The 2011 JK started in exciting fashion today with a sprint at Stranmills College in Belfast, with Sarah Rollins and Pippa Archer sharing the spoils with joint 1st place, while in the men's race Matt Crane was a convincing winner ahead of Murray Strain and John Rocke.
Over 2000 competitors descended on Stranmills College in Belfast for the opening day of the 2011 Jan Kjelstrom International Festival of Orienteering which offered an exciting sprint race. With a race arena offering start, finish and run through all clearly visible, coupled with the warm weather it made for a good atmosphere and spectacle to start the weekend's activities.
It was a race of two halves, with the start and opening section in the northern Queen's Elms Village consisting of compact residential blocks, steep banks, sets of steps and a number of traps set by the planner. The second half, after a spectator control on the edge of the arena, offered longer legs and quicker running through the landscaped college grounds before a final control pick in the buildings by the finish.
In the women's race it was British Sprint Champion Hollie Orr who was in control for much of the course, with a lead of over 20 seconds at halfway. It was possibly too much too soon for the Edinburgh University athlete however, as she faded over the final third and the experienced Sarah Rollins and Pippa Archer sped up through the simpler final section. In the end they shared the spoils, after an exciting finish which saw them switch lead over the final 5 controls, Pippa's sprint finish a second quicker than Sarah's to give a tie in first place on a time of 13:49.
For Hollie it was disapointment, as time loss over the final section saw her slip down to fourth, two seconds behind Rachael Elder who had a solid run of 14:01. In fifth was Tessa Hill in 14:12, while 6th spot went to Cat Taylor who also enjoyed a good spell through the first half but would be happy to take a podium in only her second year as a senior.
In the men's race Matt Crane was a convincing winner in a time of 13:29, 28 seconds ahead of Murray Strain, the two final starters finally overcoming John Rocke's early leading time. Matt led from the second control and never looked likely of much time loss with a strong controlled race.
For Murray it was a case of getting up to speed, but there was too much left to do by the final third of the race, but he did come past the early times of 14:06 & 14:07 set by John Rocke and Dave Schorah
Behind them in 5th was Edinburgh University's Alasdair McLeod in 14:35, 16 seconds clear of Ant Squire who pushed Rich Robinson down into 7th by 1 second.
Of the junior elites Peter Hodkinson was again a clear victor in 15:13 on M20, adding to his British Middle Distance title claimed two weeks ago, finishing 22 seconds clear of Robert Gardner with Matt Haliday in 3rd. It wasn't as clear cut a victory as the results show though, as he came from being 15 seconds behind Tom Ryan who led for much of the race, a 30 second mistake five controls from the finish leaving him in 4th place outside the medals.
Peter Bray of Southern Navigators won M18 by 14 seconds from Jonathan Crickmore, with Ciaran Allen on Eryri a minute down in 3rd.
In W18 Charlotte Watson won by five seconds from Florence Haines, with Zoe Harding a further eight seconds back. This came after a terrible start for Charlotte, losing 30 seconds on the first control, while Florence had led through the first 10 controls before a massive minute loss at 11.
In W20 South Yorkshire's Maireade Rocke won by 16 seconds from Edinburgh University's Rebecca Harding with Julia Blomquist a further 13 seconds adrift.
So some top racing to start the weekend, and a very well organised day too from the Northern Ireland orienteering community. If faults had to be picked with the racing, the litho-printing and some of the mapping wasn't up to the standards required of a sprint map, particularly a World Ranking Event. The colours don't look quite right while the greens on some maps appear offset, making reading of some of the small gaps difficult even in the cold light of day, particularly when compared to laser printed versions.