Ethiopian Wegene Tafese, running for Ronhill Cambuslang, claimed the Scottish National Cross Country title at the first time of asking in Falkirk.
It was a fine victory for Tafese in a time of 38 min 41 for the 12k course in Callendar Park and he won by 14 seconds in the end from Robbie Simpson (Deeside AC) with Joe Symonds (Hunters Bog Trotters) in third.
Beth Potter picked up the gold in the Senior Women’s race from two more GB internationals, Rosie Smith (Hunters Bog Trotters) and Susan Partridge (Victoria Park-Glasgow).
The largest field entered since 1996, a total of 1955 athletes, showed the enduring popularity of cross country and continuing strnegth of clubs.
The age group titles were shared around and it was a particularly good day for Glasgow clubs as Cambuslang, VP-Glasgow and Giffnock North athletes all climbed the podium.
But the nationwide element was emphasised by individual medals for athletes from the likes of Lasswade, Greenock Glenpark and Stornoway as around 3,000 spectators generated a good atmosphere.
Tafese has only been in this country for 15 months since arriving towards the end of 2011. He didn’t race in the national championship last year when Derek Hawkins won for the second successive year and there is no doubt the marathon runner’s absence gave the Senior Men’s race an extra edge.
Hill runners Simpson and Symonds were always in the hunt and, ultimately, the top ten finishers were covered by only 64 seconds, suggesting quite a scrap on the undulating mud and grass of Callendar Park.
Wegene said: “It was as tough as I thought it might be but that is what it should be for the Scottish National Cross Country.
“I couldn’t get away at all until into the third lap and I am delighted to win and beat Robbie Simpson and Joe Symonds.
“I won the Scottish 10k title at Stirling last September and I was second in the Great Scottish Run 10k also.
“But this feels even more special and I enjoy cross country. All the hard work in training has paid off today. “I don’t know what I will be doing next right enough in terms of racing because I’ve been spiked on the front of my foot and it is a little painful right now.”
Freya Ross had won the Senior Women’s title in six of the last seven years but she, too, was absent for altitude training in the United States.
Partridge, the champion in 2008 had hoped to repeat that triumph, while Smith was looking for gold after two bronzes and silver in 2012.
But it was 21-year-old Potter, a regular champion in this competition in the younger age groups over the years, who stepped up to the mark and won in 28.14 for the 8k route – six seconds clear of Smith (28.20) with Partridge a further seven seconds back (28.27). “It feels great to be Senior champion at just turned 21,” said Potter.
“I’ve won Scottish titles at age groups but last year I wasn’t too well after coming back from Kenya. I have been a lot more on form this winter.
“I raced Freya earlier this season and beat her in Edinburgh and then she beat me in Antrim. It would maybe have been an even better race if she had been here, it would have been a real battle between four of us but it was hard enough with three. I enjoyed racing against Rosie and Susan and I’m just pleased I was strong enough to win it. It’s a great title to have against your name.”
Rhona Auckland recovered from a recent injury to win the Women’s Under-20 crown in the colours of Edinburgh University.
Auckland won team gold with Great Britain’s Under-20s at the Euro Cross Champs in December but then hurt her knee while carrying a suitcase downstairs. Back in training recently, Auckland proved strong enough to win by almost 30 seconds in 16.45 from Halina Ress (Fife AC) and Alex Lamond (Ronhill Cambuslang).
Lasswade AC’s Ross Matheson took the Men’s Under-20 title by just three seconds in one of the best races of the day as he edged out David Vernon (VP Glasgow).
Matheson competed in the UK Champs 1500m Senior final recently in Sheffield, but didn’t perform well but his bounce-back was emphatic with Dale Colley cheering host club Falkirk Victoria with his bronze medal.
Garscube’s Catriona Graves won the Under-17 Women’s title, while Lewis Boyle (VP Glasgow) won a fine Under-17 men’s contest.
Josh Kerr (Edinburgh AC) had looked the clear favourite at Under-15 Boys and so it proved with Gillian Black (VP Glasgow) likewise peerless at Under-15 girls. Ryan Gray (Inverclyde) was arguably the least unexpected champion of the day but it was no less impressive at that. The kid from Greenock maintained his long unbeaten run with another dominant run at Under-13 boys while Shelby Morrison (Greenock Glenpark) won the Under-13 girls.
In the team events, Central AC and Edinburgh AC each made it a hat-trick in the Senior Men’s and Senior Women’s races respectively.
But the overall men’s award, the AT Mays trophy, went to Ronhill Cambuslang Harriers. Edinburgh retained the overall Women’s accolade (with points awarded for teams across all age-groups) as they again lifted the Pat Spence Trophy.
l Completing a marvellous weekend for Scottish athletics there were gold medals for youngsters Ben Robbins (Edinburgh AC) and Ben Greenwood (Perth Strathtay) and a bronze for Michael Olsen (Edinburgh AC) at the English Age Group champs in Birmingham.
And Greenwood and Olsen set Scottish Under-15 records in the process at 1.59.65 for 800m (Greenwood) and 7.21 for 60m (Olsen).