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Athletics: Megan Keith aiming high in European cross country championships

Megan Keith.
Megan Keith.

Megan Keith (Inverness Harriers) can travel to Dublin with justifiable confidence for next month’s European cross country championships following her outstanding victory in the Great Britain team trials at Liverpool’s Sefton Park.

The Highland athlete, who is studying sports science at Edinburgh University, won the under-20 women’s race by a sizeable margin without ever seemingly feeling the need to switch into top gear.

Keith completed the 4.4k course in 14min 45secs with her closest challenger, Alice Garner (Aldershot, Farnham and District) finishing 20secs behind.

It was another impressive performance from the 19 year-old Scot who had earlier in the season won British Cross Challenge series races at Cardiff and Milton Keynes.

She said: “The conditions were pretty horrific with 40mph gales generating an incredibly cold wind chill. There was a tailwind at the start and a headwind on the long straight into the finish, so that affected how the race went.

“I decided to set out hard and I think everyone got a bit carried away with the wind at our backs. But I was able to push on and got a gap which I was able to maintain.”

Keith now has a fortnight to fine-tune her preparations for the Euro event to be held on a purpose-built cross country course on the Sport Ireland Campus near Dublin.

She said: “I did a one-hour run the day after the trial and felt fine. I’ve recovered well and I’ll be doing some shorter, sharper runs in training over the next week. Hopefully that will get me into even better form by the time I go to Ireland.”

This will be Keith’s second appearance for GB in the European under-20 cross country championships. Two years ago, in Lisbon, she picked up a team gold medal when finishing 27th overall.

While another team success would be welcome, the Inverness woman is also aiming to make her mark at individual level.

She is much more experienced now at this level, as was shown when she finished fourth in the 3,000m at July’s European under-20 track and field championships at Tallinn, Estonia.

Keith said: “I certainly hope to be much higher than two years ago. I learned a lot from that experience and I have also benefitted from doing the track championships in Tallinn. I also feel I’m better suited to cross country rather than track at the moment.”

Aberdeen AAC’s Kirsty Purcell, who was making her Scotland international debut at Liverpool, finished 20th in 16:06, while her twin sister Caitlin was five secs behind in 23rd position.

Mhairi MacLennan’s hopes of earning a place on the senior women’s team for Dublin evaporated when the Inverness Harriers club member finished 17th in the 8.1k trial.

Tom Graham-Marr (Aberdeen University) was 19th in the under-23 men’s 9.8k race in which Strathpeffer’s Hamish Hickey was 47th.

Scots Andy Butchart and Jamie Crowe, both members of Central AC, secured selection for the senior men’s team after finishing second and third respectively.

Inverness Harrier Fraser on international duty

Stroma Fraser (Inverness Harriers) is to make her third appearance for Scotland when she competes in the over-16 girls’ age group at the schools international pentathlon at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena next weekend.

The Fortrose Academy pupil, who comes from Munlochy, made her debut in this match two years ago when she finished eighth in the under-16 girls’ competition.

She also represented the Scottish Schools team at Derby in September, finishing eighth in the 300m hurdles.

Fraser earned her latest call-up after winning the Scottish under-17 heptathlon title at Kilmarnock during the summer.

Ellen MacLeod (Banchory Stonehaven AC) makes her representative debut in the under-16 girls’ pentathlon. She achieved a personal bests core of 2658 points when picking up the bronze medal at the Scottish under-15 championships in the summer.

And there’s also a debut for Aberdeen AAC’s Finn Bryce in the under-16 boys’ match.

The Albyn school pupil was fourth in his age group at the Scottish outdoor championships.

Meanwhile, the North District cross country league match scheduled to take place at Lyne of Skene on Saturday was cancelled because of the adverse weather conditions.

It was disappointing for Insch Trail Running Club which was due to host a league meeting for the first time,but the decision to postpone was unavoidable.

League officials took account of the exposed location of the course, the lack of available indoor shelter, the safety and well-being of the volunteer marshals and finish line team as well as competitors.

A decision about rescheduling will be made over the coming week.

And Sunday’s Aberdeen Metro Beach 10k road race was also cancelled because of ice on the course.

MacLennan aiming to make an impact after joining athletics commission

Mhairi Maclennan.

Experienced Great Britain international distance runner Mhairi MacLennan is clear as to her objectives when she takes her place on the UK Athletics Athletes’ Commission.

The Commission offers a formal mechanism by which the views of international athletes are heard by the Board of UK Athletics before taking important decisions.

MacLennan, who has represented GB in the world and European cross country championships, was recently elected to the organisation and intends making her voice heard in a positive manner.

She said:”I’ve made it my mission to protect the safety and welfare of all athletes. That is the main thing for me and we need to ensure everyone is heard.

“We look at our sport in a way which is very performance based. It’s all about medals and success over all else. There’s a tendency not to think about the grassroots of the sport and the people who support us.

“At the moment only athletes who have represented Great Britain over the past six years are eligible to be on the Commission and I feel that needs to change.

“The value others can bring to the table is underestimated and a broader representation would close the gap between performance athletes and the rest.

“The Athletes Commission influences decisions which affect all of the sport but it isn’t representative of all of the sport.

“There have been a lot of positive changes recently, but there’s still a long way to go.”

MacLennan will serve on the Commission for two years.

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