Scotland’s athletics family gathers in Cumbernauld this weekend for one of the biggest fixtures of the cross country season.
The National XC Relays features club teams from the length and the breadth of the country competing for National titles and involves athletes of both sexes aged from U13 to V50s.
And entry numbers continue to nudge a 20-year high with a remarkable 2324 names listed for the event over the parkland course around Cumbernauld House – with new record fields for the races in the Young Females and Senior Women’s categories.
Legal firm Lindsays are sponsoring the Scottish Cross Country Season for the second year and, with support from hosts North Lanarkshire Leisure, scottishathletics will supply video highlights for the third successive year via Vinco Sport.
Central AC have become an unstoppable force in recent years at Cumbernauld and their men’s team, led by GB international Andrew Butchart, will chase a fourth success in a row. West District XC Relay champions Shettleston Harriers and last year’s silver medallists, Inverclyde AC, will be among those hoping to knock Derek Easton’s squad off the top of the podium.
Central AC women, led by2004 Commonwealth Games athlete Morag MacLarty, are looking to match that achievement after wins in 2012, 2013 and 2014 but could face a stiff test from Edinburgh AC.
British 1500m champion and Beijing World Champs finalist, Laura Muir, is due to turn out for Glasgow University and has faithfully supported the National XC Relays in recent years as the start of her winter programme.
‘There is always a great buzz around the National XC Relays at Cumbernauld – both at clubs in the weeks prior to the races and on the day itself,’ said scottishathletics chairman, Ian Beattie.
‘I think it is a great day for the sport and it is definitely one of the main highlights of the cross country season in Scotland.
‘One of the big pleasing factors is the rise in numbers in the Women’s race. I think if you look back at the archives then there were around a dozen teams finished in 1993 whereas last year there were around 300 Senior Women taking part.
‘To hear for 2015 that the number of teams involved is still rising for Young Females and for Senior Women I think is hugely encouraging for the development of the sport. I think that definitely reflects wider growth.’
In fact, the overall tally of 563 teams entered is up by three from last year’s record of 533 and the total of 2324 names listed represents not far south of 25 percent of the whole membership of scottishathletics! This represents the best figures for this event in the 23rd year as a combined championships for men and women.
‘It has become a day which sums up grassroots athletics in Scotland,’ added Beattie.
‘We have top athletes racing at the front end of the field like Butchart and Muir and we have U13s who are taking part in their first National competition after maybe only one cross country experience previously in the District XC Relays a couple of weeks before.
‘I’d urge clubs, coaches and athletes to field as many of their entered teams as possible and help us generate the great atmosphere on the day that makes the visit to Cumbernauld really special.’
North Lanarkshire Leisure Chief Executive, Blane Dodds, said: ‘We’re delighted to be hosting this event in Cumbernauld for the 15th time in partnership with local clubs (Kirkintilloch Olympians and Cumbernauld AAC) and scottishathletics.
‘It’s a brilliant spectacle that’s great for the town and I’m sure people will come out in numbers to support the athletes. My team and I can’t wait for the action to start!’
The event is also part of the scottishathletics Short Course Team Challenge as clubs compete for prize-money across three races – with Saturday’s action followed by the 4K Champs at Bellahouston in Glasgow on Saturday 7 November.
More on www.scottishathletics.org.uk