Senior Home International 2008 – Report

In the stormy, wet 2008 Senior Home International the English team found Dalnamein in Glen Garry and Craig a’ Barns above Dunkeld in Perthshire both tough and technical and were narrowly beaten by the Scots who took full advantage of typical home terrain. Results are here: http://www.rstrain.ndtilda.co.uk/results_08/shi/.

The Senior Home International is run across the Open/20 classes with 6 senior men and women plus 3 junior men and women making teams of 18. The competition is hosted by the 4 nations in turn: Ireland (all), England, Wales and Scotland,

As the SHI title holders from last year in Wales, England fielded a strong team albeit significantly depleted by an predominantly English GB squad training week in Hungary which was rescheduled at short notice, clashing with the SHI to its detriment.  Whilst competition between Wales and Ireland is fierce, for England essentially the SHI degenerates into a head to head with Scotland.

Unusually run on the first day (the strongly preferred order is individual on Day 1 and relays on Day 2), the venue for the relays was Dalnamein.  This typically Scottish plantation surrounded by moorland is bisected by a river in spate, crossable only by one footbridge on which the race was centred.  The courses ran out in a longer easterly loop, taking in some moorland, crossed back over the river, passing the start, for a short final loop.  This meant that between the finish and the cross-over there was almost always some action to be seen, particularly as the racing was close throughout.  It was a wet and windy day but in contrast the woods seemed sheltered and relatively warm.

There are separate men’s and women’s relays with each nation fielding 3 teams comprising 2 x 21s and one 20, though the running order is free choice.  A nation’s top two teams score.  The English relay team selection aimed to produce 2 matched teams and a back up (there is always the risk of a mispunch).

In the women’s race Laura Daniel for England trailed Scotland’s Claire Ward on first leg, with the other English teams (Anne Edwards (W20) and late W21 call-up Alison O’Neil) in the next pack of 5 closely bunched teams.  On second leg for England Vicky Stevens stormed round to hand over to Karen Poole within sight of the lead; Jenny Thornton, running for England for the first time had a steady run and Becky Carlyle pulled to within striking distance of the lead to hand over to top GB international Helen Bridle.  England’s Karen Poole (née Heppenstall) running the anchor leg had Scotland’s Fiona Berrow in her sights only a minute ahead, with England’s Helen Bridle and Scotland’s Mhairi Mackenzie hot on her heels.  At the crossover Fiona had a tenuous lead over the other three who were shoulder to shoulder closing fast.  However when the runners came down through the forest for the finish it was Mhairi and Helen who appeared first finishing in that order ahead of Fiona with Karen just a minute back.  Heather Gardner, running her first SHI, anchored the third English team into fifth place staying well ahead of the Scots competition.

In the men’s race England’s Neil Northrop and Scotland’s Oleg Chepelin handed over together, with England’s Duncan Archer tracking in the second Scotland team an minute down and England’s Ian Nixon competing with the third Scots team a further minute down.  All the teams had placed their M20s on second leg and for all three English runners it was their first SHI.  At the cross over England’s David Schorah was holding Scots Ali McLeod and Doug Tullie but McLeod pulled out a tenuous lead over Schorah by the handover with England’s top GB M18 Ralph Street just out of touch and England’s Chris Smithard fighting it out with the third Scottish team.  On last leg a valiant run by Matt Crane leading the England charge found Scotland’s Ewan McCarthy and Scot Fraser too strong.  England’s evergreen Nick Barrable ran the fastest English leg of the day and sprinted in to secure a close fourth place ahead of the next Scots team with new M21 Joe Mercer completing for England’s third team, minutes down.

Craig a’ Barns, a top class Scottish forest, was the venue for the Individual on the Sunday.  Full length elite courses were planned successfully testing technical and physical ability to the limit with the sun, wind and rain taking equal turns in each hour.  In W20 Vicky Stevens won for England with Anne Edwards in second to gain maximum points.  The other classes found the team competition stern but nevertheless secured second team place in each class won by Scots M21 Ewan McCarthy, W21 Mhairi MacKenzie and M20 Doug Tullie.  Neil Northrop finished just 17 seconds down on a ‘long’ M21E course and both Helen Bridle and David Schorah placed.  Scotland thus wound up winners overall and thus temporarily regained the SHI cup.  The Welsh beat the Irish overall though it was very close on the individual day.

Notwithstanding losing out in a close contest, well done to the England team; everyone ran to their potential.  England can look forward to the pleasure of wresting back the Silva Trophy next autumn in Northern Ireland and holding it firm when England host it in 2010.

Our thanks to the following for helping to put the SHI on:

  • Relay Planner, Rob Lee
  • Relay Controllers, Colin Eades and Graeme Ackland
  • Individual Planner, Ian Pyrah
  • Individual Controller, Brian Bullen
  • Results (SI) systems, Robin Strain and Andy Dalgleish
  • and ESOC for hosting the individual race
  • SHI Coordinator, Andy Kitchen