Gower peninsular, South Wales, 7-8 September 2019

Summary
The 2019 Senior Home International was hosted by Swansea Bay Orienteering Club on behalf of the WOA. The individual race was held at Broughton Burrows, an area of open sand dunes on the Gower.The relays were held at Whiteford Burrows, another area of sand dune terrain, this time with some forested areas. The whole weekend was organised and coordinated by Niall and Margaret Reynolds of SBOC. Niall and Margaret and their team provided a top class weekend of racing with ideal accommodation for all four Home Nations at the St Madoc Centre which is within walking distance of both days’ events.

In the Individual race England won the W21 class with Wales pushing Scotland into third place. The W20 class finished with a tie between England and Scotland. Scotland won the M21 class with England in second whilst England won M20 with Scotland in second place. This gave England a 4 point overnight lead (and the Dolgellau bowl for the winner of the first day’s competition) with Wales in third and Ireland fourth. The following day England took second and third place in the Women’s relay (with Scotland 1st and 5th- Wales were 4th) and first and second in the Men’s relay (with Scotland 3rd and 4th). This gave England a 28 to 23 point victory in the relay and the overall victory for the third year in a row. Wales cemented their third place finish, comfortably beating the Irish.

Day 1 Individual
Broughton Burrows.

It was a pleasant 2km walk/jog along the coastal path from the accommodation to the event arena. The start and finish were both adjacent so it was easy to watch as competitors set off from the start and arrived at the finish. The weather was perfect for running with late summer sunshine and pleasant temperatures. The terrain was runnable, although the underfoot vegetation has been allowed grow making it quite hard going for all but the strongest runners. The top athletes were still able to produce some very fast times and winning times were slightly on the short side, although this was partly a deliberate decision to avoid excessive repetition. The M21 course was 11.6km with 425m of climb and was won by Graham Gristwood in 70 minutes.

In the W21 class Megan Carter-Davies of Wales showed the way with an impressive 11 minute winning margin. Behind her times were well spread as the technical and physical nature of the terrain took its toll. It was pleasing to see great determination to keep going despite big time losses from some of the English women. This determination paid off as England took the win in W21 after a number of the Scottish athletes also struggled. The Welsh W21s took advantage of home terrain to beat the Scots into third place. Sarah Jones was best of the English women, finishing in 4th place. Next best were W20 Fiona Bunn (running up) and W40 Sarah Rollins (also refusing to show her age) in 5th and 7th. Times were much less spread out in the M21 class. New Scottish recruit, Graham Gristwood (switching allegiance from England after a fallow year), won from local Ben Mitchell. Best of the English were Will Gardner in 5th and Jonny Crickmore in 7th. Overall Scotland were convincing victors in the M21 class but crucially England finished in 2nd place, ahead of the Irish and Welsh. In W20 Niamh Hunter and Laura King finished in 2nd and 3rd (with W18 Evie Conway providing good back-up in 4th). Scottish athlete, Emma Wilson, won W20 with their second counter just behind Evie in 5th. With just two to count, this meant the points for W20 were shared equally between England and Scotland. Ali Thomas convincingly won M20 with Daniel Spencer (who only stepped in to replace an injured runner 5 days before the event) in 3rd. M20 was therefore won by England with Scotland in second place. After summing the team scores England finished the day on 27 points with Scotland just behind on 23 points. England therefore won the Dolgellau Bowl for the leading team after the first day’s competition.

Individual Team Results

  Men Women Overall
England 13 14 27
Scotland 13 10 23
Wales 5 8 13
Ireland 5 4 9

Day 2 Relay
Whiteford Burrows

The terrain for the relay was very similar to the individual race but was generally flatter and quicker running. There were a few areas of forest to add variety to the mainly open dunes. Courses were well planned with enough gaffling to split runners. Leg winning times were close to the recommended 40 minutes. Again the weather was perfect.

The Men’s relay started at 0930 with the Women going off at 0945. Great runs from Dan Spencer and Duncan Birtwistle brought the top two men’s teams back in 1st and 2nd places with a decent gap back to the first Scottish team. The second and third legs held on to the lead they were given and, despite the Scots best efforts, brought their teams through to record an England 1-2 and score maximum points.

The Women’s teams didn’t have things quite so much their own way but were still able to secure 2nd and 3rd place. The race was won by Scotland but a great run by Megan Carter-Davies on the last leg for Wales pushed the second Scottish team down to 5th scoring team. This gave the English women a narrow overall win in the relay.

Relay Team Results

  Men Women Overall
England 15 13 28
Scotland 11 12 23
Wales 4 7 11
Ireland 6 4 10

Overall

  Men Women Overall
England 28 27 55
Scotland 24 22 46
Wales 9 15 24
Ireland 11 8 19

Accommodation and travelling
All four teams were accommodated at the St. Madoc Christian Centre, ideally situated midway between, and within walking distance of, the two competition areas. The accommodation was fully catered from Saturday morning through to Sunday morning with packed lunches provided each day. Catering was provided by the Welsh Junior Squad and was highly acclaimed. Some team members took flights to Cardiff (those based in Edinburgh) and the rest travelled by car from various parts of England. Particular thanks are due to Sarah Rollins who was able to pick up all the Edinburgh-based athletes from Cardiff airport on her way along the M4.

Acknowledgements
Huge thanks are due to Margaret and Niall Reynolds who co-ordinated the whole weekend and to SBOC and the Welsh Junior Squad for hosting the weekend.
My thanks also to the senior England team members for advice and generally helping to make my job easy over the whole weekend.

Charlie Adams
England SHI Team Manager