Zoey Clark’s hopes of topping off her preparations for the Olympic trials by racing in Switzerland this weekend have been dashed after the organisers withdrew invitations to British athletes.
Instead, the Aberdeen AAC 400m runner has been given the opportunity to compete in a domestic league meeting at Grangemouth stadium to give her a final test before she heads to Manchester at the end of the month to bid for a place on the team for Tokyo.
Clark said: “I was meant to be racing in Geneva this weekend, but they have cancelled all the British entries. Apparently we wouldn’t be exempt from quarantining, so it just isn’t possible.
“It’s really disappointing because I feel I’m in a good place at the moment and I was confident I could have pushed my time down a bit further by having some good quality opposition.
“So, we have been looking around and talking with scottishathletics about the possibility of getting into a race here and I’ve been given an entry for the league match.”
The 26-year-old is as good as guaranteed a place in the Great Britain 4x400m relay squad for the Olympics following a series of medal-winning performances at world and European level in recent years.
But she’s also keen to earn one of three places available in the individual 400m and therefore requires to hit the qualifying standard of 51.35secs.
Clark certainly believes she is rounding into form at just the right time, as demonstrated last weekend when representing her English club, Thames Valley Harriers, in a national athletics league meeting at Bromley.
She opened up with a commanding performance in her primary event, the 400m, clocking a season’s best of 51.99sec, which brought her home four secs clear of the field. That’s not too far short of the league record of 51.70 set by fellow Scot Lee McConnell in 2008.
Shortly afterwards Clark achieved another season’s best when winning the 200m in a spritely 23.63, before rounding off the day by helping her side win the 4x400m relay in a club record 3:35.12, less than one sec outside the league record.
She said: “It’s the best I’ve felt in racing this year. It was nice to be under 52sec in the 400m again, but it was quite difficult as it was really a solo run.
“I was also pleased with the 200m as it came just 40min after the 400m, so the turnaround time wasn’t long at all. Then an hour later we produced a fast relay time.
“It was a good day’s work and I’m very encouraged by it. I am 100% more confident now in looking ahead to the trials.
“I’m into the final stages of preparation and I’m concentrating on things like race modelling and pace judgement to make sure I know exactly what I need to do at the trials.”
Andy’s got the attitude for altitude
Great Britain mountain running international Andy Douglas hopes to compete in his first overseas race for more than 18 months by tackling the opening round of the Golden Trail series in Spain this weekend.
The Edinburgh-based North Highland Harriers club member is to take part in the L’Olla de Núria race near Girona, which is held over a 21k course with 1,940m of elevation gain.
More than 70% of the route is at an altitude of higher than 2,700m, which will be tough for the Caithness man, who has had little time to acclimatise.
Douglas is, however, in excellent form as demonstrated earlier in the month when he shattered the course record to win the Red Kips Moss East District championship hill race at Balerno.
He completed the 10.5k route, with 350m of climbing, in 38min 48 secs, an improvement of two mins on Euan Brown’s 2019 record.
Douglas said: “The Red Kips race was a good shakeout for the legs and very much a course to suit me, with lots of fast running and not so technical descending.
“The Spanish race has the green light. I’m just hoping there’s no last minute flight cancellations and that I get my negative Covid test through. I fly on Saturday and the race is Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Max Abernethy (Fraserburgh Running Club) is favourite to win Sunday’s Fraserburgh 10k after his impressive victory in last weekend’s Back-to-Basics 10k at Forres.
Metro Aberdeen’s Ginie Barrand and Claire Bruce are the leading names entered for the women’s division of the race.
A restricted field of 100 runners, to comply with Covid guidelines, will take part.
Waiting for the call
Race organisers often have anxious moments on the eve of big events, hoping that nothing impacts adversely on the meticulous plans they have put in place to ensure a safe and successful experience for competitors.
In that respect Kyle Greig is no different from others as he keeps his fingers crossed that tomorrow’s inaugural Moray Coastal Trail 50 mile run between Forres and Cullen will pass off without incident.
But the Alford-based runner and event manager has an additional matter on his mind in the countdown to the 7am start as his wife Debbie is due to give birth to the couple’s second child.
Greig said: “The baby is due any time now, but I’m lucky to have a lot of volunteers helping with the race and I’m trying to give myself as few duties as possible in case something happens.
“I’ve a couple of folk who say they’ll manage to look after things, but everything is organised and hopefully all will fall into place.”
Greig admits it’s difficult to pick out an obvious favourite in the men’s competition as Metro Aberdeen’s Chris Richardson and Jason Kelly have withdrawn in order to concentrate on preparing to represent Scotland in a 100k international later in the summer.
He said: “It looks wide open. Robbie Paterson, Keith Buchan and Jamie Pallister are among the names I recognise, while veteran Neill Kelly could do well.
“The women’s contest is interesting as well with Shetland’s Charlotte Black, Kintore’s Emma Murray and Aberdeen’s Sarah Simpson all possible contenders.
“It’s a very runnable course with a mix of trails, road and even a few stretches along beaches.”