The Moray Schools Orienteering Festival - an exciting end to a successful schools season

The 2017 schools orienteering festival season came to a very exciting conclusion at Gordonstoun last Thursday (5th October).

During September there had been smaller local festivals for the Speyside, Elgin, Forres and Lossiemouth area schools, attended by a total of about 400 pupils but this was the big one!

The idea behind the Gordonstoun event, which first took place in 2008, is to consolidate the experience pupils have had at their local event.  The idea is for the primary schools to pick their best team of 4 boys and 4 girls and have a race off to find out who is the best orienteering school in Moray. At the same time we offer an extra course, slightly shorter and easier than the main competition course, so that schools can bring extra pupils along to experience our wonderful sport. A few years ago we established a secondary schools competition which is now split between seniors (S4-6) and juniors (S1-3) with girls competing against the boys equally.  (3 of the top 5 in the Secondary Schools race this year were girls).

Thanks to a long tradition of club members turning out in droves to help, we can put marshals all around the competition area so help is on hand to pupils who need it. A kind of mobile navigation school. The aim at the end of the day is for kids to go back to school having had a great experience of orienteering, and hopefully wanting to come along with mum or dad to try a club event.  We think we might have achieved that

This year was Lil Kenyon’s first as schools liaison officer. Lil has been working in partnership with the Moray Council Active Schools Team to prepare for the events, as well as putting on several after-school taster sessions. Lil has also been working hard to recruit a pool of volunteers who have supported her so willingly. Nobody could argue that she did a fantastic job!

The overall winning primary school this year was West End Primary of Elgin who took the title from 2016 winners Bishopmill. These two schools have been fighting it out at the top of the Moray & Nairn Schools League all year so it was, perhaps, not a great surprise that Bishopmill were runners up! But it wasn’t just about these two schools.  Anderson’s (Forres) won the girls’ trophy, decided by adding up the finish positions of the fastest 3 girls. Kinloss were runners up in the boys’ trophy and St Gerardine’s (Lossie) were 3rd. It was incredible in the boys’ competition to see all 4 of West End’s runners in the top 6. They had  1-2-3 in Finlay McLuckie, Finlay McEachan and James Cockburn – only one of these was a Moravian member which suggests the standard out there outside of our club is pretty good. Other schools featured in the individual podium placings. It was great to see two smaller schools featuring as Struan Fraser (Burghead) and Moravian member Michael Bishenden (Alves) claimed 4th and 5th.  Four different schools featured in the top 5 girls’ positions. Our own Scarlett Britain won the race convincingly for Anderson’s while another Moravian, Alana Coutts (Logie) came 3rd. The others weren’t Moravian members so like the boys it seems there’s plenty undiscovered talent out there. Beth Whyte (Bishopmill) came 2nd with Kate Millar (Anderson’s) 4th and Olivia Sullivan (Hythehill, Lossie) 5th.

In the secondary schools races it was good to have Gordonstoun competing officially for the first time. They seem to have a tremendous talent in Katie Riddick, a very athletic-looking youngster who almost caused a major surprize. She ran super-speedy David Spencer (Forres Academy) extremely close for the junior gold medal. British W16 Sprint Champ Mairi Weir (Speyside High), who won the senior race, was beaten by the Gordonstoun girl by 3 seconds which illustrates just what a good run this was for a total unknown! Isobel Howard continued her good form by claiming bronze in the junior race while Oli Reynolds (Gordonstoun) and a clearly delighted David Scott (Forres Academy) took 2nd and 3rd in the seniors.

In all there were 237 runners representing 23 schools who made it to the start line. This was an excellent demonstration of the amount of interest there is in orienteering within Moray’s schools. The only disappointment, perhaps, was the lack of any schools from the Milne’s and Buckie High School schools groups although this was outweighed by an unprecedented level of interest from mid and West Moray and Speyside. A lot of effort had been put in to providing orienteering for every school in the Buckie/Fochabers areas during 2015 and 2016, so it’s a shame that the apparent appetite that existed in schools in these areas in previous years has since dwindled.

But the positives far outweighed the negatives, and we look forward to continuing our wonderful relationship with Active Schools and Gordonstoun long in to the future.

Link to individual results, team results and split times


Message from Lil:

Just a brief word to add to what Mike put up last week.

A good finale to the local Active Schools orienteering festivals was had at Gordonstoun on Thursday.

The morning started out lovely for Roo, Caroline and myself putting the controls out early. The weather held too, until the rain arrived at presentation.  The ground was in pretty good condition, considering the amount of rain we've had recently, producing some fast runs.

I enjoyed planning the courses and tried to make them a little different from last year.  Fergus with his indignant head on after he ran said "you made the course backwards!".   It's a fine line between not making it too difficult for children new to orienteering, or ones who haven't had much instruction from their schools, but yet still challenging for the more competent ones.

I was impressed by the standard of performance from competitors, especially from some of the smaller schools. There were plenty of happy children at download and so good to witness them talking about their runs and poring over their maps together.

Hope this enthusiasm rubs off on some parents who might be persuaded to bring their children along to a Saturday/Schools League event in the near future.

As always it's really impressive that so many people from our club are willing to give up their time to come along and help, good to see newer member's faces too.  Active Schools really do appreciate how well supported the events are by team Moravian. The results were up on our website before I even got home too!