Forth Valley Orienteers are on top form as they secure four titles at British Championships

Forth Valley Orienteers' James Hammond is the new Elite Night Champion (Photo: Submitted)Forth Valley Orienteers' James Hammond is the new Elite Night Champion (Photo: Submitted)
Forth Valley Orienteers' James Hammond is the new Elite Night Champion (Photo: Submitted)
Local orienteers were prominent in the first championship event of the year, as they returned from the Lake District with four national titles amongst seven major medals at the British Night Championships, reports Steven Scott.

Graham Gristwood's ten year long unbeaten run came to an end as he was 34 seconds back in silver medal place, but there are still blue and gold ribbons on the championship trophy, as James Hammond smashed home in 60.09 to pick up his first British elite title. Ironically, Gristwood is Hammond's personal coach and the pair regularly train together. Hammond's win makes him the youngest-ever British elite champion, breaking the record set by Geoff Peck in 1971.

Having stepped up from the age-class courses three years early, this marks an audacious step for the youngster, in only his second British Nights race, and elevates him into the top 20 of the British rankings for the first time.

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Andy Llewellyn reclaimed the M35 title he relinquished last year in a time of 52.39, while Will Hensman notched a debut win as an M45 in 45.23, having won the M40 title twice in the past. Scarlett Kelly and Rebecca Hammond made their British Nights debuts, having enjoyed success in local events this winter, and sensationally they were one-two on the podium, Scarlett winning in 35.52, with Rebecca second in 39.32.

Jamie Goddard now has medals in all four British disciplines, a bronze in M20 in 64.34 completing the set, while Jamie Connor (57.12) won M18S, in his first-ever night race, and M50S saw Chris Kelly (54.30) ahead of Brad Connor (66.38) in silver and bronze medal positions.

There was a UK Orienteering League race at Windermere the following day, and understandably, there wasn't much left in the tank for the championship racers, but there was still room for three podium finishes amongst those who didn't race at night.

Alistair Thornton managed a most impressive second place on the longest Brown course, 53 seconds off the top in 58.07. Mark Johnston and Hanna Brindley went round the Light Green course as a pair, and Mark was one second (36.15) quicker on the final punch. Andy Llewellyn was the best of those doing double duty, as he was tenth (66.15) on Brown.