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Athletics: Max Abernethy makes history at North District cross country championships

Max Abernethy put Fraserburgh on the map at the North District cross country championships
Max Abernethy put Fraserburgh on the map at the North District cross country championships

Max Abernethy has written a new chapter in the history of Fraserburgh Running Club by becoming the first Broch athlete to win a senior men’s title at the North District cross country championships.

The University of Aberdeen mechanical engineering student showed great maturity and tactical awareness to break away from Moray’s Scotland international Kenny Wilson at a critical point in the second half of the race to take the gold medal.

Abernethy completed the 8k course, held around the grounds of Gordonstoun school, in 25min 40sec with Wilson, the 2018 champion, finishing 17sec behind.

Lochaber’s mountain running icon Finlay Wild was a further 11secs back in third position.

It was a ground-breaking victory for 20 year-old Abernethy, who has been making impressive progress over the past couple of years despite the lack of racing opportunities due to the pandemic.

He said: “I’m really chuffed with that. It was a good race between the three of us and I had to work hard.

“On the first of the two 4k laps we each had spells at the front and going into the second lap we were still together.

“There’s a little trail section early in that second lap and that’s where I began to get a bit of a gap. I put in a hard effort to extend my lead over Kenny and fortunately I managed to hold him off.

“Once I got away I never looked back, although I felt he was probably closer to me than it turned out.

“The course was very muddy and got quite churned up in places, so it was tough going, but I’m obviously very happy.”

John Newsom, the 2019 champion – who finished fourth in 26:40, led Inverness Harriers to the team title. Stuart Gardiner (ninth, 27:39), Finlay MacLennan (12th, 27:52), Donnie Macdonald (13th, 27:59), Robin Burnett (27th,29:40) and David McColl (40th, 31:09) were the other scorers.

John Newsom was also in action

Luke Davidson led Inverness Harriers to a clean sweep of the medals in the under-20 men’s race when completing the 6.5k course in 22:36 to finish two secs ahead of Lucas Cairns, with Euan Rollo third in 23:17.

Roy Taylor (Elgin AAC) was an impressive winner of the under-17 boys’ 5.5k in 20:10, while Western Isles athletes Murray MacDonald (Stornoway), 20:17, and
Seonaidh MacInnes (North Uist),  21:08, took silver and bronze respectively.

The closest finish of the day came in the under-15 boys’ 4k, in which Angus Laird (Inverness Harriers) pipped Michael Bishenden (Forres Harriers) by one sec to take the title in 14:37. Iain Matheson (Stornoway) was third in 14:59.

Fraserburgh’s Israel Noble matched Abernethy’s success by winning the under-13 boys’ 3k in fine style, completing the circuit in 13:16 to finish well clear of Finlay Mcluckie (Elgin AAC), 13:57, and Rowan Schiller (Ross County AC), 14:20.

Fraser-Lennox claims senior women’s north district cross country title

Catriona Fraser-Lennox (Inverness Harriers) was in impressive form when winning the senior women’s 8k at the North District cross country championships.

The Alness athlete took control of the race from the start and never looked like losing.

She cruised to victory in 31min 11sec, with Kirstie Rogan (Highland Hill Runners) second in 31:30 and Sarah Attwood (Skye and Lochalsh) third in 31:47.

Fraser-Lennox said: “It’s my first North senior title, in fact it’s my first title in any age group, so that feels really good.

“I took the lead from the start as I’d decided to go out hard on the first lap. Once I got a decent gap I was able to relax on the second lap as I knew I had it in the bag.

“It was a good course, although very wet, which made it a bit more challenging.”

Rogan led Highland Hill Runners to the team title with backing from Monica Padilla (fifth, 33:15), Iona Robertson (ninth, 34:11) and Jacquie Laird (23rd, 42:22)

Rachel Gillies (Inverness Harriers) took the under-20 women’s 6.5k title in 32:04 with Mae MacLeod (Stornoway) second, 32:57, and Olivia Han (Gordonstoun) third, 42:37.

Scottish junior hill running international Beth Urquhart (Moray Road Runners) was a clear winner of the under-17 title, recording 23:24 for the 5.5k course. Rachel Murray (Stornoway) took silver, 24:18, and Joni Smith (North Uist) bronze, 25:05.

There was gold for Stornoway in the under-15 4k championship, Abbie Stewart clocking 15:18 to finish seven secs ahead of Kirsten Burnett (Inverness Harriers), 15:25, whose clubmate Katie Meek was a further four secs behind in the bronze medal position.

Lois Macrae (Inverness Harriers) was an emphatic winner of the under-13 3k in 14:10. Flora Sutherland (Ross County) took silver in 15:00, with Rosie Conroy (Inverness Harriers) third, 15:07.

Tole in dominant form in Stirling

Jim Tole

Veteran Jim Tole came away with a clutch of medals from the East District cross country championships at Stirling.

The Metro Aberdeen runner was first in the over-40 age group when placing 21st overall from a field of 258 in the senior men’s 8.6k race.

He also led his club to victory in the masters team competition with backing from Allan Christie and Paul Knight.

And he was first man home for the senior team, which took bronze behind Central AC and Corstorphine AAC. The other scorers were Chris Richardson (35th), Jason Kelly (37th), Christie (39th), Will Mackay (43rd) and Martin Mueller (57th).

Aberdonian Sasha Chepelin (Carnethy) was the individual bronze medallist in the senior men’s race won by Falkirk’s Scott Stirling.

Strathpeffer’s Hamish Hickey, ninth, and Aberdeen University’s Tom Graham-Marr, 19th, were in the Central AC team which won team gold.

Naomi Lang led Aberdeen AC to team silver when she took second position behind fellow Scotland international Morag Miller (Central AC) in the senior women’s 8.6k. Hannah Cameron (14th), Zoe Bates (17th), and Jennifer Donaldson (25th) were the other counters.

And Aberdeen AAC were pipped for team gold by a single point in the under-15 boys’ 4.2k won by Peeblesshire’s Moorfoot Running Club. Rhys Crawford (7th),Thomas Reynolds (11th) and Oscar Chirnside (12th) had to settle for silver.

Aberdeen twins Kirsty and Caitlin Purcell struck team gold when finishing second and third respectively behind their Edinburgh University clubmate Hannah Anderson in the under-20 women’s 6.4k.