Image: from the special notes explaining the lower service area level at Bath University.
Followers of the GB Orienteers need to have their eyes in more than one place this coming weekend, with World Cup forest races taking place in Norway ( starting on Friday, preview - World Cup Round 3 ) and the British Sprint and the British Middle Distance Championships being hosted by the South West Orienteering Association, Bristol Orienteering Klub and North Gloucestershire Orienteering Club, near Bath.
Saturday is the sprints, Sunday the middle distance.
Saturday 1st September is the British Sprint Championships, on the campus of the University of Bath with a mix of parkland, gardens and complex multi-levels. In sport Bath University is well-known for its £30million Sports Training Village. This is a leading centre for performance sport, so concentrates (as directed by government policy) on pursuit of Summer and Winter Olympic medals. For example the University has the UK’s only bobsleigh and skeleton push-start track and hosts the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association.
The format of the sprint is like the World Champs; heats and finals in one day. The heats are in the morning, with the fastest six athletes from each of the three heats progressing to the A Final for eighteen athletes in the afternoon. Who will take the medals? And will there be new names on the trophies? We will know in a few days.
The men's race has 86 entries for M21, M20 and M18 (who compete in the men's open competition.)
Last year’s champion Jamie Parkinson of Oxford University returns to defend his Men’s Open title, and will expect to be closely challenged by squad athletes Jonny Crickmore (of Edinburgh University, and 9th in the recent World University Championships), and last year’s silver medallist and the 2012 champion Chris Smithard from Forth Valley Orienteers.
Last year's bronze medallist Rhodri Buffett of South Wales, is on the start line. Rhodri was in the GB World Championships team as a first year senior in 2009,and as a former student at Bath University will find himself on familiar ground as he tries to improve his good result from last year.
Outsiders are former JWOC athlete Adam Potter from nearby Bristol OK (who was second to European bronze medallist Kris Jones in a previous sprint race on this area), and James Hoad (who has just backed up strong results at the Sprint Scotland weekend with a win in a fast time at the recent Nairn half-marathon - by the way his 5K PB is 15:15).
The veteran challenge for the open placings comes from 2005 winner and CompassSport editor, not to mention multiple World Masters medallist, Nick Barrable and from perennial medal challenger Richard Robinson of Nottingham OC.
On The Red Line editorial note: the links for both Nick and Richard go to the Archive of British Orienteering Records (ARBOR) and should you wish you can use the Fight! option at ARBOR to see that the database - which holds British and JK results - has NIck and Richard competing on the same course 68 times, from a first time at Haugh Wood in 2000 through to this year's British Long Distance race at Balmoral. How will their 69th encounter turn out?
At the other end of the age spectrum all this year's GB Junior World Championships (JWOC) men are running, except for the sprint silver medallist at JWOC, Matt Fellbaum, who is making his senior debut in the World Cup Relay in Norway on Monday. The athletes who are running, and all may hope to make the final, are
The women's open race has 56 entries.
It includes an intriguing rematch from 2017 between two of the favourities. Last year Kiwi Laura Robertson of Edinburgh Southern ran the fastest time on the day but was not eligible to be British Champion and so Alice Leake took the title. Alice (fresh from her breakthrough 8th place at the World Championships in Latvia) is defending, and Laura is running too, but for 2018 Laura (herself 23rd at the World Championships) has a further year of UK residency and is now eligible for the title. Another strong contender (and 24th in Latvia) is Charlotte Ward, who won in 2015 and 2016. Both Kirstin Maxwell and Cecilie Andersen will also be looking to challenge for medals and have run for GB at Sprint this year; Kirstin at the European Championships and Cecilie at the World University Championships.
These athletes face strong competition from the veteran and junior ranks. The 2004 winner Kim Baxter and five-time winner Sarah Rollins are both still high in the GB rankings and will look to challenge the top placings.
The strongest contender from the junior ranks is Fiona Bunn of Thames Valley, 15th at JWOC this year and already a medallist from this event in 2016 whilst still a W18 (and just two seconds from the title that day). Emma Wilson of Edinburgh University, Chloe Potter of Bristol and the UK’s top-ranked W18 Niamh Hunter of West Cumberland all join Fiona as athletes from the 2018 JWOC looking to make Saturday's final and do well.