UK Women’s League champions Edinburgh Athletic Club line up in the European Club Championships at Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal tomorrow and Sunday.
Team manager Anne Scott, who has steered the women’s team to success in top UK meetings for many years, has described the £17,000 trip as “by far the biggest thing the club has ever done,” and the task facing her side as “pretty scary.”
Their target in facing some of the best clubs in Europe, who are stacked with international athletes, is to avoid relegation from the Elite Group One to the second division, which last year’s British reps Birchfield Harriers from Birmingham accomplished by finishing sixth out of eight.
“It looks a higher standard than last year,” added Scott, who along with the rest of the EAC volunteers raised almost £7000 through various fund-raising activities, £1000 from Standard Life and the rest from other sources. “This trip’s a one-off and we wanted to make it as affordable as possible for the athletes who nevertheless will each contribute £100,” said Scott.
One encouraging note this year is that Russian club Luch Moscow, who have won the women’s title for the last 17 years, are not defending and have not been replaced, leaving only seven teams in the line-up.
But Enka Spor Kulubu from Turkey, who were close runners-up, look strong again, if the best performances of their entrants for this one-per-event contest are to be believed.
EAC however have no reason to feel inferior and, with Glasgow 2014 picks Jayne Nisbet (high jump), Susan McKelvie (hammer) and near-certainties Emily Dudgeon (800m) and Kirsty Yates (shot), this is an ideal chance to step up their preparations on a track well known to British athletes as a winter warm-weather training venue.
One EAC member who showed super form at Loughborough last weekend is Kathryn Christie, whose sprint double in 11.74 and 23.71 and 400m relay leg in 54.6 suggests she could still be an outside bet for a Scottish 4x400m relay spot.
Joining the Capital group on the flight are three Scots, Chris Bennett (hammer), Kris Robertson (400m), and John Carr (triple jump), who compete for London club Shaftesbury Barnet, the British men’s reps.
• Two Edinburgh athletes not bound for Portugal are 800 metres stars Lynsey Sharp and Jake Wightman, who will both seek their vital second CGQ time at a meeting in Lokeren, Belgium tomorrow, Sharp in the 800 and Wightman in the 1500, the event he bagged a qualifier in last Tuesday.
European champion Sharp has one qualifier from last year and is rapidly regaining full fitness after an ankle operation, clocking 2:03.90 last weekend compared to the 2:02.80 she needs.
• Two of Scotland’s Glasgow 2014 marathon choices, Kilbarchan’s Hayley Haining and Derek Hawkins will both appear in events linked with the Edinburgh Marathon this weekend. Haining has opted to run the half marathon beginning at London Road on Sunday (8am) while Hawkins will run the 10k in Holyrood Park tomorrow (9am).
The full Edinburgh Marathon takes place on Sunday starting from Regent Road at 9.50am and finishing at Pinkie Primary Playing Fields.