TWO TEENAGERS FROM the same Forres family have been making a sporting impact in very different situations.
Andrew Barr, who has just completed his studies at Forres Academy, has been in Romania representing Great Britain at the European Youth Orienteering Championships.
This is a major event contested by teams of four young men and women in each of the Under-19 and under-17 age categories. Barr was one of over 400 of the best young orienteering athletes from around 30 nations stretching from Russia to Ireland.
There were two cross-country races in the Transylvanian hills on Friday and Saturday. The first was an individual long-distance race over 8.3km where Barr was the second-fastest British runner as he placed 42nd from 108 starters.
The relays the following day saw Barr help Britain place 10th out of 24 teams after a race dominated by an exceptionally strong Swedish team.
Orienteering in Britain is a much younger sport than on the continent, with overseas nations having a vastly bigger talent pool to select from. The 10th-placed relay finish has been held up by squad coaches as an excellent sign that the sharp end of the sport in this country is heading in the right direction.
The final race of the championships in the town of Cluj was an urban sprint race similar to the World Orienteering Championship races that will be staged in Forres and Nairn next month.
The much shorter and more intense race, with a planned winning time of 12 minutes is not Barr’s specialist discipline. Nevertheless, just two minutes and five seconds was all that separated Barr’s 65th place from the Finnish superstar Olli Ojanaho who won in a time of 11:49.
Dyke Primary pupils ‘enthralled’
Meanwhile back in Moray Barr’s younger sister Kathryn was returning to her old primary school to talk to pupils at Dyke Primary about the forthcoming World Championships.
Kathryn had the children enthralled when she explained how she started out in the sport while in Primary 3, gradually working her way up through local club events to the Scottish Junior Squad, and ultimately the British team. This has seen her compete internationally in countries like Sweden and Macedonia in fields of 20,000 runners.
One of the highlights of Kathryn’s presentation was a mini orienteering race where each class had a boy and a girl runner who had to race an indoor course.
An electronic control station was placed on the teacher’s desk in each of the four classrooms plus the head teacher’s office and the “learning locker”. It was an exciting race for the 14 competitors selected to represent their classes, with only 29 seconds separating the fastest from the slowest and a three-way tie for second place!
The children were extremely excited to hear that there would be two World Championship races at Darnaway Castle, the home of two of their former pupils!
“Kathryn was a great ambassador for her sport” said orienteering’s Regional Development Officer Mike Rodgers, who made the arrangements for the visit.
He added: “Sport is such a great way of inspiring children to aspire to be the best they can. Kathryn has shown that living in a wee village in the North of Scotland is no barrier to making a name for yourself in whatever area you try to excel.
“As well as inspiring the young children, opportunities like this are really good value for young people as part of their wider development. Public speaking is no easy skill to master, but Kathryn did herself proud.”