High Dam mapclip, from Routegadget
The JK Weekend is upon us, the biggest of major events for all UK orienteers. This year it's again in some of the most delightfully scenic and challenging terrain in the country, and a great weekend is in prospect. The elite race fields are both encouragingly large and look very strong. Four successive days of top competition is very tiring so it is not unusual to see several of the top runners choosing not to run (or not to fully run) the long race on the third day, especially if they have been injured during the winter.
As in 2015 the weekend is hosted by the North-West Association at Lancaster University (Sprint) and in the southern Lake District. On Friday (7th) it's the sprint, on Saturday the middle at High Dam, and on Sunday the long distance at Bigland. All are World Ranking Events (WRE). The weekend rounds off with relays at Dale Park on Easter Monday.
There are 132 entries for the M21E long race. The 3 minute start interval sets a limit of 80 runners, so there are two equal length long courses for M21E on Sunday. Who runs which will be decided by time taken in the middle the day before - and start times on Sunday are set this way, best starts last, as usual. Even more reason not to mispunch on Saturday. For many of the middle race field a place in the top 80 may therefore be one target.
As well as being prestigious races in their own right, the WREs are selection races for the season's senior internationals. The team for World Cup Round 1 in Norway at the end of the month will be announced next week, and GB runners taking top positions on Saturday and Sunday can expect an invitation.
The JK is a massive organisational undertaking. Many thanks to the clubs and many volunteers helping to put it on, and particularly those taking on major roles led by co-ordinator David McCann of Manchester & District OC.
The overall individual competition, the JK winners, are decided on the combined times for the middle and long distance races.
The JK moves round the UK with last year's in Wales - Our report on JK2022.
The JK2022 Individual Podium
The World Champs were in Scotland later in the year, and that plus the good terrain meant many top international orienteers came to the Lake District for JK 2015. As this year the sprint was at Lancaster University and the long at Bigland.
Matthias Kyburz (Switzerland) tied for first with Scott Fraser in the M21E sprint. Emma Klingenberg (Denmark) won W21E - later in the year she ran first leg in the Sprint Relay for the World Champs gold medal team.
The M21E middle race was completed by 146 runners. Graham Gristwood was second behind Matthias Kyburz. In the W21E middle race Hollie Orr was second, behind the Dane Ida Bobach, who won the World Champs long gold in Scotland later in the year.
The M21E long race (15.4km 720m) on Bigland was won by Thierry Gueorgiou in 86.29. He was followed by three Swiss. Just two GB runners finished in the top 10: Graham Gristwood and Doug Tullie. Matt Speake, Hector Haines, Alasdair McLeod and Kris Jones made the top 20.
It was a British runner who won W21E though, Cat Taylor taking 68.55 for 10.2km with 425m of climb. Hollie Orr, Helen Palmer and Claire Ward were also top-10.
Cat Taylor in the JK2015 long race, photo: Rob Lines
Thierry Gueorgiou finishes the JK2015 long race, photo: Rob Lines
In the M16A class a future World Champion Norwegian runner by the name of Kasper Fosser stormed round the middle distance to deprive long course winner Alastair Thomas of the overall by 22 seconds. Alasdair Pedley was 11th.
In W16A Emma Wilson was second behind the Finn Lotta Eerola. Third was Tereza Janosikova of Czechia. Laura King was 5th and Grace Molloy 9th.
The JK Sprint is a World Ranking Event. For the JK it's a standalone race. For selection it is one of two 2023 competitions (the other is Roxburgh Rievers' "Race the Abbeys") before the team is named for the World Cup sprint racing in Czechia in August. The European Championships in the sprint formats follow in October, in Italy. And the home World Championships next year (preceded by Euromeeting 2023 also in October) are not so far away either.
There are 94 entries on W21E, a third of them with a flag other than the Union Jack by their name. The final two starters are the GB medallists from last year's World Championships. Bronze medallist Alice Leake starts at 14:19 and World Champion Megan Carter-Davies is the final starter a minute later. Megan has been managing an injury for much of the winter, and did not run at the British Champs weekend.
How about if you can, getting to the run-in for half past two to cheer in the final runners, being especially loud for the GB World Champs medallists?
Five names together near the end of the 157 name startlist for M21E (15.11-15.15) may include the winner? They are Sasha Chepelin, Will Gardner, Nathan Lawson, Chris Smithard and Jonathan Crickmore. Sasha won last year. It's barely more than a week since Will, Chris and Jonathan were in company racing the last leg of the British Relays for the win, a race in which Nathan had run the fastest leg 1.
