Megan Keith came away from Tallinn with her head held high after suffering the heartbreak of finishing fourth in the final of the women’s 3,000m at the European under-20 track and field championships in the Estonian capital.
The Inverness runner gave everything during an enthralling race which went down to the wire with less than one second separating the top four finishers.
Finland’s Ilona Mononen took the gold in a personal best 9:15.66, with young Danish athlete Sofia Thøgersen setting the fastest time by an under-18 year-old in Europe this year (9:16.43) for silver, while Norway’s Ina Halle Haugen was third in 9:16.47.
Keith was in the hunt all the way, keeping out of trouble by running on the outside of the large leading group and never lying further back than sixth or seventh position as the early laps ticked by.
Once the pace picked up on the final lap, she kept well in contention before unleashing a powerful sprint over the final 100 metres, which took her momentarily into the silver medal position before she was agonisingly overhauled by Thøgersen and Haugen right on the line.
Keith, whose coach Ross Cairns gave her some additional speedwork over the past few weeks, took some consolation from clocking a personal best time of 9:16.50, the sixth best ever by a Scottish woman in the under-20 age group.
She said: “Overall, I am proud of what I’ve achieved, but there’s a funny mix of feelings as I came so close to getting a medal.
“I ran as well and as hard as I could have, so I can’t really ask for any more than that. And I’ve got a personal best time out of it.
“I deliberately stayed on the outside of the group early on as that’s where I felt most comfortable. I wanted to be in a position where I could respond if anyone made a move so I didn’t mind running the slightly extra distance.
“I believed the race was wide open after some of the favourites failed to qualify for the final, so I decided I’d put myself into the mix.
“The pace really picked up over the closing stages and I think I ran the last 800m in 2:18. My last lap was 65.9.
Another Flying Finn! 🇫🇮
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) July 17, 2021
“But the final few seconds were weird. I thought I was in a battle for the silver medal with the Danish girl, but I never noticed the Norwegian coming up on the outside.
“It all happened so quickly. She had the momentum and just threw herself at the line. If I’d realised a split second earlier, I might have been able to lean forward more. But my legs were buckling at that point and I knew as soon as we’d finished that I was fourth.”
“It’s frustrating just missing a medal, but I’m pleased with my time. I really never expected it to be such a fast race.”
‘So disappointing’ as Alisha Rees’ injury end GB’s 4x100m medal bid
Alisha Rees hopes the hamstring injury which brought her European under-23 championship medal hopes to a painful end won’t wreck the remainder of her summer season.
The 22-year-old Banchory Stonehaven AC sprinter seemed to be on the way to helping Great Britain achieve a podium position in the 4x100m in Tallinn until she was brought to an abrupt standstill by a sudden pain behind her right knee on leg two of the relay.
Rees said: “It was my hamstring, but I’m really not sure what happened. It was totally unexpected. I had no inkling anything was wrong.
“It’s very frustrating. I’d run about 50-60 metres when I felt a sharp pain at the back of my knee. I’ve never had a pain like that before and I just couldn’t keep going.”
Rees was dejected as the Great Britain squad looked to be serious podium contenders after an impressive victory over France and Italy in the heats.
Germany went on to lift the title in a championship record time of 42.05sec to finish ahead of Spain and France.
Rees said: “It’s so disappointing. We might not have won, but I’m pretty sure we could have taken silver.”
The Loughborough-based athlete had earlier missed out on reaching the final of the individual 200m.
She said: “I was happy with my run in the heats, but in the semi-final I stumbled coming out of the blocks and just didn’t get my usual power. It was my own fault.
“I’m going to get a scan to fully assess the problem with the hamstring and I’ll take things from there. I’d like to get another race before the end of the season, but the priority is to get the injury sorted.”
North athletes shine at Grangemouth
Ross County’s Zak Fearn hit top form when competing in the Scottish combined league track and field meeting at Grangemouth.
The Highland teenager won the under-17 men’s javelin with a personal best throw of 41.76m, an improvement of more than three metres on his previous best set in Dundee last month.
He also achieved a PB of 5.32m in the long jump, which was won by Aaron Kerr (Inverness Harriers), 5.33
Scottish women’s 200m champion Roisin Harrison (Aberdeen AAC) stepped up to the 400m, which she won in a PB of 55.04secs.
There was also a win for Alexander Mackay (Inverness Harriers), who cleared 11.96m in the men’s shot, while his brother Alister was second in the long jump with 6.00m
Kai Crawford set an Aberdeen AAC under-17 age group record in the men’s 1500m. The teenager clocked 3:57.86 to break the previous mark of 4:01.1 set by Ross Arbuckle 43 years ago.
It was an exciting race in which 0.78sec separated the top three finishers – Andrew McGill (Forth Valley) winning in 3:57.08, followed by Calum Young (Giffnock North), 3:57.46, and Crawford in third position.
Stewart Clark (Inverness) set a PB 50.22 when pipped for first position in the 400m won by Ewan Purves (Edinburgh AC) in 50.20.
Aberdeen AAC’s Jane Davidson showed she is edging back to peak fitness by finishing second in the women’s 100m hurdles in a season’s best 14.59secs, while her clubmate Briagha Cook was third in 15.54.
Elgin’s Tamsin Fowlie was second in the women’s 300m, recording 41.38secs behind Pitreavie’s Rebecca Grieve, who won in 39.79.
Meanwhile, Mhairi MacLennan (Inverness Harriers) won the England Athletics 10,000m track title when recording 33:09.62 at Walthamstow, London.