This blog post is an attempt to briefly describe my orienteering life right from when I first started up to now. Here goes….
I have no recollection of my first orienteering experience because my parents took me to events before I could even walk. My mum was introduced to the sport by a high school teacher, went on to compete for the Scottish Junior squad and continue orienteering with the active club at Oxford university. She then introduced my dad to it and, naturally, they took me and then my brother along too.
Orienteering is sport that is truly designed to cater for all ages and abilities. So, after a few years of completing the string course (the course for the youngest children), I moved on to ‘proper’ courses where one of my parents would follow me from a distance to check I was okay. In 2008 I completed my first solo course which is a momentous occasion for any junior orienteer.
As I got older, I started to make some friends through my club (Forth Valley Orienteers) and attending competitions like the Scottish Championships, the Jamie Stevenson Trophy and the Junior Inter Areas. I began to really enjoy orienteering and look forward to the next events.
In 2013, I was selected for the Scottish Junior Orienteering Squad (ScotJOS) and this was the best thing to ever happen to me in orienteering. It allowed me to strengthen the friendships I had already made in orienteering, make new friends and improve my orienteering hugely. We had 5 training weekends a year, a fortnight tour every second year and the opportunity to represent Scotland at Junior Inter-regional Championships and the Junior Home Internationals. ScotJOS epitomises all my favourite things about orienteering: seeing my friends, training and racing in a positive, fun environment and travelling to new places across the UK and abroad. I recently ‘graduated’ from ScotJOS after 6 years and I am now looking forward to representing the Scotland Senior Team.
I attended Summer training camps through the Junior Regional Orienteering Squads at Lagganlia in 2014 and Deeside in 2015. I met lots of new people through these camps and orienteering every day for a week really improved my ability. This year I was invited to coach at the Lagganlia camp and it was lovely to see the juniors having the same experiences I had.
The World Schools Championships 2015 was held in Turkey and this was my first experience of international competition. As well as being a fantastic week away (we stayed at an amazing hotel on the beach) and a chance to meet other junior orienteers from around the world; it was also useful preparation for the GB international races I would run in future. It exposed me to quarantines, event transport and racing in a completely new environment. To top it off I was able to win the Middle and Long distance races which I was delighted with.
When I was 15, I was selected to be a member of the British Talent Squad. This has helped me to structure and focus my training towards the international competitions. I have attended 4 training weekends and two longer camps every year through the squad and this has allowed me to improve my technical skills as well as to learn about race preparation and analysis. I have two years left in the squad and I hope it will continue to be as useful to me as it has for the last three years.
I got my first taste of senior success in 2016. My club captain, Jon Cross, selected me for the Women’s Open team for the JK (British Open) relay and despite being a little apprehensive, I was ready for the challenge. I was put out on second leg in 3rd position and had a solid but unspectacular race so I was surprised to come back in 1st. My last leg runner raced well to hold onto our lead so we were crowned JK champions which made me the youngest ever winner of the JK relay, aged 15.
I was selected to run for Great Britain at the European Youth Championships in 2016 which was my first GB international race. Including that I have now represented GB at 3 age groups (U16, U18 and U20), at 6 competitions and in 19 races. I have had some disastrous races and some fantastic races but, in general, I am pleased with how I have performed at international competitions. So far I have achieved two medals and two further podium places and I hope to add to this over the next couple of years.
That pretty much brings me to where I am now: enjoying my Australian adventure. Here’s hoping for more success, but, more importantly to me, many more incredible, happy experiences with orienteering.