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Athletics: Shetland’s Michelle Sandison wins masters gold at Balgownie – despite stormy boat journey to mainland

Alastair Walker and Michelle Sandison.
Alastair Walker and Michelle Sandison.

Michelle Sandison won the Scottish masters women’s cross country title in Aberdeen – despite enduring a stormy marathon sea journey from her home on the Shetland island of Whalsay.

The 41-year-old, who represents Springburn Harriers, completed the testing 6k course around Balgownie playing fields in 23min 2sec to strike age 40-44 gold at the end of a competitive race in which five secs separated the first three finishers.

Lesley Bell, who won the 45-49 prize, led Garscube Harriers to the team title when finishing second in 23:04, while Carol Parsons (Dundee Hawkhill Harriers) was third in 23:07.

Sandison said: “I left the island I live on at 2pm on Friday and the ferry got into Aberdeen at 7am on Saturday.

“Between Shetland and Orkney, I was lying flat on the deck holding on, it was so rough. Not the ideal preparations, but it was worth it to get this win.

“I didn’t look at the start list beforehand as I thought ignorance would be bliss, although, when we lined up and I saw the other girls, I knew it would be tough.”

Experience of challenging conditions paid off for Sandison

Sandison, whose travel to events like Balgownie is funded by Shetland Islands Council and SportScotland, used her experience of running on the hilly windswept roads of Whalsay to help conquer the rollercoaster elements of the Aberdeen course.

She said: “I just imagined the hill on the course was just one of my hills at home. It’s very hilly on the island so that gave me confidence.”

This was Sandison’s first race since finishing eighth overall – but first in her age group – at the West District championships in December.

She said: “I wasn’t happy with that performance so I decided to take the pressure off myself and joined a friend’s training group in Lerwick.

“I feel I really benefitted from running with them rather than doing all my training alone. It has helped having company again.

“It’s a five-hour round trip for these sessions, but you have to get on with it.”

“Now I’m now looking forward to the national championships at Falkirk later in the month.”

Metro Aberdeen’s Les Nicol celebrated his 86th birthday on race day by winning M85 gold.

There were further golds for Veronique Oldham (Aberdeen AAC) in the women’s 55-59 classification and Anne Docherty (Forres Harriers) in the over-75s.

World record-holders compete in Aberdeen

It’s not often that two world record holders pitch up for a cross country race in Aberdeen, but that’s exactly what happened on this occasion.

Teviotdale’s Alastair Walker won the men’s 65-69 title at Balgownie, while Falkirk’s Fiona Matheson took the women’s 60-64 award.

Their victories came seven days after they each set world indoor 3,000m records in their respective age groups at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.

Other medallists included Metro Aberdeen’s Jim Tole (silver in the 45-49 age division), Neil Kelly (silver) and Nick Milovsorov (bronze) in the 55-59s, Fraserburgh’s Brian Urquhart (silver) at 65-69 level, Inverness athlete Julie Wilson (bronze) in the 50-54 women and Cosmic Hillbasher Rod Campbell (bronze) in the 75-79 group.

JS Kintore’s Tammy Wilson (eighth), Roma McIntosh (27th) and Sonya Ledford (31st) earned team bronze medals in the women’s 40+ race.

The Moray Road Runners side of Gareth Jenkins (sixth), John Urquhart (16th) and Colin Green were third in the men’s 50+ team contest.

Rees leads by example in Glasgow

Stonehaven AC’s Alisha Rees.

Banchory Stonehaven AC’s Alisha Rees celebrated her role as Scotland team captain by producing an inspiring individual performance in the inaugural European DNA international track and field at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.

The Great Britain international sprinter, who is based in Loughborough, finished third in a high quality 60m with a season’s best time of 7.36secs, which isn’t too far short of her Scottish record 7.32.

Spain’s Tokyo Olympic Games 100m representative Maria Perez won in 7.22, with Irish record-holder Molly Scott finishing second in 7.33.

Rees said: “I am okay with the run at this stage, but I would hope to get inside my Scottish record this season.

“I was a little bit taken aback when asked how I would feel about being captain. But when I thought about it later, I realised I’ve been on Scotland and GB teams for almost 10 years now.”

Rees’ clubmate Kathryn Christie, representing Scotland for the first time in seven years, finished third when pairing with Giffnock North’s Murray Fotheringham in the 2x200m relay.

She said: “It was brilliant to get the selection and represent Scotland again.

“It’s so tough when you finish your first leg and then suddenly have to look for your position to get the baton again.”

Aberdeen AAC’s Roisin Harrison represented her native Ireland in the final event of the meeting, running a 400m leg in the Hunt relay in which her team finished third.

Scotland finished sixth after an exciting finale in the Hunt which saw Spain take the overall DNA 2022 trophy.

Top-three finish for Megan Keith in Middlesex

Megan Keith.

Inverness athlete Megan Keith finished third in the British Universities and Colleges cross country championships at Horsenden Hill, Middlesex.

The Edinburgh student completed the 8k race in 30:34, while Loughborough’s Kirsty Walker won in 29:55 from her team-mate Abbie Donnelly, 30:26.

Strathpeffer’s Hamish Hickey was the leading Scot in the men’s 10k, which was won by Birmingham’s Great Britain international William Battershill in 33:46.

The Stirling student finished 11th in 34:38, while Max Abernethy (Aberdeen University) was third Scot, 24th overall, in 35:17.

North District Cross Country league title race will go to final meeting of the season

Kirstie Rogan moved into joint top position in the women’s division of the North District cross country league with an emphatic victory in the penultimate round of the competition at Nairn.

The Highland Hill Runners club member now has the same points as Catriona Fraser-Lennox (Inverness Harriers), who missed the latest match.

It means the title will be decided in the final match at Forres on February 19.

It’s a similar story in the men’s division with Kenny Wilson’s victory over John Newsom (Inverness Harriers) at Nairn leaving the Moray Road Runner needing a win on the final day to secure top spot.

Elsewhere, Martin Mueller won the fifth race in this season’s Aberdeen Proms 3k series when recording 9min 31sec to finish nine secs ahead of Stephen Molloy (Grammar RC), with Mark Beagrie (Peterhead AV) taking third spot in 10:01.

Alford’s Debbie Greig, making her first appearance in the series this winter, led home the women’s field in 10:44.

Chloe Gray (Metro Aberdeen) finished second in 10:58, but Aimee Tawse (Aberdeen AAC) retained the lead in the Proms series, despite finishing third in 11:10.