Junior Home International 2023
The Junior Home International is one of three annual events held between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales (the others being the Senior and Veteran equivalents) to test the skills of our orienteers in both individual and relay disciplines. It's a team event, with finishers for each team earning points based on their placing, and the cumulative points over both days determining the winning nation. Traditionally, its been a two tier affair, with England and Scotland competing for the top spot, and a secondary competition between ourselves and the Welsh to claim third place, and the Judith Wingham Trophy - we went into this years competition as the current holders, so thankfully Martin remembered to bring the plate along with him (when I forgot all about it), otherwise I would have been unpopular....
On Friday 6th Oct, we jumped in the car and headed off to catch the afternoon ferry to Holyhead, heading towards our destination of Beaudesert in the West Midlands of England, accommodation venue for this years event. As we were coming from all corners of the country, various means of transport were being used - some ferry, some flying, and arriving at different times. We had a large group on the ferry, 18 in total. The crossing was a bit rough, so some green faces were seen disembarking, but that didn't seem to affect appetites when we stopped for dinner a wee bit down the road. Despite being a quality chipper, the lemon slices proved a sleeper hit - thankfully, the staff were kind enough to give the juniors some lemons to bring with them as we left. Don't ask.
We arrived around 9pm, along with most others, and quickly settled in. A brief team meeting at 10:30pm to go over the order of business for the weekend, and everyone was off to bed by 11. Earplugs ensured a good nights sleep, due to high levels of snoring in the male accommodation. I'm sure the girls had no such issue.
Saturday morning was a bit foggy, but promises of warm temperatures to come. Breakfast was served in a large hall, and after picking up our packed lunches, we were off in convoy to Sutton Park for the individual competition. The terrain was a large urban park, but with plenty of forest cover, a million paths (mapped and unmapped) and gorse-filled open land. Course lengths were long, but we had been told that the terrain was fast, so winning times would be mostly under the hour. The day went generally well, with some great results in various classes - plenty of mid-table finishes, and several towards the higher end. Top result of the day was the M14 boys, with James taking second place, and Fionn taking fourth place to give us the overall win in that class. We only had a few walking wounded - Zach's hamstring played up a bit and he retired, and Cathan managed to twist an ankle not far from the end of his course, and limped home. Several icepacks were applied, and we retired to Aldi to obtain ice-cream flavoured refreshment.
Individual Full Results: https://html.wrekinorienteers.co.uk/results-2023/2023-10-07-jhi-individuals/
Back at the center during the afternoon, people relaxed and rested after a long day of orienteering played football for approximately 3 hours. The coaches and managers relaxed on the veranda while this was going on - a much more sensible option. Saturday evening came, everyone cleaned themselves up, ate some dinner and then on to the main event - the Ceilí. Much dancing was had, and thankfully injuries from this years event were limited to Fionnuala's knee, which required yet another ice pack. I should have shares in the company that makes them. Some of the more unscrupulous leaders may have been absent for this - the sirens lure of a TV playing the rugby match between Ireland and Scotland was too strong...
We arose on Sunday morning to the usual affair - breakfast, killing murder hornets trying to invade our domicile, cleaning up and then heading back to the other end of Sutton Park for the relays. We had a good lead over Wales from the first day, so we just needed to keep a steady head to take home the trophy. Unfortunately, Wales were suffering this year from a lack of numbers in the M/W16 age groups, so this was hampering their ability to get points on the board, having to run several non-competitive teams. The relays were a mixed bag - a missing control early in most courses for all the first leg runners, and many of the second legs was causing varying degrees of confusion - the more experienced orienteers quickly deciding it was missing, and moving on, but the less experienced spending considerable time hunting for it before resigning themselves to continue. an unfortunate blemish on a great weekend, but it wouldn't have changed the overall results very much. This section of the park had less forest, and more of the rough gorse open stuff, which was accurately mapped, but quite intricate, causing several navigational challenges. We ended up mostly in the lower half of the results, but we had done enough to retain the third place from the first day. Most importantly, we all made it home before the prizegiving, though Niamh C cut it close - she did however get a great cheer on her run in!
So, Ireland ended up in third place, and retained the Judith Wingham trophy. James was awarded the Perpetual Trophy for the best Individual Performance this year - well deserved. Well done to all our runners who worked so hard all weekend to achieve this, and a huge thanks to all the parents who came along to help out, ferry juniors around and provide advice to our team. Big thanks also to Ian and the rest of the organising teams at West Midlands Orienteering Association, Harlequins Orienteering Club and the Octavian Droobers - a great weekend was had by all!