There were distinct signs at Sheffield at the weekend that Scottish athletes are raising their game as the start of the qualifying period for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games nears on April 1.
A total of nine medals at the British Indoor Championships and European Trials at the English Institute of Sport bodes well for the outdoor season.
Three golds from David Bishop (3000 metres), Eilidh Child (400m) and Laura Muir (1500m) were supported by three silvers from Allan Scott (60m hurdles), Allan Smith (high jump) and Emily Stewart (3000m) and three bronzes, Guy Learmonth (800m), Jayne Nisbet (high jump) and Sarah Warnock (long jump).
Pride of place rightly belongs to Pitreavie’s Child, who having blitzed her opponents in Saturday’s semi-final with a new Scottish National indoor record of 52.06 seconds, went almost as fast again to defeat defending champion and Olympian Shana Cox in the final in 52.13sec.
Both times were better than her best ever outdoors and her new record is 0.41sec ahead of Sinead Dudgeon-Walker’s previous national best of 52.47sec set 12 years ago in Birmingham.
“It’s been a great weekend for me – I just wanted to win it as I’ve had so many silvers at UK Championships before so it’s great finally to get a gold,” said the 26-year-old Kinross teacher, who is currently training with renowned hurdles coach Malcolm Arnold in Bath.
“I was a bit worried about how I’d run after a hard run the night before, so I’m happy I’ve come out and done two solid races back to back.”
“I’ll run the 400 at the European Indoors, so that was good preparation because I’ll need to run a round every day there.”
Child and her absent rival Perri Shakes-Drayton (who had a “niggle”) can expect to be named in the individual event for Gothenburg as well as the 4x400m relay along with Cox and Cardiff’s Megan Beesley, but though two other Scots made the final, Dunfermline’s Gemma Nicol, fifth in 54.20, and Glasgow’s Diane Ramsay sixth in 54.93, they were too far down to merit a relay call.
Dundee’s Laura Muir showed great maturity in winning the 1500m in a qualifying time and near best of 4:13.59 and can expect to be named for Sweden as well, but the third Scots winner at the weekend, Bristol-based David Bishop, does not yet have the Euro standard for the 3000m which he won with an impressive finish. Also showing increasing assurance is Capital high jumper Allan Smith, who saw off two previous winners Samson Oni and Tom Parsons in taking the silver medal with a leap of 2.22 metres, a height bettered only by Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz, who then had an audacious attempt at a British record 2.39m.
Smith cleared 2.19m and 2.22m both first time, the latter only one centimetre below his lifetime best and Scottish Native record.
Emily Stewart (Edinburgh AC) also struck silver in the 3000 behind Lauren Howarth in a time of 9:08.47, but was far from happy: “I was hoping for sub-nine but I pushed it a bit much in the second 1000 – lesson learned,” she laughed.
Edinburgh-based Allan Scott was also disappointed with his silver on the comeback trail in the 60m hurdles in 7.76sec as he had been hoping for under 7.70sec.
“Perhaps I can go faster in Birmingham next Saturday and even go 7.65,” he said.
The biggest let-down was probably Guy Learnonth’s third place in the 800m even though he was beaten by two formidable opponents who have still to achieve the qualifying time.
Joe Thomas (Cardiff) and Mukhtar Mohammed (Sheffield) almost dead-heated, Thomas getting the verdict in 1:48.55, the same time as Mohammed with Learmonth back in third in 1:49.35.
“Got to take positives from the race – I ran the second 400m in 52.8 and that’s the closest I’ve ever been to them,” said the 20-year-old Lasswade AC runner, who has the Euro time but needed to finish in the first two for automatic selection.
“I’ve got a lane in Birmingham too so looking forward to running fast there.”
Sarah Warnock (EAC) certainly produced a superb last round jump of 6.16m to snatch the bronze in the long jump, having previously three times beaten her personal best in going over 6.00m for the first time.
Clubmate Jayne Nisbet was happy with her high jump bronze though not the height of 1.78m and has vowed to make a serious bid for the Scottish record at next Sunday’s Scottish Championships in Glasgow.