Edinburgh AC’s Rhona Auckland is cross country champ

Rhona Auckland
Rhona Auckland
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Though Freya Ross (Edinburgh AC) was unable to add to her tally of six titles, finishing fifth in the senior women’s race, there was still plenty of Capital cheer at the Scottish Cross Country Championships at Callendar Park.

A first women’s title for last year’s Under-20 champion, Edinburgh University student Rhona Auckland, was added to the Under-20 double by Edinburgh Athletic Club’s Jake Wightman and Rachel Dunn and, as predicted, there were senior team medals for both Corstorphine, who took silver behind Central in the men’s race, and Hunter’s Bog Trotters, who were second also to Central in the women’s race.

Callum Hawkins (Kilbarchan), like Auckland, stepped up impressively to claim his first national senior title and also created a little bit of sporting history as he succeeded to a title his elder brother Derek won in both 2011 and 2012, the Hawkins thus becoming the first brothers to have won this crown since the event began back in 1886.

Hawkins covered the three-lap 12 kilometre course in 37 minutes 39 seconds to finish 56 seconds clear of Central’s Andy Butchart, with West champion Twelde Mengisteab (Shettleston) third.

Auckland, a gold medallist with the British Under-20 team at the European Championships in Belgrade last December, was equally impressive in burning off one of the best fields for years in the women’s race, which included the defending champion Beth Potter (Glasgow), the already named Glasgow 2014 marathon pick Susan Partridge (Glasgow), last year’s runner-up Rosie Smith (HBT), and Ross, who was returning after a foot injury.

Sadly Auckland, a 20-year-old third year medical sciences student, believes the Glasgow Games will come too soon for her: “The qualifying times are out of reach.”

But what a prospect she is for future Games and she will contest the European Championships 10,000 metres Trial in May. She finished well clear of fast-finishing Partridge, who overtook both Smith and Potter in the closing stages, with Ross reasonably satisfied with her first race since suffering a foot injury.

Rachel Dunn, a second year criminology student at Durham University who captured the Under-20 title, is the sister of 1500 metres runner Laura Dunn (EAC) and grand-daughter of former Edinburgh Southern Harriers stalwart Hamish Robertson who saw her win.

Fettesian Jake Wightman, the Loughborough-based European junior 1500m champion, who was watched by his father, coach and former Scottish Athletics boss Geoff, did not enjoy his run: “That was hard and the mud was horrible,” gasped Wightman who still hopes to claim a Glasgow 2014 place in either the 800 or 1500 metres.

“That’s my cross country season over – it’s track training now for the next two weeks then I’m off to chase some times.”

However, he led his club to the team title with 49 points, with Edinburgh University third, while EAC were also second in both Under-17 team races and the Under-15 girls and Edinburgh University were third in the Under-20 women.