Megan Keith (Inverness Harriers) faces some familiar international opposition when she represents Great Britain in the European Cross Country Championships under-20 women’s 4k race at the Sport Ireland Campus near Dublin on Sunday.
The 19-year-old Edinburgh University sports science student is making her second appearance in this competition, having finished 27th in Lisbon when the event was last held, in 2019.
Keith was fifth counter in the GB team which took home team gold medals on that occasion, but she has made remarkable progress since then under the guidance of coach Ross Cairns and is now the undisputed British number one in this age group.
She cruised to victory in the national team trial at Liverpool a fortnight ago and also won this season’s two other British Cross Challenge fixtures, at Cardiff and Milton Keynes.
Keith also did exceptionally well on the track during the summer, the highlight being her battling performance in the 3000m at the European under-20 championships in Tallinn where she missed a medal by the smallest of margins after an enthralling race in which less than one second separated the top four finishers.
Three Scandinavians edged ahead of Keith on a warm evening in the Estonian capital – Finland’s Ilona Mononen, Denmark’s Sofia Thorgensen and Norway’s Ina Haugen – and all three will line-up against the Scot on Sunday.
Keith said: “That’s interesting to hear they’ll all be there. There wasn’t much between us on the track but I’d like to think I’m stronger at cross country.
“At the same time, I don’t know how they might be running at the moment and I’m sure there’ll be other strong competitors as well.”
The Inverness athlete picked up a cold last weekend but hopes that won’t have a detrimental effect on her performance.
She said: “It wasn’t the best timing for that to happen but I think I’m over it now. It’s not ideal but I don’t feel it has impacted on my running too much and hopefully I’ll feel fine on Sunday.”
Keith is known for setting a fast tempo from the start of her races and sees no reason to change her strategy at the weekend.
She said: “I’ll probably run hard from the off and see what happens. As it’s only a 4k race I don’t want to give the fast girls too much of a chance to use their speed near the end. It’s the way I prefer to run so I’m happy with that.”
Five other Scots are in the GB team. Olympian Andy Butchart is accompanied by his Central AC team-mate Jamie Crowe – who set a course record time in this year’s Inverness Campus 5k – in the senior men’s race, while Hamish Armitt (Giffnock North) and Lewis Hannigan (Kilbarchan AAC) go in the under-20 men’s event. Eloise Walker (Edinburgh AC) runs in the under-23 women’s race.
Oates signs up for Balmoral
Scotland international Lachlan Oates is the first top name to sign up for the 2022 Run Balmoral races.
The Shettleston Harriers club member, who won the West District cross country title last weekend and was bronze medallist in the Scottish 4k championships in November, is to run in the Harbour Energy 5k.
Oates will be chasing the course record of 14min 42sec set by fellow Scotland international Kenny Wilson (Moray Road Runners) in 2018.
He has enjoyed success on previous visits to the north having won the Buckie 10k and the Lossiemouth Turkey Trot 10 mile races in 2019.
The 5k at Balmoral frequently attracts a top quality field with the list of previous winners including double Olympic Games 5,000m finalist Andy Butchart (Central AC) who took top spot in 2013.
The race has a capacity for 1,000 runners but just 275 places remain available.
The Run Balmoral Bristow 15 mile trail race is also rapidly filling up with more than 400 of the available 700 slots having been taken.
Aberdonian Sasha Chepelin, who won this race when it was last held, in 2019, is keen to return.
The 24-year-old Edinburgh-based athlete is in impressive form at the moment.He picked up the bronze medal in the East District cross country championships last Saturday and 24 hours later slashed almost four mins off the course record when winning the Seven Reservoirs multi-terrain half marathon in the Pentland Hills when he clocked 1:16:44.
The Run Balmoral running festival, which usually attracts upwards of 4,000 runners, takes place on April 23-24 and features races for all age groups.
Full details at www.runbalmoral.com
ASV hosts indoor meet on Sunday
Holly Whittaker is one of a large group of top young Scottish athletes taking part in the first indoor open graded track and field meeting of the winter at Aberdeen Sports Village on Sunday.
The Elgin AAC teenager enjoyed her last visit to the venue when she set a national age group record of 11.04secs to win the 70m hurdles title at the Scottish under-13 championships.
The north athlete broke the previous record of 11.30 which had stood since 2006. She also won the long jump with a personal best of 5.01m, but the wind speed was above the legal limit.
Whittaker competes in the under-15 long jump this weekend.
Scottish under-20 100m hurdles champion Jane Davidson (Aberdeen AAC) takes part in the women’s long jump alongside her mum, Fiona, who is one of Britain’s top masters performers.
Elgin’s Kyle Wilkinson competes in the men’s long jump, the event in which he set a personal best of 6.82m for second position at the Scottish under-20 championships in August.
Scottish 200m champion Taylah Spence (Orkney AAC) is among the top entrants for the 60m in which Tamsin Fowlie (Aberdeen AAC) is also expected to make an impact.
Scottish championship 100m hurdles bronze medallist Briagha Cook faces experienced Aberdeen AAC clubmate Catriona Pennet in the 60m hurdles.
Scottish Schools international Angela McAuslan-Kelly (Aberdeen AAC) competes in the shot put.
Aberdeen AAC’s Struan Linton, David Irvine, Marcus Archer and James McIntosh will do battle in the men’s 60m.
The open graded indoor series, organised by Aberdeen AAC, continues on January 16, February 6 and March 6.