Scotland’s Biggest Prep School Cross-Country Competition at Belhaven Bay Returns
Belhaven Hill School in Dunbar has just welcomed runners back for the 36th 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 7 to 13-year-olds, at the beautiful John Muir Country Park, which, appropriately, overlooks Belhaven Bay.
Numbers were restricted this year due to coronavirus but still Belhaven Hill hosted ten participating schools from Scotland and the north of England which 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, The Compass and Belhaven Hill, as well as Strathallan, Merchiston Castle, Fettes Prep, Cargilfield, St. George’s, Craigclowan, Ardvreck, and Edinburgh Academy. Team coaches cheered on the runners over sand dunes and down woodland paths with the sea breeze in the air.
Medals were awarded to the top three runners in each race and trophies for the winning team in each category and two records were broken.
Noel Curry of Belhaven Hill School, who organises the competition, 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 boys and girls practise running every week and trained 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 2021 run races started with, as always, the U9 race, the team events being won by Fettes' girls and Belhaven Hill boys. Edward B of Cargilfield set a new course record in the boys’ race and Belhaven fared exceptionally well, claiming 2nd, 3rd and 5th in Rollo F, Hector J and Bertie D to take the team gong. The U11 race was also keenly contested as St. George’s girls and Cargilfield took home the team awards with the Ardvreck winning girl, Lucia C adding to her win in last year’s U9 race.
The U13 race saw the tightest finish to the team event. Newcomers Strathallan just edged out Fettes boys and Fettes girls doing the same to Belhaven girls. This race produced the most notable run of the day, Dashka M beating her own record from last year in the girls’ event and knocking an enormous 33 seconds off the time in doing so. Our own George C and Harry H came second and fourth in the boys’ event.
The Belhaven organisational staff of seven fully cleared the field eight hours after they had begun set-up, laden now with a winning trophy, a second place and three third places in the team events along with the huge satisfaction that running, and sport in general, is now hopefully seeing off the worst that this pandemic has thrown at us.