Aberdeenshire athlete Alix Still is confident she can put her name in the frame for a heptathlon place at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
And the 21 year-old multi-events specialist is also determined to break the Scottish indoor pentathlon record after coming so close last winter.
Still, who is based at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, is currently enjoying a short break at home with her family in Kemnay, before returning to the US early in the new year.
The time off has allowed the former Aberdeen AAC member to reflect on her achievements of the past 12 months and to set out her goals for the year ahead.
There’s no doubt Still’s athletics career has flourished over the last year with a series of outstanding performances, both indoors and outdoors, elevating her to the top of the Scottish rankings.
She said: “I had some really good performances in 2021 which have set me up for another great season to come.
“One of the highlights was coming third in the pentathlon at the Atlantic Conference Championships at Clemson back in February, which led me to qualifying for the National Collegiate indoor championships in March.
“Although I didn’t perform my best at the nationals, just being in that environment and having that experience has motivated me to compete again in the 2022 season.”
Still’s performance at Clemson, where she scored 3,974 points, elevated her from 11th to second position on the Scottish all-time best performers list. Only Anglo Scot Aileen Wilson stands above her with a score of 4,096 dating back to 2002.
She said: “My biggest goal indoors this winter is to break that record. I was close last season, but I know I am even more prepared this season.”
But it’s the outdoor heptathlon which is to be Still’s biggest focus for 2022 – with a Commonwealth Games place high on her list of priorities.
Her best heptathlon score of 5,371, set in April, isn’t too far off the standard required by Scotland’s selectors to be considered for the Commonwealth Games.
She said: “I would really love to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, so I am looking to take small steps at each meet to get me there.
“I’m 193 points short at the moment, but I feel these are easy points to make up.
“I hope to get two, maybe three chances to reach it and it is absolutely a target for me.”
The indoor pentathlon tests an athlete over a range of track and field disciplines – the 60m hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800m.
The outdoor heptathlon goes a few steps further, with 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin and 800m.
Still knows the areas she needs to work on to bridge the points gap and achieve her goals.
She said: “It’s going to need a mix of trying to squeeze a bit more from my good events, while improving on my weaker ones.
“The specific areas I’ve been looking at are the throws. No pentathlete is particularly strong in the throwing events. For me, they are definitely my weakest.
“If I can get even a little bit stronger and improve my technique in the javelin and shot, that will give me a lot more points. I’ve been working on that since last season.”
She also aims to get a better balance to her season, by not burning herself out before the outdoor season gets going.
She said: “Last winter my indoor scores were, relatively speaking, probably better than my outdoor ones.
“I blame that mainly on exhaustion in that I didn’t expect the indoor season to be so intense and by the time the outdoors came around I was tired.
“This year I will be better prepared for the transition. I’ve talked about it with my coaches and we’re going to do things a little differently and take a bit more rest.
“It’s about training smarter, not harder and the emphasis will be on peaking for the outdoors.”
Desire for top-class challenge means Simpson likely to miss Banchory race
Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medallist Robbie Simpson won’t be taking part in Banchory’s Boxing Day Run unless there’s an unforeseen last minute cancellation of Monday’s Tilli 10k road race at Tillicoultry.
The Deeside town’s popular festive run has returned to the fixture list after being cancelled last year because of the pandemic.
Simpson, who lives in Banchory, is a staunch supporter of the event, having taken top spot on eight occasions since his first success as a 16-year-old in 2008.
In 2018, he set a record time of 14min 50secs for the three-mile course.
But this year Simpson wants to test himself against some top-class opposition in the Tilli 10k and will have to miss the Banchory run.
Simpson’s partner, Ginie Barrand (Metro Aberdeen), has been first woman in each of the past two years the run has been held, but the course record of 17:15 was set in 2008 by Aberdeen-born international mountain runner Lynn Wilson.
Sunday’s event is open to all-comers, with registration at the Guide Lodge, next to King George V Park, from 10.30am. The run starts at 11am.