Pace quickens in sprint for Games berths

Jake Wightman will be in action at Loughborough this weekend

Jake Wightman will be in action at Loughborough this weekend

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For most of Scotland’s top athletes, including several who have already been chosen for the 2014 Commonwealth Games team, Sunday’s annual Loughborough International is the most important event of the season so far.

The match between Scotland, England, Wales, British Universities, GB Juniors and Loughborough University Past & Present gives competitors a chance to consolidate on a place already earned or to stake a claim for inclusion when the final names for Glasgow are submitted in the week beginning June 8.

Nerves will certainly be jangling amongst those in the latter category, including Fettesian Jake Wightman (Edinburgh AC), who may not be content to wait for Sunday to have another crack at the quite tough 800 metres qualifying time of 1:47.50.

Wightman, last season’s European junior 1500 metres champion, will represent Loughborough in Sunday’s match, although it may not offer the type of race designed to get him to the finishing line in the shortest possible time.

The presence of a pace-maker is crucial for the 19-year-old first-year student, as will be calm conditions. Both of these criteria are more likely to be found in tomorrow’s British Milers’ Club Grand Prix meeting at Watford where, among Wightman’s rivals in the A race, are probably Niall Brooks and Thomas Roth, a speedy Norwegian.

“The weather forecast’s good and his training has been going well,” said his father and coach Geoff.

Wightman still intends to compete on Sunday when the opposition looks like being similar to that he encountered when he won the British Universities title at Bedford last week on a windy Bank Holiday Monday.

In his heat two days previously, he had run 1:48.69 virtually solo in near-perfect conditions, but he needs two qualifying standards to win selection with just three weeks to go.

Wightman would no doubt have welcomed the presence in either meeting of his occasional college training pal and Glasgow 2014 choice Guy Learmonth (Lasswade), but he is concentrating on his build-up for the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing next Wednesday, where he could be mixing it with some of the bigger names in the sport.

“It’s a big, big opportunity for me and I can’t wait for it,” said the 21-year-old Learmonth, who is coached by Henry Gray at Eyemouth.

Another who could be forgiven for having her mind elsewhere is Eilidh Child (Pitreavie), who was this week named in the British 4 x 400m team to contest the first-ever IAAF World Relay Championships in the Bahamas on May 24 and 25. Child will concentrate on the flat 400 metres on Sunday as she looks to sharpen for Nassau.

Also in the men’s squad for Nassau is Edinburgh resident Jamie Bowie, who has been rewarded for his fine form indoors last winter when he won a bronze medal with the GB team at the World Indoors at Sopot.

Last week he clocked a season’s best outdoors of 46.55 secs in the USA, which puts him above Kris Robertson, the Scottish team pick for Loughborough. Both athletes have a lot to find for an individual slot at Hampden in July given the individual 45.45 CGQ but could form the basis of a 4 x 400m team capable of getting inside the team CGQ time of 3:07.00.

Sunday’s highlight at Loughborough could be the women’s hammer, where the top four Scots will all be competing, with guest Susan McKelvie (EAC) already chosen for Hampden.

Two from top-ranked Rachael Hunter, (Scotland) Kimberley Reed (GB Juniors) or Myra Perkins (Loughborough) look certain to join her, with Perkins having the most to do as she has still to throw a CGQ.