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Scotland’s Biggest Junior School Cross-Country Competition

8th annual Scottish Independent Schools’ Invitational Cross-Country Championships. 
8th annual Scottish Independent Schools’ Invitational Cross-Country Championships. 

Belhaven Hill School in East Lothian has just welcomed runners back for the 38th annual Scottish Independent Schools’ Invitational Cross-Country Championships.  This is the biggest cross-country competition in the annual prep and junior schools’ calendar.  


The event is organised and hosted by Belhaven Hill School, the boarding and day school for 5 to 13-year-olds.  Competitors run a course from beautiful Belhaven Bay, overlooked by the school itself, out to the stunning John Muir Country Park and back.


Relocating the event to Belhaven Bay from John Muir Country Park this year, Belhaven Hill hosted fifteen participating schools from Scotland and the north of England. The popular annual event attracted a huge number of runners, with 384 pupils competing, just seven short of the all-time record.  Schools entered four to six 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 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 km respectively.


“This course is the most challenging on the Scottish junior and prep schools’ calendar and is the highlight of the cross-country season,” says Noel Curry from Belhaven Hill School, who has organised the competition for the past seven years.   


The schools taking part included East Lothian schools, The Compass, Loretto and Belhaven Hill, as well as Longridge, Lathallan, Merchiston Castle, Fettes, Cargilfield, St George’s, Strathallan, St Leonard’s, St Mary’s, Craigclowan, Ardvreck, and Edinburgh Academy.  The local East Lothian primary and senior schools were also invited to take part.  Team coaches cheered on the runners over sand dunes and down woodland paths with the sea breeze in the air. Many stayed afterwards for tea and prize-giving at the finish with the beautiful bay behind them.


Medals were awarded to the top three runners in each race and trophies were given to the winning team in each category, and, as the course was new this year, all six winning times were classed as new records!


Noel Curry from Belhaven continues: “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 2024 run, the U-9 and U-13 boys ran simultaneously, Cargilfield and Strathallan taking the team awards.  The U-9 run was dominated by Belhaven’s Monty S., who won the 2.5 km run in just 9m 55s with the Belhaven team coming in third position overall in both races. 


The U-9 and U-13 girls’ races were up next, Cargilfield and St Leonard’s winning these, with Belhaven’s Annie F. remarkably taking third position on the podium, despite being a year younger than her fellow competitors.  One to watch for 2025!  


This year Belhaven finished in silver position in the team competition.  The final pair of races was the U-11s, Emily B. picking up a silver medal in the girls’ race as Belhaven again finished second overall, but the final race came good for the host school as Belhaven won the U-11 race by a comfortable margin. Belhaven was the only school from the fifteen taking part which finished in the top three in five of the six team races.


The Belhaven organisational staff left with the huge satisfaction that their event, after Covid, storms, and now a venue change, is now bigger, better and more successful than ever.


Parents and children are invited to an Open Morning and Lacrosse Taster with Lacrosse Scotland at Belhaven Hill School on Saturday 9th March. You can also learn more about sports and cross-country running at Belhaven on their website.


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