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Athletics: Aberdeen’s Sasha Chepelin using winter of racing to fuel orienteering sprint world championships bid

Sasha Chepelin. Picture by Kenny Elrick

Aberdeen’s Sasha Chepelin hopes a good winter of cross country and hill running will set him up for a place on the Great Britain team for next year’s orienteering urban sprint world championships in Denmark.

The Edinburgh-based 24-year-old showed great form last weekend to get the better of Aberdeen AAC’s Michael Ferguson to win the East District cross country league men’s race at Hawick.

And, a fortnight earlier, he helped his  club Carnethy win the British fell running men’s relay title at Tebay in Cumbria.

Chepelin will aim for more success at this weekend’s Tinto hill race in Lanarkshire, where a capacity field of 200 competitors will tackle an arduous 4.5-mile course which includes 1500ft of climbing.

He said: “I’m pleased with the way I’m running at the moment and I certainly feel I’ve been getting into decent shape over the past few months.

“I’ve started doing interval training for the first time in a few years and that’s making a difference – I’ve certainly got my motivation back.

“I really enjoyed the Hawick race as I had a great battle with Michael. It’s the most exciting cross country race I’ve been involved in as we were so evenly matched.

“Michael was better on the firmer surfaces, but when we moved onto the muddier marshland parts of the course I seemed to get the upper hand.”

Although he’s currently doing well in athletics, Chepelin still has a strong passion for orienteering, the sport in which he has represented Great Britain on a regular basis through the age groups.

He is keen to secure a place on the team for the 2022 urban sprint world championships to be held in the Danish towns of Kolding, Fredericia and Vejle next June.

Sasha Chepelin. Picture by Kenny Elrick

Chepelin said: “I was in Denmark recently with the GB squad for a high-quality training week, which finshed off with some good sprint races. It was good to be involved again.

“And it was great to see the places where the world championships will be held. It gave us a chance to get a feel for the layout of the towns.

“The urban sprint championships is a relatively new event and it’s a very exciting format of racing. There’s an individual sprint, which lasts up to a maximum of 15 minutes. There’s also a knock-out sprint and a sprint relay.

“It sounds like fun and I’m keen to do it. And, looking a bit further ahead, the 2024 urban championships are to be held in Edinburgh, which is exciting.”

In the meantime, Chepelin is happy to maintain his progress by tackling a variety of races over the coming months.

He said: “I’ve signed up for the Seven Reservoirs trail half marathon at the beginning of December. It’s held in the Pentland Hills, so it won’t be an easy course.”

He has also expressed an interest in the Bristow 15 mile trail race at Balmoral in April, an event he won in 2019.

Chepelin said: “That’s certainly appealing. I enjoyed it last time and would be keen to go again.

“I just need to sit down and plan what I’m doing for the first part of 2022. The trial races for the orienteering world championships will start at the end of March, so I need to work around that.”

Ultra specialist Meryl Cooper experiments with short distances

British 100k trail running champion Meryl Cooper is used to competing in mountainous events which last for five hours or longer – but over the next few days she’ll tackle two races which, for her, will seem like mere sprints.

Meryl Cooper. Picture by Jim Irvine

The north-east athlete, who recently relocated from Oldmeldrum to Banchory, travels to Fife on Sunday for the Tentsmuir Forest 10k trail race.

Then, on Tuesday evening, she’ll head for Kemnay to compete in the second round of this winter’s Fetternear Shadow series of 6.3k trail races.

She said: “The Tentsmuir race is quite a small one, but I just fancied giving it a go. It’s very different to the sort of thing I’m used to doing as it’s relatively short and quite a flat course.

“But I’m looking forward to finding out where I’m at when competing over that sort of distance. It will be a bit of a marker for me.

“And Tuesday night’s race is even shorter. It’s the second of a series of six held over the winter, but I missed the first one.

“I think the higher intensity of running over these shorter distances will still help with my ultra distance training.”

Chris Hill (Cosmic Hillbashers) won the opening Fetternear Shadow race last month when completing the course in 24:01. Robbie Idle was runner-up in 24:19 and Rory Brand (Garioch Road Runners) took third spot in 25:22.

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