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Athletics: Scotland international Kenny Wilson returns to action at North District cross country championships

Kenny Wilson. Picture by Jason Hedges
Kenny Wilson. Picture by Jason Hedges

Scotland international Kenny Wilson returns to competitive action for only the second time since his fine performance in October’s London marathon when he takes part in tomorrow’s North District cross country championships at Gordonstoun.

The Moray Road Runners club member set a personal best time of 2hr 18min 42sec in the capital – the third quickest by a Scot this year.

The following week he helped his club take second position behind Inverness Harriers in the North  cross country relay championships at Nairn.

Since then the road running specialist has taken a break from racing in order to focus on building up his training again.

He said: “It will be interesting to see how it goes on Saturday. I’m happy with the way my training is going at the moment and I’ve had some good sessions.

“I just haven’t done much off-road running. I’d planned to compete in the North league meeting at Lyne of Skene last weekend but it was cancelled because of the weather conditions.

“However, the course at Gordonstoun isn’t too severe, it’s very runnable, so I’m happy enough about it.”

Kenny Wilson leading the pack in a race at Grant Park, Forres. Picture by Jason Hedges

Wilson won the men’s title in 2018 but knows he faces some tough opposition in his  quest to strike gold again, despite the absence of fellow Scotland international Sean Chalmers (Inverness Harriers).

John Newsom (Inverness Harriers), the 2019 champion, is currently in good form having won both North league fixtures this season.

And Max Abernethy (Fraserburgh Running Club), who was fourth in last month’s Scottish Student championships, is also expected to be in the frame.

Wilson said: “John and Max will be right up there but there’s others as well, such as Luke Davidson of Inverness Harriers,who should do well.”

There’s also the intriguing prospect of top class mountain runner Finlay Wild (Lochaber AC) turning out. The Fort William athlete is best known for winning the Ben Nevis race on a record 10 occasions but doesn’t often compete in cross country races.

Wilson also acknowledges there should also be an interesting battle for supremacy in the team competition with Inverness Harriers determined to hold on to the title they won when the championships were last held, in 2019.

He said: “We feel we have a strong team but so do Inverness, so it could be close. We have my brother James, Ewan Davidson and Gareth Jenkins but there’s a doubt over Matt Blunden as he may have work commitments.”

Alness athlete Catriona Fraser-Lennox (Inverness Harriers) has been in excellent form this season and is favourite to strike gold in the women’s race.

Title-holder Moira Davie (Forres Harriers) is an absentee but Emma Watt (JS KIntore) and Caroline Marwick (Highland Hill Runners), who were second and third respectively in 2019, have both entered. Kirstie Rogan (Highland Hill Runners), bronze medallist in 2018, is also in the field as is Katja Blunden (Inverness Harriers). Forres Harriers defend the team title.

Bruce among the contenders

Claire Bruce leads Metro Aberdeen Running Club’s attempt to land another podium position in the East District cross country championships senior women’s race at Stirling tomorrow.

Over the past four seasons the north east club has finished in the silver medal position on three occasions and has once taken bronze.

Bruce has been in all four medal-winning sides over that period, as has Ginie Barrand who also planned to compete tomorrow. Nicola MacDonald and Eilidh Prise were also listed in what looked like a squad capable of challenging for gold.

But injuries have impacted on Metro’s hopes as Barrand is nursing an injury and MacDonald may also be missing.

Prise is, however, expected to run and she has an outstanding personal record in the East championships over the years. She was under-13 champion in 2008-09 and under-17 champion in 2011-12.

Naomi Lang, who was selected for the Great Britain team for the now postponed world mountain running championships in Thailand, leads an Aberdeen AAC team which also includes Zoe Bates and Hannah Cameron. Lang is capable of an individual medal if she runs to form. Scottish hill running champion Jill Stephen (Hunters Bog Trotters), from Dufftown, also plans to compete.

Aberdeen AAC’s Kirsty Purcell, who made her Scotland debut in the British Cross Challenge match at Liverpool last weekend, is a strong medal contender in the under-20 women’s race in which her twin sister Caitlin should also be in the mix. At under-17 level, Aberdeen will look for good performances from Hannah Taylor and Grace MacDonald.

Will it be Fergie time in Stirling?

Michael Ferguson leads Aberdeen AAC’s bid for honours in the East District cross country championships senior men’s race at Stirling tomorrow.

The Scotland international was bronze medallist in 2017 but knows he faces a tough task if he is to get on the podium again.

Dundee-based Jamie Crowe (Central AC), who has won for the past three seasons,will make a late decision about competing. He has been selected to represent Great Britain at the European championships in Dublin the following weekend and may save himself for that.

Michael Ferguson.

His clubmate, Olympic Games 5,000m finalist Andy Butchart, is in the same boat and may give this weekend’s race a miss with the trip to Ireland in mind.

Strathpeffer’s Hamish Hickey hopes to challenge for a top position after disappointing performances in the Scottish Student championships and the British Cross Challenge over the past fortnight. The Stirling University student is part of the Central AC squad aiming to win the team title.

Aberdonian Sasha Chepelin (Carnethy Hill Racing Club) could spring a surprise. The Edinburgh-based Great Britain orienteering international is better known as a hill runner but he defeated Ferguson in an East District league race at Hawick in October.

Scotland 100k internationals Jason Kelly and Chris Richardson lead Metro Aberdeen’s squad along with Will Mackay,while international hill runner James Espie heads the Deeside Runners challenge.

Aberdeen AAC have strong medal prospects in the younger age group races. Rhys Crawford, Thomas Reynolds, Oscar Chirnside and Finlay Mckay are capable of taking top spot at under-15 level while Kai Crawford, Hamish Mckay and Aleksandar Jovcic offer a potent threat in the under-17’s.

Sam Griffin, Adam Brown and Patrick Lang are the leading Aberdeen contenders in the under-20  men’s race.