The first track trip of the year for the Western Isles’ top young athletic talent started with a sense of expectation as the ISLAND SELECT who had been so successful last year in reaching the UK Athletics Youth Development League Scottish finals began the journey of 2017, with 25 athletes from the West making the journey to the East coast to team up with their friends from the North !

The 55 strong team drawn from the best athletes from Stornoway Running & Athletics Club, the North Uist Athletics club, the South Uist & Eriskay Athletics Club, as well as the Orkney and Shetland Athletics Clubs  gathered in Aberdeen at the end of April for match 1 of the 3 match North East division with 8 teams again doing battle in the U13 / U15 league, and 8 in the U17 competition. At stake for the top 2 teams, a place in the National finals.

First up on the day were the hurdles. U13 girl, Amie Ringstead of North Uist on her Island Select debut, had a cracking run with some really fluid, natural hurdling in the 70m hurdles A race, coming home 4th in 13.21, which sees her break in to the national rankings at 10.

Stornoway U15 youngsters Gemma MacRitchie and Krysta Bray, competing over the 75m hurdles for the first time as they moved up an age group, also both had fantastic runs. Gemma finished second in the A race, running 12.87 which sees her ranked 12th in Scotland, while Krysta won the B race in 13.85, ranking her 24 nationally.

In the long sprints, the next track event, there were 2 more debuts from U13 North Uist girls, Marion Anderson and Emma McCormack and further PB performances. Marion finished 5th in the 150m A race in 22.60, ranking her 20th in the country, while Emma took a good 3rd in 23.45 in the B race.

Young Charlie Morrison of Stornoway also made his Select debut over 200m and did well with a PB of 32.53 finishing 5th in the U13 boys B race.

In the 800m races one of the best races and possibly the standout performances of the day came from North Uist’s U13 boy, Shaun MacDonald. In a great tussle in the A race with Kai Crawford of Aberdeen, who was 2 seconds faster on paper,  Shaun took the race to him and pushed him all the way,  and as both boys crossed the line they couldn’t be separated! In the end even photofinish struggled, with both boys given the same time of 2.26.18, and Kia given the top spot by a few thousandths of a second courtesy of a sprinter’s dip! The consolation for Shuan was a PB of over a second, and a Scottish ranking of 7, with a UK ranking of 27 !

Other notable runs over the 800m came from Stornoway’s U13 girl, Gemma MacRitchie, taking 4 seconds off her PB running 2.36.63 in coming 2nd in the B race, with U15 team-mate David Morrison’s 2nd place 2.16.50 PB run in the A race ranking him 15th in the country.

Meanwhile out in the field some of the top Island Select performances were coming from South Uist U15 team-mates and Island Select debutants, Ryan MacIntyre and Michael Campbell. Ryan threw a massive 6m PB of  26.72m in the Javelin in coming second in the A event, while Michael’s 8.19m performance saw him 2nd in the A Shot Put, and he was 3rd in the A discus with 16.96m. North Uist’s U15 girl Marion MacCorquodale,  who did so well for the Island team last year,  continued her good form in to 2017, with a double B win in Shot Put (8.57m) & Discus (15.53m).

Other action in the field saw a superb double PB from Stornoway U15 girl, Angela Horne. Her 4.55m Long Jump effort saw her take 2nd in the A event, along with a ranking of 26th in Scotland, but the highlight of her day was her massive 1.45m High Jump PB, ranking her 10th in Scotland !  Other jumps success came from U15 South Uist boy, Liam MacKinnon who took second in the B string with 4.20m, while North Uist U13 pals Calum MacDonald and Shuan MacDonald also did well. Calum’s jump of 4.02m saw him come 4th in the A event, ranking him 25th in Scotland, while Shuan won the B event with 3.86m.

Both boys also starred in the 100m, with Calum taking 2nd place in the A race in 14.59 and Shaun winning the B race in 15.43, not long after his epic 800 efforts ! Stornoway’s U15 boy, David Morrison had a similar story, his 13.44 100m run taking 3rd place, not long after his 800m race.

Fellow Stornoway athlete U15 Angela Horne rounded off a fantastic day with a big win in the 100m girls B race in a PB equalling 13.78, while her U17 training partner, Sian MacDonald took top spot in the U17 girls B race in 13.56.

The day was non stop , and the track action continued with U13 Amie Ringstead of North Uist running the 1200m for the first time. She took it all in her stride winning the B race in 4.46.71.      U15 Stornoway athlete, Ewan MacLeod, another Island Select debutant, also did well in the 300m race, finishing in 3rd place in 44.95 in the top A race, just outside his PB.

By now though as the all important relays approached the schedule was running about 45 minutes late, and there was a ferry for the Orkney and Shetland athletes to catch, meaning over half of the Island Select team would be gone soon. The pressure was mounting for all – athletes and coaches.

In the 4 x 100m races, the U13 girls ran full strength, taking 4th, and then Shaun MacDonald, Charlie Morrison and Calum MacDonald all ran fantastically well as part of the U13 boys team as they came home in top spot in a thrilling finish with a cracking anchor leg by Calum ! Next up the U15 girls had a superb run to take an excellent 2nd place, just missing out on the top spot.

Things though started to unravel from there as the planned teams fell apart with the Northern Isles teams having to go. An U15 boys 4 x 100m team couldn’t be pulled together, and there was a similar story with the U17 boys 4 x 100m team.

With the U15 4 x 300m events still to happen, along with the girls U17 4 x 100m things looked tough. But the strength of the Western Isles team spirit within the Island Select team shone through just when it was needed !

The U15 girls 4 x 300m girls took to the track with a reshuffled pack leaving  them with only one of the original planned line-up. Stornoway athletes Krysta Bray and Angela Horne and Marion MacCorquodale from North Uist teamed up with Gemma MacRitchie to take on an event way out of their comfort zones, and after an exciting race they came home 4th with 7 more valuable points ! Needless to say they all loved the experience !

The U15 boys 4 x 300m was a similar story with half the team missing.  Uist boys, Liam MacKinnon & John Scanlon stepped forward and joined forces with Stornoway’s Ewan MacLeod and David Morrison, and came home an excellent 2nd to pick up 9 points. The U17s 4 x 100m girls also followed suit, following 3 forced changes, and again hats off to the them all as Trinity Johnson, Emily Steele, and Isla Budge took to the track with Sian MacDonald to come home in 5th and gain 4 crucial points.

These hard won points could be the very difference in making the Scottish finals at the end of the day, so the young athletes’ enthusiasm and resolve in getting involved and making it happen was fantastic to see!

The final results also show the importance of every point as the U17s took a fantastic win , 3 points ahead of Aberdeen – remember the girls took 4 points in the relay! The final points then – Island Select in 1st place with 147 points, with Aberdeen 2nd with 144, and Dundee 3rd with 117.

The U13 & U15s took an excellent second place, running Inverness really close, and only being 12 points behind them. Every point as they say ! Inverness had 688 points in first place, with the Island Select on 676 points, and Dundee Harriers 3rd on 591.

A fantastic start then for the young Islanders as both Island Select teams target the finals once more, with a massive step taken towards that goal. They will be back in Island Select action with Match 2 at the end of May again in Aberdeen, and will be buoyed by both their success and of course their island team spirit!

The team would like to thank the Western Isles Development Trust and the Lewis & Harris Sports Council for the support provided through the Transocean Youth & Young Persons Travel Scheme Grant.

North Uist and South Uist contingent

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