Glorious sunshine and great running conditions greeted the many runners, supporters and officials that congregated at Falkirk's Callendar Park on Saturday, February 20 for the Scottish National Cross Country Championships. The 'Blue Riband' event of the Scottish XC scene attracted some of the country's elite athletes including Alastair Hay and Tsegezab Woldemichael who battled it out for first place in the senior men's race and Freya Murray who won the women's race for the fourth time in five years.
The frost covered grass and frozen lake provided a scenic background for runners as they overcame the arduous course with its tricky underfoot conditions, sharp turns, steep hills and areas which resembled a mud bath. Although numbers were up on previous years, the winning times were down as the hard and heavy ground took its toll.
Record Gap by Freya
Defending Champion Freya Murray of Edinburgh AC won the women's race decisively, with a record lead of 1:44 over second placed Emma Raven of Central AC. The structural engineer completing the 8k, two lap, course in a time of 27:41, seventeen seconds slower than last year. Leeds based Raven celebrated her 27th birthday by placing runner-up after an extremely tight tussle with third placed Rosie Smith of Hunters Bog Trotters, who finished in 29:27.
Emotional Hay Defends His Title
In the senior men's race Alastair Hay of Central AC successfully defended his title, with a five second lead over Shettleston's Tsegezab Woldemichael. Although Woldemichael had led for much of the race, Ali Hay, motivated by the recent death of his father David (Big Davie) who had himself taken part in the event last year, seized the initiative to lead over the last 500 metres to complete the three lap, 12k course in a time of 37:40, twenty-six seconds slower than last year. Runner up Woldemichael finished one place higher than last year's third, despite his time being 25 seconds slower at 37:45. Last year's under-20 champion, Derek Hawkins of Kilbarchan AAC finished third in 37:55.
Inverclyde and HBT win Gold
In the team races, the recently crowned 4k cross country champion, Irishman Dan Mulhare placed fifth to lead Inverclyde AC to their first national senior men's team title, by one point from Shettleston. Mulhare was joined by Christopher MacKay; Ian Fisher; Craig Ruddy; Mark Pollard and Kevin Kane in accumulating a total of 101 points. Central AC placed third with a total of 175.
Third placed Rosie Smith led, an extremely well supported Hunters Bog Trotters team, to their first women's title, with Sula Young; Shona McIntosh and Kate Jenkins also counting. The Edinburgh team beat their Capital rivals Edinburgh AC by 4 points, accumulating a total of 35. Central AC also placed third in the women's race with a total of 56.
Stewart's Grand Prix Title
Dan Mulhare (Inverclyde AC) and Tewoldeberhan Mengisteab (Shettleston Harriers) tied on 77 points at the top of the Men's Stewarts Cross Country Grand Prix 2009/10, with Mulhare taking the title on countback (position at National Cross Country Championships). Rosie Smith (Hunters Bog Trotters) with 81 points wins the Women's Grand Prix. Third place in the Men's competition was Tsegezab Woldemichael (Shettleston Harriers) with 73 points while Elspeth Curran (Kilbarchan AAC) on 71 points and Sula Young (Hunters Bog Trotters) on 65 points finished second and third in the Women's competition.
Photos by Chris Upson