Laura Muir swapped a packed stadium in London for Kirkcaldy High School on Saturday as she raced for the first time since the World Champs.
And the double London 2017 finalist didn’t disappoint the crowds in Fife at the Lindsays Short Course Champs as she won the Scottish 4K XC gold for the fourth time in five years.
It was a typically imperious performance from Muir to win in 12.53 and by almost 60 seconds before Central AC’s Cameron Boyek proved his class to take the win in a keenly-contested Senior Men’s race.
Boyek won by four seconds as the battles raged a few metres behind him and that success led Central men home for three-in-a-row in the team race in this particular event.
Laura’s decision to race at Kirkcaldy – and she has been a loyal supporter of the 4K for the past half dozen years – had captured media attention and within the athletics community in Scotland.
The Rio Olympian took the advantage early on and then built a bigger gap the longer the race went on; although Kirkcaldy-raised Steph Pennycook (13.47) made the best of giving chase to make sure she took a silver medal in the colours of team champions Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hound. Central AC’s Morag MacLarty, another athlete who has made a huge contribution to these events over the years, was third in 13.50.
It was also without question another hugely encouraging day for the sport in Scotland. Numbers are up for these events and as just one example there were 411 finishers in the Senior Men’s 4K race – with that figure being 227 in 2014.
‘I really enjoyed being out there racing again and loved the support around the course,’ said Laura, who raced in the colour of Glasgow Uni and will soon turn her attention towards the World Indoors in Birmingham.
‘Did I stretch the lead more on the second lap? I really couldn’t tell you – I was just trying to focus on my own run. I’ve only missed one training run all winter so far (despite Uni placements and course work in her final year.
‘I’m getting everything I want to in and it’s been going really well. I keep plugging away. I felt in good shape here.
‘It’s nice to win it again. And now the indoor season is the next big focus. Because I want to perform well there.’
Just behind the top three, Anna Macfadyen took fourth place to win the U20 gold medal and put a marker down for the Euro Cross trials in Liverpool. U20 athlete Erin Wallace had a good run, too, only hours after winning the Young Sportswoman of the Year Award from Scottish Women in Sport.
VP-Glasgow took the silver team medals, with Josephine Moultrie in sixth place, and host club Fife AC savoured bronze medals for their women’s team.
Boyek helped Scotland to a Stewart Cup 4 x 1K Relay win at the Great Edinburgh XC early in 2016 but the 1500m runner has had injury problems in the interim.
‘It was good to win that and I knew reading the preview that there were some good names there and strong competition,’ said Cameron.
‘I just managed to get a bit of lead and then pushed it on when I could. I wasn’t sure what was going on behind me.
‘After the injuries that I’ve had, I am determined just to put in a solid winter and that means some cross country – certainly over this kind of distance. The 4K was probably ideal and I will be doing indoors as well.
‘I believe there is a 4 x 1500m race at the Euro Cross and I think GB are planning to send a team to that so hopefully winning here helps me stake a selection claim for that.’
Three athletes were on 12.05 behind Boyek, with Lachlan Oates of Shettleston taking the silver and Sol Sweeney of Glasgow Uni the bronze medal and the U20 gold. Aberdeen’s Michael Ferguson was fourth.
Central took the team title there with Cambuslang Harriers landing the silvers and Inverclyde AC taking the bronzes.
James Gillon made it a special day for Law and District as he took the U17 Men’s gold over the 3K course at Kirkcaldy.
Gillon has been making an impression over the past 18 months or so and Law and District are justifiably proud to once again have a national champion in their age group ranks. James came home first in 9.10 from Laswade’s Christian Graham and bronze for Shettleston’s Jamie Burns.
Eloise Walker of Edinburgh AC has already established her reputation in the U17 Women’s age group and she under-lined that with gold in that race. Silver went to Cera Gemmell of Team East Lothian and third to Heather Barnes of Giffnock.
The U15 Boys race was over 2K and there was a ‘home winner’ as Fife AC savoured the success of Ben Sandilands from second-placed Hugh Morrow of Edinburgh AC. The real battle in this race was for third with the decision handed to Alastair Marshall of Livingston.
Opening race of the day was the U15 Girls and Livingston’s Isla Calvert was a clear winner there. Following Calvert home were Anya MacLean of Garscube Harriers and Rosie Davidson of Ayr Seaforth.
U17 Men: 1 Kilbarchan AAC; 2 Laswade AAC; 3 Aberdeen AAC
U17 Women: 1 Giffnock North AAC; 2 Edinburgh AC; 3 Moorfoot Runners
U15 Boys: 1 Kilbarchan AAC; 2 Giffnock North AAC; 3 Fife AC
U15 Girls: 1 Giffnock North AAC; 2 Garscube Harriers; 3 Corstorphine AAC
Men V40: 1 Robert Gilroy (Cambuslang); 2 Iain Reid (Cambuslang); 3 Leon Johnson (Edinburgh)
Men V50: 1 Ross McEachran (Cumbernauld); Michael McLoone (Greenock Glenpark); 3 John Blair (Edinburgh)
Men V60: 1 Donald Petrie (Kilbarchan); 2 John Crookston (PH Racing); 3 Iain Robert Johnston (PH Racing)
Women V40: 1 Megan Wright (HBT); 2 Rhona van Rensburg (Fife AC); 3 Kate Jenkins (Gala)
Women V50: 1 Fiona Matheson (Falkirk Vics); 2 Veronique Oldham (Aberdeen AAC); 3 Jill Morrow (Edinburgh)
Women V60: 1 Erica Christie (Cambuslang); 2 Ann White (Garscube); 3 Innes Bracegirdle (Fife AC)