604 teams are on the entry list for this weekend’s cross country action in Scotland.
Competition looks to be intense once again as a record number of teams head to Cumbernauld for the Lindsays National XC Relays on Saturday (October 27).
The huge entry list features 604 complete teams, summing up a growing commitment to competition by clubs in Scotland.
Over the past eight years, only two clubs have shared the gold medals in the senior and junior men’s race – with Central AC winners on five occasions and Inverclyde AC three times.
In fact, if Shettleston’s victory in 2009, then those three clubs share the glory right back to 14 seasons ago when Hunters Bog Trotters took first place.
East champions (perennially) Central and West champions Shettleston, who edged out Inverclyde AC at Irvine Beach, will expect to contend as well as holders Inverclyde.
Aberdeen AAC have been on the podium for the past two years – taking bronze in 2016 and silvers last year – while Kilbarchan AAC could mount a challenge if Euan Gillham and/or Derek Hawkins is added to their Irvine lineup. Sol Sweeney will race for Glasgow Uni Hare and Hounds.
It is a similar story in the senior and junior women’s race with Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds, Edinburgh AC and Central AC the dominant forces – sharing the golds over the past eight years since a success for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers in 2010.
Central, after three wins in a row, have been silver medallists for the past three years but may benefit from the move to four per team while West hopes will lie with Kilbarchan, VP-Glasgow and Shettleston as the 1-2-3 from Irvine Beach.
Inverness Harriers carry the hopes of the North as champions in both the men’s and women’s races.
Edinburgh AC won the Young Females race last year, as they successfully defended their title, while Giffnock North AC won the 2017 Young Males race.
Freya Ross, who competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, helped Edinburgh AC to team gold medals on her last visit to the National XC Relays.
Her last appearance at Cumbernauld was back in 2015 and the six-times former National XC champion returns again this weekend in the colours of Falkirk Victoria Harriers – six months after becoming a mum.
With a huge entry of 604 full teams, the Olympian firmly believes a larger number of teams results in better competition.
“It’s brilliant to hear there are 604 full teams entered for Cumbernauld and the Lindsays National XC Relays,” said the 35 year-old. “I think it proves emphatically that clubs are being galvanised to compete and athletes want to get out there more and race.
“I’ve not been there since 2015 but even then, three years ago, you could feel the event growing and the depth of competition improving.
“We need people to lose any fear to compete – because that will really help our sport. I think we’ve seen that a few years when maybe numbers weren’t the same and it becomes very obvious on the track if you only have a handful of entries in whatever the event.
“It’s not difficult to see that if the depth grows, then the competition improves and standards get better for our sport.”
The senior and junior women’s race have also changed to four athletes counting, a change since last time Ross raced the event.
“It’s now four to count in the women’s race and, again, I think that brings about better depth of competition,” she said. “The medallists hopefully won’t just be the teams with the best individual or two of the best athletes, as has maybe been the case in the past.
“It makes a little bit more about the team and as long as it does not deter clubs a bit further down the ladder as they try to raise the right numbers, then I think it will be a good thing.
“Cumbernauld is a course I like and it is good for spectators, too. There’s a great club atmosphere builds up and I am certain hundreds of athletes and club folk will right now be really looking forward to Saturday.”
12 noon: Young females
12.40pm: Young males
1.20pm: Senior and junior females
2.45pm: Senior and junior males
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