Great to also see Peter Hodkinson's name on the list at 14:53. Peter, 14th in the World Champs Sprint in 2021, has been injured for over a year but did complete a (forest) ranking race in the middle of March.
Saturday's W21E course is 4.8km +180m climb on a 1:10000 map. M21E is 6km +220m. From the programmne:
The area offers complex terrain in open, semi-open and wooded areas with plenty of contour and rock features. Lying between 20 and 230m, the area is not high compared to the surrounding fells but views are still extensive.
In a middle race with its focus on navigation, and in a technical area like High Dam, experience counts for even more than it usually does in an orienteering race. Generally the World Ranking lists are a good guide to the names to watch out for i.e. the later starters, as the startlists are in reverse order of the World ranking list. There are some exceptions though, runners who have not done so many races since COVID began, and so they do not have enough counting scores for a full set..
In the men's both Graham Gristwood (13:43) and Will Gardner (14:09) have too few races to count a full set, and so start earlier than they might. Watch out for their times. Both have run at the World Champs in middle distance, Graham has four top-20s. He recorded the best results by a GB man in the last round of last year's World Cup (in Switzerland). Maybe some running even earlier than them, the 12.51-12:55 trio of Alan Cherry, Mark Nixon and Alasdair McLeod may well set a current "leading time".
Runners at the end of the startlist include Alastair Thomas and Peter Taylor-Bray who ran in the last World Champs middle distance competition, which was in 2021. Peter is the new British Long Champion. Alastair has graduated from Edinburgh and last year started a two years masters at the Norwegian Technical University at Trondheim. So, as well as his home club WCOC (West Cumbria) he is a member of the NTNUI club which many Norwegian orienteers are members of for a time. The Lakes is home terrain for him, and he ran very well to win the special "Lakes Reloaded" events at the end of 2020. He probably hasn't had much forest orienteering near Trondheim in recent months though.
The other names at the end of the startlist i.e. runners with a high World Ranking, are Sasha Chepelin, Joshua Dudley and Ben Mitchell, all of whom have done well before in technical terrain. The fifth last starter is a Swiss runner, Andrin Bieri. You know Switzerland is one of the top nations for orienteering: Andrei is his country's 28th ranked forest orienteer!
Final starter (14:59) Ben Mitchell pictured at the World Cup Final last year by Fred Härtelt
In the women's a strong early starter is Hollie Orr (10:42) who last scored in a World Ranking Event in 2018. That was the year she won the JK long race and was just 2 seconds behind the winner in the overall once the times of middle and long were summed. Hollie ran a middle race at WOC six times 2011-2017, and she is a member of Lakeland OC. Another strong runner starting early is the first starter, Anna Ulvensøen. Anna was first leg for the Tiomila Damkavlen winning team of Nydalens SK last year, a team also including two runners who start in the final ten: Pia Young Vik (now OK Linné) and Helena Karlsson. That Nydalens team was noted as having runners born in four different decades.
The end of the women's startlist is half non-GB runners, with two more Nydalens runners and Tilla Farnes Hennum of NTNUI.
The start lists for the middle. Times are set in reverse order of World Ranking, and (on a desktop computer) the lists can be sorted by start time by clicking on the column header.
Bigland is one of the best areas in the country for our sport. To quote the programme:
The area is a superb and varied mix of Lake District terrain with almost no green on the map. The most testing part of the area in terms of both running and navigation is an area of broadleaf woodland on a steep slope. This includes many knolls, re-entrants and rock features.
The start order is determined by time taken in the middle race the day before - best starts last.
In line with the IOF guidelines the long course planning is to amended winning times compared to 2015: a little shorter for the men, and a little longer for the women (a bigger change proportionally.) Next year it's equal target times, this year is transitional towards equalisation.
This year's men's long (M21E-1) is 13.5km and 785m. This year's women's long is 10.7km and 530m.
The area is almost entirely deciduous open forest. There is lots of contour detail and many rock features.
Last year's winning teams, Octavian Droobers in the JK Trophy and Swansea Bay in the women's premier are back with the same lineups to defend their titles.
The target winning times are 32 minutes / 25(27) minutes / 32 minutes for the relays, not so long as international races.
The Swansea Bay Team last year, photo:Rob Lines