Sean Chalmers – delayed flights to Texas to run for Scotland (photo by Bobby Gavin)
For America-based Highlander Sean Chalmers, the cost of a Scotland appearance at the Celtic Nations XC in Edinburgh ran to a few hundred pounds.
But with two medals added to his baggage for a return to Texas, the 20-year-old Inverness Harriers athlete quickly declared his Scotland vest appearance as ‘priceless’.
When Chalmers impressed at U23 level in the British Cross Challenge in Liverpool at the end of November, it became clear he was a strong candidate to feature in the Celtic Nations XC at the Great Edinburgh event. In fact, he was desperately close to a GB place for the Euro Cross.
In terms of a January 9 appearance at Holyrood, the only problem on the horizon was . . . a flight booked to fly back to Texas on Thursday 7 January in order to resume college studies at Lamar University.
‘I made it clear that if there was a chance of running for Scotland at the Great Edinburgh XC then I would try and change my flight and make new arrangements in terms of getting back to college,’ said Chalmers.
‘Thankfully I managed to do that and it was great to win the U23 Celtic Nations race and pick up a silver medal in the Senior Inter-Districts race.
‘Changing the flights cost me £100 and there was an expense for us as a family travelling to Edinburgh and staying in a hotel on Friday night – but I loved the experience and felt really proud to represent my country.
‘It is three years since I represented Scotland in Cardiff in an U20 Celtic Nations XC race so it was great to do it again. There are not all that many chances coming along to run for Scotland and that’s why I was really keen to be available if I could.
‘We had a 1-2-3 in the Celtics with Jonny Glen and Scott Stirling just behind me so it was a good team effort all round (with Jamie Crowe in sixth place). Jonny did well because at 19 he is young for the U23 age group.
‘I’m in my third year at uni in Texas but was out of athletics for a full year with an Achilles injury. So it was great to run at an event like Edinburgh again and I thoroughly enjoyed it.’
Sean’s younger brother, Kieran, represented the North in the Inter-Districts to complete a special day for the Chalmers family. Sean finished 10th int he U15 Boys race.
Neil Gourley in action at Holyrood Park
As Chalmers made plans on Saturday to head back to Texas, Giffnock North’s Neil Gourley was set to make a Transatlantic journey, too.
Gourley is studying at Virginia Tech University and also loved his Scotland experience. The European U123 1500m bronze medallist was the opening runner for Scotland B in the 4 x 1K International relay and was just a couple of seconds behind Cameron Boyek, when Scotland A led at the first change-over.
‘I loved the whole experience of running for Scotland in Scotland and in front of that crowd,’ said Neil.
‘It was a brilliant opportunity and I’m grateful there were two teams because that gave eight of us the chance to run. It is a while since I’ve done something as fast and as short as that – and cross country in Scotland isn’t quite the same as it is in the United States!
‘But it was good fun and an exciting experience, racing against some very good athletes. Emily Dudgeon had a cracking leg just after me and we were right up there at halfway but it was tough on the younger ones, Josh Kerr and Carys McAulay. I am sure they will pick up things from what happened and for myself it was pretty new racing in front of a big Scottish crowd like that.
‘I took my 1500m PB to 3.41 last year so that felt like a big step forward. The European U23s in Tallinn was the highlight – I just made the bronze on the line from an Italian athlete who I think thought he’d done enough. I knew he hadn’t!
‘I will go back to Virginia and keep working away as hard as I can to try and improve.’
Neil and Cameron Boyek on the start-line for the 4 x 1K International Relay