Junior European Cup (JEC) Relay on the sloping forest of Vessaux saw the Scandinavians regain their pre-eminent status, as they dominated proceedings in both the Men's and Women's classes, with 6 of the top 7 places in the Women's race and 4 of the top 5 positions in the Men's race taken by Norway, Sweden and Finland, with only Switzerland and home nation, France, making it onto the podium to break this overall hold. Great Britain had hopes of repeating their relay successes from the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC), but unfortunately they couldn't manage to repeat that record-breaking performance on the day.
The Women's first team were led out once again very ably by Megan Keith, who came back in 6th and just off the back of the main pack, setting up Eilidh Campbell to race in a strong position. However, a tricky first gaffle led to a two minute time loss and it was then just a case of damage limitation.
Eilidh said afterwards: "I was the only one of the lead pack to get that control and it was a vague ruin on the edge of a slope, which was difficult to spot and although I hit the right height, I just couldn't spot the feature at all. Finally, I managed to find it, but by then the front girls had gone away from me. After that, the navigation was solid and I was really happy with the rest of the run."
Handing over to Grace in 16th place, it was a case of trying to claw back as many places as possible and she did this, with only one blip on the first control costing some time, to haul the team back up to 12th in the overall standings and 7th nation on the day. The second team of Tara Schwarze-Chintapatla, Niamh Hunter and Alice Wilson finished in 21st place (6th nation of the second teams), with Niamh and Alice both gaining places after Tara had taken a nasty fall in the early part of the race and lost a significant amount of time because of this.
The Men's first team were also led out solidly by Flurry Grierson, running well against some boys who were up to three years his senior, and he managed to stay with the second group and hand over in 15th, only 40 seconds back from the lead runner. Zac Hudd then had one of his best runs of the weekend, with almost no mistakes of any significance to hand over to Alastair Thomas in 12th, and less than one and a half minutes back on the leader, who was attempting to repeat his 3rd leg position from the JWOC podium team. A slight miss early on was the only error and he then ran solidly to bring the team home in 11th and 6th nation overall.
Speaking afterwards, Alastair said: "I think we can take a lot of confidence as a team from that run, as many of the leading Scandinavians will be moving up into the seniors after this race and we should be well placed to perform well at JWOC next year, all being well!".
The second team of David Bunn, Peter Molloy and Matthew Gooch, all still M18's, were reasonably satisfied with their runs, coming home in 27th (again, 6th nation of 2nd teams).
Photo credits: Rona Lindsay
The squad now move into a period of rest and recovery, at the end of a long season, which brought much success to Team GB. They hope to recharge their batteries, and return fresh in the winter, as they begin their base training for an assault on the 2020 international junior competitions in Lithuania, Turkey and Belgium.