Watch here: Mhairi Maclennan savoured the first National title of her career at the Lindsays National XC at Falkirk and then insisted it topped off a ‘dream year’ in cross country.
The GB International saw off the challenge of her Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds team-mate and regular training partner, Steph Pennycook, to take gold as VP-Glasgow’s Anna Tait came through for an excellent bronze medal.
Maclennan’s superb winter effectively began at the National Relays at Cumbernauld and has rolled on through Liverpool, a GB debut at the Euro Cross in Slovakia, the Great Edinburgh XC and a win in the North of England XC Champs, too, with Morpeth Harriers.
Welshman Kris Jones, running in Scotland currently with Dundee Hawkhill Harriers, took the Men’s race from Shettleston’s Lachlan Oates and GB hill running international Andy Douglas of Inverclyde. Jones even drew praise for winning in a Hawkhill vest on social media from none other than Liz McColgan – a previous winner of the National XC among her many achievements.
There was a superb atmosphere as 4000 people gathered at Callendar Park and ‘finisher number’ figures will confirm the highest-ever tally in the 25-year history of combined male and female cross country championships in Scotland as more than 1730 complete races on firm ground on a cold but sunlit day in central Scotland.
Lindsays National XC 2018 – Senior Women’s Race
‘I am absolutely thrilled to win a Senior National title for the first time and take the gold medal,’ said Maclennan, after coming home in 37.49 for the 10K course at Callendar Park and winning by 11 seconds.
‘It has been a dream year for me – after a lot of injury and frustration for the early part of 2017. I saw down with my coach, John Lees, in the summer and he asked me what I wanted to achieve from my athletics. I told him that I’d love to make the GB and NI selection at U23 level for the Euro Cross in Slovakia. He said ‘Right, let’s make that happen’ and I wondered if I believed him!
‘I didn’t do any track, just put in a lot of work that we thought would help with cross country. I ran well at Liverpool to make the selection and then went over to Samorin and finished fourth of the six British girls in the selection.
That was a confidence boost because there were some good athletes there and your aim really is to show people you should be there in a British team.
‘I was then selected for Edinburgh and I joined Morpeth because my fiancée is from the north-east of England – and I went down to the North Champs and had a great race with Lauren Howarth. When I won that one, it was the first race I had won for years!
Lindsays National XC 2018 – Senior Men’s Race
Maclennan and Pennycook led Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds to the team golds (78 points) in one of the tightest team races at Senior Women’s level for years. Shettleston (84) were second and Fife AC took the bronzes (86 points), with only eight points covering the three teams.
Jones had looked the pre-race favourite for the Senior Men’s race after a silver medal last year. And so it proved as the Welshman who lives and works in Scotland proved his class over the 10K distance to win from Shettleston’s Oates. That was an ‘upgrade’ for Lachlan after bronze last year and third this time went to Douglas.
Central AC once again proved their class to take the team golds for the eighth year in a row (to equal a record held by Cambuslang). Corstorphine AAC did well to land the silvers with Shettleston taking home the bronzes.
‘I was a bit disappointed not to run the 5km at Armagh, I had a bit of a hamstring niggle,’ said Kris. who clocked 33.05 to win by 24 seconds from Oates with Douglas at 33.37. ‘It was poor timing and I needed to give that a couple of days. I was really excited for that but then had this whole let-down so I was pleased to get out and race here.
‘I got caught really far back at the start and it took about 1km to get up with the leaders. Then, on one of the short, steep hills I got a bit of a gap and I thought ‘just keep it and put the pedal down’.
Lindsays National XC 2018 – Under-20 and Under-17 Women’s Race
‘The conditions were completely different from last year and it was a completely different race. Last year Callum Hawkins hit the front and said ‘come on boys’ and everyone went ‘nah, you’re alright’ so it was good fun.
‘It’s a strong group in Scottish Athletics at the moment so when guys like Callum, Andy Butchart and Luke Traynor aren’t on the start then you’ve got to take your chance! I’m running the Big Half next week, my half marathon time is 66 minutes and I’m hoping to try and beat that. The field looks really good for it.’
At U20 level, it was two GB internationals who took the titles in fine style as Anna Macfadyen marked her return from injury and Sol Sweeney again under-lined his burgeoning potential.
Anna led home a ‘green wave’ as Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds went 1-2-3 on the podium. Laura Stark was the silver medallist and Naomi Lang took third place. ‘I am delighted to win that and it felt pretty good out there today,’ said Anna, who won the U17 title two years ago and took U20 silver last year.
‘I have been injured for a fair bit this winter but really wanted back for this one. You always want to run the National. In mid-November I had to stop because of a problem on my glute and hamstring area. I was back for a couple of weeks before I ran BUCS XC as a comeback race and that helped me for here.’ Edinburgh Uni took team golds from Glasgow Uni and Central AC.
Sol Sweeney, racing for Glasgow Uni (above, photo: Bobby Gavin), could have been forgiven for taking a day off. Only a week ago, he recorded PB performances at 1500m and 3000m in the SPAR British Champs.
Instead, he was the dominant force and the real race developed behind him for the silver and bronze medals. In the end, after a finish straight scramble, Tristan Rees took second and Edinburgh AC’s Freddie Carcas third.
‘I’m pleased with how my indoor season has gone and this is my sixth or seventh time at the national cross country and I’ve never won it before so this is really good,’ said Sol.
‘This is a big event in Scotland and some big names have won it so it’s good to get the win. The atmosphere is great and there are so many people. You get that in Edinburgh too but that’s largely because of the international races so having all the club runners here is fantastic.’ Sweeney and Rees guided Glasgow Uni to team golds from Edinburgh Uni, with the bronzes headed for Edinburgh AC.
Age group golds went to: U17 Cameron Wright of Kilbarchan and Eloise Walkers of Edinburgh AC; U15 Jack Patton of Kilbarchan AAC and Lily-Jane Evans-Haggerty of VP-Glasgow; U13 Angus Wright of Team East Lothian and Katie Johnson of Edinburgh AC.