott Bailey