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Athletics: Aberdeen AAC’s Kirsty Purcell hopes twin Caitlin can join her in earning Scotland call-up

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Kirsty Purcell makes her Scotland under-20 international debut in Liverpool today and the 18-year-old Aberdeen AAC runner hopes twin sister Caitlin can match that achievement in the not too distant future.

The Merseyside race features many of the nation’s top teenage athletes, who will be vying for places on the Great Britain team for next month’s European cross country championships in Ireland.

Purcell is one of four women selected to represent Scotland in the 4.2k race, in which top club runners will also take part.

She said: “I am very pleased to be selected as I hadn’t expected it. However, I knew there was a chance as I finished fourth in the Scottish 4k championships at Lanark and the team was picked after that.

“I’ve run for Scottish Schools before, just once, in 2019, but this is the first time I’ve been picked for Scotland, although I’ve come close on a few occasions.

“I think my selection will inspire Caitlin as she’s always quite close to me in races and she knows if she keeps training away it’s something she can achieve as well.

“We seem to swap around from year to year in finishing ahead of each other, which is good as it pushes each of us on. It was really helpful during lockdown as we were able to  encourage each other to keep training.”

The twins have recently started studying for a degree in sports science at Edinburgh University, which is also renowned for nurturing top distance runners.

Both have enjoyed success with the university since the start of the winter season and last weekend Kirsty completed preparations for her international debut by representing Edinburgh over an 8k course at the Scottish Student cross country championships.

She helped her side win gold in the team competition by finishing fifth, while Caitlin was just 14secs behind in sixth position.

Kirsty Purcell (154) leads sister Caitlin (155).

Kirsty said: “This is the longest cross country race I’ve done as the others this season have been around 4k. And it was a tough course with lots of hills, so overall I am happy with the result.

“I got into fourth position at one point, but couldn’t quite hold on to it.

Caitlin also ran well to finish sixth and it was good that we were both in the winning Edinburgh team. There’s such a great depth in the squad of runners at the university at the moment.

“Edinburgh is great for training as there are always people to run with. We train as a group on Tuesday’s and Thursdays, but on other days it’s always possible to arrange a session.”

Purcell knows the Liverpool fixture will be demanding, but is relishing the opportunity to gain experience which will pay dividends in the future.

She said: “I’ve run Liverpool once before so I know the course. I ran there in 2019 in the combined under-17 and under-20’s race so I know what to expect.

“But it’s my first Scotland vest so it will be a new experience and my aim is simply to do my best and to enjoy it.”

Purcell’s busy season continues next weekend when she competes in the east district championships at Stirling. Then there’s a short break from competition before she and Caitlin represent the Scottish Student team at the Inter District championships in January.

The cross country campaign reaches its finale at Falkirk in February when she’ll compete for a medal in the Scottish under-20 age group championship race.

Purcell may also take time out to tackle one or two indoor races early in the New Year.

She said: “It depends on how things go, but I might try a couple of indoor 3,000m races. I’d like to get my time under 10mins and there’s a couple of races which give me the chance to go for that.”

Broch ace Abernethy takes fourth in Scottish student championships

Fraserburgh’s Max Abernethy produced arguably his best cross country performance so far when taking fourth position in the Scottish student championships at Edinburgh’s Craigmillar Castle Park.

Scotland international Christian Graham (Dundee University) won the 8k race in 24min 57secs, while Matt Knowles (Edinburgh University) was 15secs behind in second place, with Jamie Burns leading Glasgow University to team victory when finishing third in 25:42.

Abernethy, who was just six secs further behind, admits he surpassed his expectations, but at the same time expressed frustration at narrowly missing out on a podium position.

He said: “I went into the race hoping for a top 12 placing so to end up with fourth is amazing.”

“I had a poor start. I was pushed right back and was lying between 30th and 40th in the early stages. So, I had to work hard and after the first mile I’d got back into 10th.

“I gradually worked through the field and, although the first two guys were well ahead, I settled in just behind third place.

“On the final lap, I made a break and got into third, but Jamie Burns then came past me so quickly that I couldn’t react.

“I’m really pleased, but also a bit gutted to be so close to a medal.”

Abernethy’s performance comfortably assures him of a place on the Scottish student team for the Inter District representative cross country match at Irvine in January as the top 12 finishers are guaranteed selection.

He led Aberdeen to fifth position in the team competition, the other scorers being Aaron Odentz (22nd, 27:09), Sandy Laing (58th, 30:15) and Orrin Bishop (65th, 30:59).

Abernethy’s next race will be next month’s north district championships at Gordonstoun.