A CONFIDENT, motivated Guy Learmonth (Lasswade) leads Scotland’s challenge for medals at the UK Indoor Championships and European Trials at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield this weekend.
The 20-year-old Loughborough University student is top of the British rankings for 800 metres with a time of 1:47:94 set in Vienna last month. He is determined to finish in the top two on Sunday and clinch selection for the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg next month, after narrowly missing out on both indoor and outdoor major meetings last year.
Facing him will be at least two UK rivals with faster times from previous seasons, notably Welshman Joe Thomas (Cardiff), who was in fantastic form last winter with a best of 1:46.33 before injury cut short his year. Learmonth is also up against home favourite Mukhtar Mohammed (Sheffield), who was a European Under-23 bronze medallist with a best of 1:45.90 outdoors. He will be making his season’s debut.
“I’ve got Thomas in my sights this weekend,” said Learmonth. “I’m feeling great – training’s been very easy.”
Pitreavie’s Eilidh Child is another Scot who has every reason to feel good about herself after two very positive outings over the flat 400 metres, with the aim of giving her more aggression for her 400m hurdling.
They resulted in a Scottish Native record of 52.88 secs for GB in the international at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, followed by another personal best (though noy a Native record as not set in Scotland) of 52.71 secs in winning at the Birmingham Games at the National Indoor Arena last Saturday.
Bath-based Child, pictured right, who is coached by hurdles guru Malcolm Arnold, must be looking to guarantee an individual spot in Gothenburg with at least a top-two place on Sunday ahead of Shana Cox, with their great rival Perri Shakes-Drayton the race favourite with a best this winter of 52.13.
Whatever happens, all three should be picked for a British relay squad with a great medal chance in Sweden.
Not to be forgotten, however, should be Birchfield’s Meghan Beeseley, who ran 52.80 in Vienna last week, and Scotland’s Gemma Nicol (Dunfermline), who clocked 54.04 in a season opener in Ghent.
Kirsty Yates, Edinburgh Athletic Club’s newest recruit, could bring a surprise medal back north in the shot putt after launching herself into second place in the 2013 UK rankings with a throw of 15.87 metres at Grangemouth two days ago. That also puts the 19-year-old third on the Scottish All-Time list.
Jayen Nisbet (EAC) opens her season in the high jump and must have good medal hopes, though the Euro standard of 1.92m is a bit of an ask for any current British jumper bar Jessica Ennis, who will not start her 2013 campaign until she competes at Meadowbank in June.
The Capital’s latest high jump hero Allan Smith must also rise to the occasion and find another three centimetres if he is to achieve the European target of 2.26m, but will certainly not want for competition with Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabartz, holder Samson Oni and 2011 champion Tom Parsons all in the field.
The UK selection target (there are no official qualifying standards for the European Indoors) for the women’s 3000 metres is a demanding 8:51.0, but a sub-nine minutes run is not beyond Emily Stewart (EAC), who will have fierce competition from Dundee’s Eilish McColgan and English rival Gemma Steel.
Laura Muir (Dundee) goes in the 1500 metres, where she has already bagged the Euro standard of 4:14.0.
Capital-based Allan Scott and Jamie Bowie, in the 110 hurdles and 400 metres respectively, are two more Sheffield-bound, while Sarah Warnock (EAC) gets her chance in the long jump alongside clubmate Lisa Ferguson.
Commonwealth Youth Games champion Tom Holligan (EAC), now a student in Aberdeen, opens his season in the 200m, where Ryan Oswald (Pitreavie) also goes.