Chris Smithard, last year's Senior Men's winner, pictured in the JK Sprint.
In the UK there are several “leagues” scoring over multiple races. The League that appeals to many runners in the open and top junior classes is concentrated in the main Spring season when most UK forests are at their best. Runners enjoy taking part in the top quality races where there are large fields and strong runners.
It is called the UK Elite Orienteering League. In 2019 the League will run for the fifth time. The races are within two months over five weekends, from a sprint race in early March to the British Champs in early May. The included weekends for 2019 are the Northern Championships Weekend, the Lakes Spring Weekend including the Red Rose Classic, the Scottish Spring, the JK Festival, and the British (Long) Championships. All but the last weekend include multiple scoring races. (The final league positions are best six scores from earlier rounds plus the final race.)
The league runs on selected weekends from March to May. There are 12 rounds over five weekends. The scheduling takes into account selection races, the international programme, and the education system calendar. It Includes sprint, middle and long format races to find the best all-round Junior and Senior orienteers.
The aim of the league is to promote and maintain participation in UK orienteering by providing an interesting and attractive competition, supported by website and social media. And to encourage both juniors and seniors to stay in the sport and compete in the highest level races.
The League was started in 2015 by Graham Gristwood of Forth Valley Orienteers to provide a series tailored for the country’s top athletes. Many see it as the successor to the Future Champions Cup, which previously provided such a series for juniors looking for international summer selection, whilst the UK Cup was an elite series but running the whole length of the year.
Duncan Archer (Cleveland OK) calculates the scoring and manages the website since the first series. Duncan Birtwistle (Octavian Droobers) now co-ordinates the League.
In 2018 there were ten races, and all the top domestic races reported by On The Red Line were included:
The League needs a mix of challenging sprint, middle and long races. Quality long races are reasonably easy to come by but sprints and middles are fewer in number. The format of the JK is perfect (sprint, middle, long). Scottish Spring (organised by Masterplan Adventure) will also stage all three disciplines in one long weekend. Other weekends setup one-off races for the league.
The Bristol OK and North Gloucester OC Southern Champs weekend in the Forest of Dean was a strong contender for 2019 but unfortunately clashes with the British University & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships.
There are more races in the programme this year than last, and they have a good geographical spread.
Racing starts in Sheffield with a sprint organised by South Yorkshire Orienteers at Ponderosa on Saturday 9th March. (Other age classes have an urban race.) Wharncliffe, a classic area of rock features and forested slopes, is the venue for the Northern Champs the next day, mapped and planned by Oli Johnson (10 World Champs, 12 wins of British Long, Middle and JK forest days.).
Weekend 2 is 23/24th March. On Saturday 23rd Juniors and Seniors are split. Juniors race in a specially organised sprint selection race at Lancaster University. Seniors run a technical middle distance on Haverthwaite Heights, scene of past British Championships. All re-group at Hampsfell & Eggerslack Woods on the Sunday where Juniors step up to a middle and Seniors to a long.
Weekend 3 is the Scottish Spring which has become a regular fixture in the League due its reliability for high-class orienteering. This year it's the 13/14th April in Central Scotland around Falkland with a middle (Senior counter only) and sprint on the Saturday followed by a Scottish Orienteering League long on the Sunday.
The JK Festival (19-21st April) is the penultimate weekend of the series where all three races count. It starts with the sprint at Aldershot Barracks. Focus and map contact will be necessary to succeed in the middle amongst the dense contours and paths of Windmill Hill. And Cold Ash, used for the long race at JK 2013, hosts the long.
Arncliffe & Kilnsey’s open fell and contour detail will provide a fast finish to the League at the British Championships on 5th May.
Incidentally all the junior selection races are included in the League.
A prize fund and has been filled by generous individuals and sponsors. From 2015-2018 52 different athletes have been awarded prizemoney. We welcome donations of any size which can be made online via the Supporters page of the website or by emailing email@example.com.
The fund makes things more exciting, and provides a bit of fun and modest recognition and reward for the top runners in the eight classes.
- Matt Elkington
- Alistair Masson
- Sasha Chepelin
- Jessica Halliday
- Sarah Jones
- Aislinn Prendergast
- Sarah Jones
- Megan Carter-Davies
- Cecilie Andersen
Duncan Birtwistle UK Elite Orienteering League Coordinator Octavian Droobers