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Murray third in comeback race

Murray returns to Cross

Murray returns to Cross

A large number of Scottish athletes travelled to Liverpool for the second race in this winter’s McCain Cross Country Challenge, with the race taking place at the city’s Sefton Park on Saturday 26 November. The Under 20 and Senior events also served as GB selection races for European Cross Country in Slovenia in two weeks time, as well as selection for the UK representatives for the European Clubs Cross Country in February.

Underfoot conditions were unusually good for Liverpool and a cold wind kept away the threatened rain until after the last athlete crossed the line. There were particularly strong Scottish performances in the Women’s senior and Men’s U23 races which should result in a good representation in the GB team that will be announced on Tuesday. The selection policy offers automatic selection for the first three eligible athletes in each race.

The Women’s event saw Freya Murray (Edinburgh) and Steph Twell (Aldershot) return to cross country after injury hampered seasons. Freya finished 3rd in an automatic selection spot behind Hatti Dean and early season form athlete Gemma Steel. Freya also led her team to European club selection beating Steel’s Charnwood team and Welsh representatives Swansea. Steph was 5th overall and although she will be eligible for automatic U23 selection as the second age-group finisher, she will be hoping for a senior call up. There was also a strong Scottish debut from Amy Campbell (Shaftesbury) in 11th and she was closely followed home by Rosie Smith (HBT) in 12th. Beth Potter (VP Glasgow), Emily Stewart (Edinburgh) and Abbey McGhee (VP Glasgow) finished 8th, 9th and 13th in the U23 category.

The final race of the day was the Senior Men’s event over 3 laps of 3.25K and for the first 2 laps the leading pack of 20 contained 6 Scots. The top finishers though were in the U23 category where Derek Hawkins (Kilbarchan) gained automatic selection in 2nd (14th overall) with Matthew Graham (Kirkintilloch) and Matthew Gillespie (Shettleston) in 4th and 5th. David Bishop (Bristol and West) finished between the Matthews in 19th. Inverclyde pair Craig Ruddy and Andrew Douglas finished in creditable 27th and 31st places. Central AC were pipped in the team contest by English representatives Stockport.

The top performing Scot in the mixed U20 and U17 ladies race was Laura Muir (Dundee) who finished 6th U20 (8th overall) and will have to wait for the decision of the selectors. Louisa Stewart (Edinburgh) started conservatively but eventually worked her way through to 10th just ahead of Rhona Aukland (Banchory) in 14th. Best performances in the U17 section came from Edinburgh duo Emma Dunnett and Rachel Dunn in 12th and 18th. The best performance in the U20 men came from Stewart Orr Cambuslang) who worked his way gradually through the field to a respectable 11th .

The day had started with a series of young athlete races from U11 through to Under 17. There were Scottish medallists in the U13 girls and U15 boys races. Euan Gillham (Kilbarchan) produced the only individual Scottish win with a late sprint for the line with club mate Gavin McArdle in third. There was a creditable 20th from Max Lancaster (Giffnock). In the younger category Erin Wallace (Giffnock) was always in the leading group and ran strongly for 2nd. There were another five Scots in the top 20 with Kilbarchan team mates Laura Stark; Rebecca Craig; and Kerry McAngus 5th, 15th and 20th; Holly Still (Giffnock) 8th and Niamh Brown (Cambuslang) in 12th.

The top Scottish performance in the mixed U11 boys and girls race were Andrew McAngus (Kilbarchan) who finished 3rd and Cambuslang pair Ross Steven and Drew Pollock who finished 8th and 15th. Other Scots to catch the eye were Ryan Thomson (Cambuslang) Max Aitcheson (VP Glasgow) and Jamie Crowe (Dundee) in 8th, 11th and 18th in the U17 men’s contest; Kathryn Gillespie (Central) who was 10th in the U15 girls; and Struan Paton (Cambuslang) who was 21st in the U13 boys.

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