Harrison McCartney – EYOC

Apologies for the tardiness of this report- I have been on almost one continuous trip to train in terrain in Wales, Scotland and Switzerland, and I now finally write from home. This year’s European Youth Orienteering Championships was in the continental terrain and Urban climes of Cluj-Napoca, the capital of Transylvania in Romania. Blind optimism that the weather would be significantly better in Romania was frustrated when we were greeted by rain- for three days solid. In this time, we had a short trip out to the Long Model event the day before the long- what was clear is that some shoes with good grip would be needed to clamber up some very steep clay banks, reminiscent of terrain in the Forest of Dean.

The next day started early, as I had a 9.17 start (7.17 BST) on the 8.3k course with 300m of climb. I started solidly, navigating well through some technical sections which were definitely not present in the model event, and only dropping 30s due to mistakes for the first part of the course. My largest error came on the long leg- after drifting out of the control, hitting what was basically an impassable gorge of mud, I had to go round before losing my line again towards an open section, having to readjust and gain height. 3 minutes gone. Towards the end, my brain started to flag and I made some more small mistakes descending into a large valley. In total, I lost around 5 minutes and finished in 30th, which was a considerable improvement from last year (32nd) when I take into account the fact that I am now a ‘bottom’ year.

The relay was completely different, as the majority was open with dense patches of green, with a small area of forest similar to the previous day. I knew that I had lost some fitness after a period of illness prior to EYOC, but on my leg (3rd) I certainly felt it- the sun was beating down as my legs were trudging up the hills. I made a large mistake to #3, so despite gaining 2 places over the first two legs, I lost four just to that control! After navigating cautiously through some very rough green towards the end, I regained two places to retain 10th place.

Unusually, the sprint discipline came last, and was probably the most disappointing for me. Again, I had an early start (9.01), so I was making the first footfall out on the course. Nothing was really going wrong; I was running and navigating well until 200m from the end, where I made a very basic mistake to the run in control- a complete concentration lapse which cost me 20 seconds and 16 places. Although the gravity of the error wasn’t apparent to me initially, as other competitors started to come in it became clear that I had blown a potential top ten finish, so I was rather annoyed with myself (to say the least). However, the result as it stood was not one that I expected in the sprint discipline, which I would not say is my strongest distance. It was certainly a valuable lesson learned the hard way!

All in all, it was a great experience for racing against some of Europe’s best and I would like to once again thank the John Taylor Foundation for their kind contribution towards the cost of this trip. It is one thing to race against athletes in the UK and another to compete against the best in Europe (and arguably the World)- EYOC has definitely raised my ambition to being selected for the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Switzerland next year.