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Athletics: Inverness runners Mhairi Maclennan and Megan Keith aim to reap the rewards after teaming up

Mhairi Maclennan.
Mhairi Maclennan.

Mhairi Maclennan believes she and Inverness Harriers clubmate Megan Keith will reap the rewards from now having the same coach and being able to train together over the coming months.

The duo are included in the Scotland team for the Home Countries and Celtic Nations cross country international at Dundonald near Belfast on Saturday and both expect to feature strongly.

Maclennan, a Great Britain under-23 team gold medallist at the 2017 European cross country championships, goes into this weekend’s 8k run on the back of a confidence-boosting win in last weekend’s Scottish Inter District championships at Irvine.

For Keith, this will be the first race since her stunning victory in December’s European championships under-20 women’s race near Dublin.

The Highland athletes are based in Edinburgh, where Maclennan has lived for many years, while Keith moved to the capital in the autumn to study sports science.

And now Maclennan has linked up with Keith’s Inverness-based coach Ross Cairns, a move which she feels has mutual benefits.

She said: “Every time I’ve gone home to Inverness, Ross’s training group has adopted me, so I’ve always had that connection. And with Megan now being in Edinburgh, it gives us the opportunity to train together at times.

“We work well together. She is extremely talented and we are working very hard in training. A lot of the time I struggle to keep up with her, but I’m sure we can help each other.

“Although Ross is based in Inverness that’s not a problem. He comes down here from time to time anyway and I’m up there more often than I used to be.

“It’s great to have two Inverness runners in the Scotland team this weekend. Perhaps that’s the first time this has happened?”

Keith looking for quick start in 2022

Keith is eagerly looking forward to getting back into the competitive groove after taking a little time to relax over the Christmas and New Year period.

Megan Keith.

She said: “I’ve been running mainly 4k races, but this weekend it’s 8k, so that’ll be interesting and I’m excited about it.

“It’s good to be representing Scotland again and I feel we have a strong team. And for me, it’s great to be competing against senior athletes.”

The event is part of the World Athletics winter cross country tour so, in addition to competitors from the British Isles, there’s also expected to be a significant number of top-class overseas athletes taking part.

Keith added: “I haven’t seen any start lists yet, but it’s always good to have new people to run against.”

Aberdeen AAC’s Naomi Lang, who was silver medallist in last month’s East District championships, will represent Scotland alongside Keith in the under-23 age division of the women’s race on Saturday.

McGarvey braced for tough test in Glasgow

If Claire McGarvey was hoping for top-quality opposition to spur her on to greater heights, then the Aberdeenshire athlete’s wishes look like being met this weekend.

The Banchory Stonehaven AC high jump specialist is competing in the Scottish indoor championships at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena on Saturday. And her event has attracted a stellar field led by Scottish indoor record-holder Nikki Manson (Giffnock North) and Tokyo Olympian Emily Borthwick (Wigan Harriers).

Add to the pot Sommer Lecky (Finn Valley AC), the 2018 under-20 world championship silver medallist, and her Ireland international team-mate Philippa Rogan (Thames Valley Harriers), and there’s no doubt this will be a highly charged event.

McGarvey,20, will be in the mix as well if she can build on the form she showed in her first competition of the season earlier in the month.

Aberdeenshire high jumper Claire McGarvey.

The Glasgow University neuroscience student cleared 1.78m at the Scottish open meeting, to improve significantly on her previous best of 1.74 set outdoors at Grangemouth in 2019.

She said: “I didn’t think I’d manage to come out and jump like that straightaway, so it’s a good start.

“But I aim to do better and I want to get over 1.80 by the end of the indoor season. I know I could have done better on a couple of the jumps I made. Even the 1.78 wasn’t perfect, so, with some adjustments, I’m confident I can go higher.”

She has done well at national level in recent years, winning the under-20 indoor title in 2020 and picking up a silver medal in her first appearance at the senior outdoor championships last summer.

Now she’s looking forward to this weekend’s event, saying: “It should be a good competition if everyone shows up.”

Cross country league title within touching distance for Fraser-Lennox

Catriona Fraser-Lennox can clinch the North District cross country league women’s title if she wins at Lyne of Skene on Saturday.

The Inverness Harriers club member won the opening two races in this season’s competition, at Forres and Evanton, and needs just one more victory from the remaining three meetings to put herself in an uncatchable position in the points table.

However, she was beaten by Kirstie Rogan (Highland Hill Runners) in last weekend’s Scottish Inter District championships at Irvine.

And if Rogan can repeat that feat on Saturday, then she’ll not only delay Fraser-Lennox’s title celebrations, but will propel herself back into contention for the title.

It’s a similar situation in the men’s competition with John Newsom (Inverness Harriers) having scored two victories so far.

But Moray’s Kenny Wilson plans to run on Saturday and may also tackle the remaining two fixtures, at Nairn and Forres. He is more than capable of winning all three, which would give him the title.

The team competitions are equally intriguing with Inverness Harriers holding a fragile two-point lead over Moray Road Runners in the men’s league.

Highland Hill Runners lead Forres Harriers by 45 points in the women’s division, but there’s still plenty of scope for change in both competitions.

Stornoway’s Abbie Stewart, in the under-15 girls’ league, is one of five athletes defending 100% records in the age divisions.

The others are Andrew Baird (Ross County, under-15 boys), Lois MacRae (Inverness Harriers, under-13 girls), Owen Mathis-Foote (North Uist, under-11 boys) and Lexi Macrae (Inverness Harriers, under-11 girls).