Report by Pat Graham, Mar Orienteering Club
UK Elite Orienteering League - Mar Orienteering Club
Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 March 2020 enjoyed in stunning Scotland!
Orienteering controls were sited amongst the intricate streets and passageways in the historic fishing village of Johnshaven and gardens of Lathallan School earlier this month (Saturday 7 March) for the first event of the 2020 UK Elite Orienteering League. Local Mar Orienteering Club hosted the event which attracted orienteers from throughout Scotland and further afield.
There was success for GB’s Kristian Jones looking to score his first elite league points for two years and former international, Helen Bridle of Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club (ESOC) making her league debut on the senior women’s course along with athletes from Edinburgh University Orienteering Club (EUOC) who brought a full squad ready to perform across all classes.
Racing began through the slippery streets blending into narrow alleyways behind the harbour front, finishing with the challenging negotiation of the steps and terraces of Brotherton Castle, home to Lathallan School.
In the men’s race, the first few controls were straightforward until 4, 5 & 6 where route choice initially appeared crucial, heading round the harbour and up to the Primary School; although Jones chose more direct routes, unseeded Duncan Birtwistle (West Midlands) proved to select the fastest route choices. Likewise, from 8 – 9, Jones tried an alternative route along the shore but Birtwistle maintained his lead through to control 12. A speed advantage put Jones in the lead on the climb to Lathallan Grange and the navigation of the school grounds saw the best five athletes evenly matched again. As is often the case, the class was won on the final 100m run in, with Jones sprinting into the lead by only 4 seconds ahead of Birtwistle’s time and Team GB’s Alex Chepelin U23, also of EUOC just behind in 3rd position.
For the Women’s Open class, unseeded Helen Bridle of Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club sneaked under the radar, having done only a few recent events but made some confident route choices in the early part of her course, increasing her lead at the 7th control to remain the fastest at the finish. The rest of the field kept similar times for each Leg until Laura King W23 (EUOC) put her foot down at 12 and returned as second fastest. Niamh Hunter W20, also EUOC took 3rd 14 seconds behind.
Sunday’s race on quite different terrain at Birsemore Hill, Aboyne produced another challenge for competitors. On the Men’s Black Course over 8.125km with 430m climb), Alex Chepelin started off strongly maintaining the fastest route choices up to Control 5. Mark Nixon and Kris Jones chose faster running path routes but EUOC’s M20 Alistair Thomas began to show his strengths from Control 6, continuing the rest of the race comfortably in front with ex-Team GB athlete Graham Gristwood settled in 2nd position for much of his run, vying with Chepelin. However, it was the final two Legs which determined final placings; EUOC’s Tam Wilson M23 conquered the steep downhill route and sprinted to the finish in overall second, two and a half minutes behind Thomas with Chepelin 38s slower in 3rd.
The Women’s Open on the Brown Course had 380m climb over a straight-line 7.025km and Edinburgh University held their own taking the top 4 spots. Niamh Hunter W20 took the win over Helen Ockenden and Laura King who both made comparable times over different route choices, but King became slightly unstuck on the last two controls dropping her to 3rd place.
Notable local Mar Orienteering Club successes at the event include Ewan Musgrave M16 – with a convincing win overall on the Brown Course, Ewan Bennett – 2nd on Green, Chris Redmond 3rd on Light Green, Shelley Ferrar 1st, Jane Bennett 2nd and Thomas Pout 3rd on Orange, Guy Gibbons Wood 2nd on Yellow and Dara Tivendale 1st, Jamie Chapman 2nd, Ben Hessing 3rd and Dougal Mather 4th on White.
Photos from the event courtesy of Mar Orienteering Club