Eight athletes picked for Scottish team at Great Edinburgh XC

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Glasgow 2014 duo Guy Learmonth and Jake Wightman will swap Hampden for the mud of Holyrood Park at New Year – after being named to run for Scotland in an international cross country relay.

Laura Muir and Lynsey Sharp were announced last week for the 4 x 1K race which will feature eight teams, including Scotland A and B, at the Great Edinburgh XC event on Saturday 9 January.

Now scottishathletics have confirmed the other six athletes selected to with two more Commonwealth Games names, Steph Twell and Emily Dudgeon, to run.

Completing the line-up are Euro U23 1500m finalists Neil Gourley, who won bronze in that race in Estonia last summer, and Cameron Boyek.

It should be an absorbing part of a busy programme at the Great Edinburgh XC with those Scotland teams taking on the United States, GB, Europe, England, Wales and Ireland. Also that day, Scotland teams compete in a Celtic Nations XC event at U20, U23 and Senior level with the Scottish Inter-District races taking places featuring East, West and North regional selects.

Nigel Holl, chief executive of scottishathletics, said: ‘We are delighted there will be two Scotland teams competing in the 4 x 1K International XC at Holyrood on January 9. It looks a really exciting race with eight teams involved and, with a Scotland A and B team racing, it gives more of our athletes exposure to a high quality, televised event.

‘In fact, it is exactly the kind of opportunity I spoke about earlier this year when saying we wanted to explore situations where there could be a Scotland team competing as Scotland. We want these chances as we believe getting that experience is good for the athletes, and indeed their coaches, to help them progress to the best level they can.

‘Scotland will host a Celtic Nations XC event that day against Wales, Ireland and Ulster and that provides an opportunity for 24 athletes to compete at U23, U20 and U17 level. A week later, at the British Cross challenge event in Antrim, there’s a Scotland opportunity for Senior athletes.

‘So the first couple of weeks of January are shaping up as a great start to an Olympic year and the Great Edinburgh XC event on January 9 in particular looks busy and exciting as we also stage our own Inter-District XC championships within that event.’

Scotland teams for the 4 x 1K International Relay have been selected as follows:
Scotland A: Laura Muir, Lynsey Sharp, Cameron Boyek, Jake Wightman
Scotland B: Steph Twell, Emily Dudgeon, Guy Learmonth, Neil Gourley
Reserves: Josh Kerr, Carys McAulay

Meanwhile, Australian-born Maddie Murray’s coach has saluted the Edinburgh AC athlete’s dedication as she prepares to win a first GB vest at the Euro Cross in the south of France.

Murray, who won the Scottish National XC title at Falkirk last February, represented Scotland just after that achievement following a number of years residency here after arriving in her teens. Now 22, and with an English mother and a GB passport, Murray finished third U23 at the Euro Trial at Liverpool last weekend to win selection alongside Laura Muir in the GB’s U23 team for Hyeres.

‘I am absolutely delighted for Maddie because she is totally committed and dedicated to her athletics,’ said John Lees, who has coached Murray for four years at Edinburgh AC.

‘There are no short-cuts and she is always willing to put in the hard work. I’ve coached her now for four years and you see the improvement coming but sometimes I have to hold her back a little – she is 22 and there’s plenty of time ahead.

‘I am a believer in movement dynamics. Running is a technical event – many people think that it isn’t and is different from throws and jumps. You have to get the footfall right and Maddie is someone who doesn’t tire of doing one legged hops in the gym to improve her technique. Many athletes find that boring but the work has to be done.’

Murray improved significantly on the track last summer – she is now ranked seventh in Britain at 1500m – and will relish teaming up with Muir in Hyeres.

‘The target for Maddie for 1500m was to get around 4.12 to 4.10 and she managed that despite being out for seven weeks at the start of the season through illness,’ added John.

‘We will look to get to 4.06 next year if possible. In cross country, the U23 team for GB was another target and third place in that age group in Liverpool achieved that.

So now she will go to France and then spend Christmas and New Year with her family in Australia before coming back for a bit of an indoor season and defending her Scottish National XC title at Falkirk.’

Scotland has four athletes headed for France with GB with Steph Twell set for a remarkable 10th appearance at the event as well as Laura Muir and Murray at U23 and Giffnock North AAC’s Luke Traynor in the Men’s U23 team.