Scotland’s Biggest Prep School Cross-Country Competition at Belhaven Bay Returns
Belhaven Hill School in Dunbar has just welcomed runners back for the 37th annual Scottish Independent Schools’ Invitational Cross-Country Championships.
This is the biggest cross-country competition in the annual calendar. It is organised and hosted by Belhaven Hill School, the full boarding and day school for 5 to 13-year-olds, at beautiful John Muir Country Park, which, appropriately, overlooks Belhaven Bay, as does the school itself.
After a one-year absence due to tree damage at John Muir Country Park, Belhaven Hill hosted thirteen participating schools from Scotland and the north of England, and the school attracted record numbers of runners with 391 pupils competing. Schools entered four runners into each race for boys and girls, divided into age groups: Under-9s, Under-11s and Under-13s. The routes, which run near the beach and through the woods, cover 1.2, 1.6 and 1.9 miles respectively.
The schools taking part included East Lothian schools, Belhaven Hill, The Compass and Loretto, as well as Longridge, Lathallan, Merchiston Castle, Fettes, Cargilfield, St. Leonard’s, St. Mary’s, Craigclowan, Ardvreck, and Edinburgh Academy. Team coaches cheered the runners on over sand dunes and down woodland paths with the sea breeze in the air, and many headed afterwards for tea and prize-giving in Belhaven Hill School’s sports hall.
Medals were awarded to the top three runners in each race and trophies for the winning team in each category and one record was broken.
This course is the most challenging on the Scottish junior and prep schools’ calendar and is the highlight of the cross-country season
Noel Curry of Belhaven Hill School, who has organised the competition for the past six years, says: “This course is the most challenging on the Scottish junior and prep schools’ calendar and is the highlight of the cross-country season. Belhaven girls and boys practice running every week and train for the cross-country by running relays along our local beach and through the woods in their Patrol (house) competitions. Many of them manage the full 4.5-mile route from school out to John Muir Country Park over stiles, bridges, beaches, woodland in all weathers, from wind and snow to the most idyllic coastal sunsets.”
In the 2023 run, as always, races started with the U9 race, the team events being won by the Edinburgh Academy in both races. Belhaven’s Xander L. fared exceptionally well, coming in first position in the boys’ race. The U11 races were also keenly contested as St. Mary’s girls and Craigclowan took home the team awards with Will L. of Craigclowan setting a new course record for the boys while Belhaven came close in third position. In the girls’ race Belhaven’s own Emily B. came in second position even though she is a year young – one to watch in the 2024 event.
The U13 girls’ race saw the tightest finish to the team event, St. Mary’s just edging out Fettes and Cargilfield, while Lathallan won the boys’ race. In the six races, of the thirteen schools, Belhaven Hill School came in third position in one race, fourth in four and eighth in one of the races.
The Belhaven organisational staff of eight cleared the field fully seven hours after they had begun set-up, with the huge satisfaction that their event, after Covid and storms, is now better, bigger and more successful than ever.