Postcards from across the Ocean: West Point A Meet


The final weekend of April saw the sun finally come out in New England, as crowds of runners flocked from all over the East Coast and Canada to the first major meet (translation: event) of the US orienteering season. After tales from the past of shaky maps and even shakier course planning, the West Point A Meet has come into it's own over the last few years, providing excellent competition, a great physical challenge, and the opportunity to experience the incredible politeness of the future of the US Military first hand.

Middle distance


There were two disciplines for Saturday, the first being a middle distance race at Round Pound. Times were slowed by the thick scrubby vegetation, and many were caught out on vague slope areas. The area alternates between thickish low vegetation which slows your progress in a similar way to heather, and lightning fast grassy patches. There was some complex contour detail and a couple of crafty route choice legs which produced some surprise outcomes.

In the Men's Open class Ross Smith began his winning streak for the weekend, despite some significant errors, with a clear win over Hans Fransson from Canadian Club Golden Horseshoe orienteering. In a tight battle for 3rd and 4th place were aspiring US Team members Wyatt Riley and Sergei Zhyk.

In the Women's Race Ali Crocker showed that a winter of successful Ski-O had done nothing to slow down her Foot-O legs, and ran a safe race to take the win from Katarina Smith of the Canadian Club Falcon. Top US woman Samantha Saeger made a critical mistake at the first control, and despite running some excellent later legs couldn't claw back the time lost, and had to settle for third.

There were a few Brits in the other classes. The Wilson Family from Clyde are in New Jersey for a few months, and Emily and Alice destroyed the competition in the junior classes, while Thomas took a highly respectable second on the more populated M16 class. Steve won the inter parent competition with a 4th place on M45. Finally, Graeme Ackland, competing at West Point 22 years after his last foray (with the pink "Don't Ask Don't Tell" t-shirt to back it up),  was second on the red course, but well and truly beaten by old rival Joe Brautigan.   

Sprint distance


After a couple of hours in the sun, it was time for the Sprint, on a custom map drawn by Jordan Laughlin. This was nothing like the more urban sprints at home in the UK. Dense controls on the 2.2km forested course meant you never quite made it to full sprint pace, and the 1:5000 map was a shock after the morning. The race was technical and physical, and perhaps a little overplanned for the discipline.

Star of the afternoon was Sam Saeger, who ran a fantastic cleaner race to win the women's competition by a clear margin, which would have placed her inside the top ten on the Men's race. Ali Crocker was running at a similar pace, but an early error meant she was fighting from the start. Again, Katarina Smith completed the top three, with a steady clean race.  

In the Men's race, Ross Smith again blew away the competition, running a seriously impressive 15.43, a clear lead of thirty seconds over second placed Canadian Robbie Anderson. Jon Torrance completed the top three. In the battle of the Brits Graeme Ackland took the win (but was beaten by Sam), while Becky Carlyle just edged out Steve Wilson. All three junior Wilsons were the clear victors on their respective courses.

Long distance

After an afternoon of sitting in the sun, legs were tired and achey on the way to the start of the Long on Sunday. The forest was way more open this time, promising fast running but with some serious hills. The Classic courses were exceptionally planned, with lots of exciting route choice and some intricate control pick sections. Winners would have to run like hell, plan well ahead, but keep their cool in the circle.

It was today that Sam Saeger really pulled out her world class stops, and despite an imperfect race, she utterly destroyed the competition. Taking 3 minutes out of Ali Crocker over the last two kilometres of the 8.8km course, she won by over 7 minutes.

Her other half, Ross Smith, took the victory on the Men's course, winning the long legs by a fair distance, which compensated for being less smooth on the shorter, more technical legs. Fresh legged Will Hawkins took second, just over two minutes down. Graeme coped well with running with the big boys this time, taking 13th place, while the Wilson women were all victorious in their respective classes. Thomas was third, earning him a second place overall in the most competitive Junior class, while Steve jostled into an overall third.  

The West Point Cadets proved here that they could organise a truly World Class event - excellent courses, superb terrain, seriously smooth organisation and Humvees! It it definitely an event worth attending by the foreign visitor, and if anyone would like any more information, just PM me on the forums.  

Coming up over the next month is the Speedy Goat Relay, a two by two leg sprint relay modelled on the Ski-O format, the Billygoat, a historic mass start event where you are allowed to skip a control, and, at the end of May, the best will fly from across the country to compete in the US Team Trials on Blue Mountain, a fantastic area on the east banks of the Hudson. If anyone is in the area, they should come along!


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