Laura Muir heads record fields for the Scottish Short Course XC Champs in Glasgow this weekend – with Scotland’s Athlete of the Year helping lead growing popularity among female club athletes.
Muir will look to win back the title she won in 2013 at Bellahouston after last year losing out to Rhona Auckland, who went on to claim the Euro Cross U23 gold before a summer move to New Mexico University.
The 22-year-old Glasgow University student, who will race for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers on Saturday, will do so in a women’s race that with 253 entries has grown remarkably over the past few years.
Overall entry numbers are up by more than 26 per cent as scottishathletics National events enjoy an upsurge in interest. That Senior Women’s race attracted only 48 entries five years ago when Muir finished 14th while still a teenager.
Edinburgh AC duo National XC champion Maddie Murray and Olympian, Freya Ross, will lead the capital club’s team challenge and there’s another high-profile entry for the mud at Bellahouston from the capital club – as Commonwealth Games high jumper Jayne Nisbet joins Glasgow 2014 team-mate Muir in that record field.
It will be Nisbet’s first competitive appearance in athletics since finishing tenth in the high jump final at Hampden last July.
“I love to race in Scotland as and when I can, but I don’t get much opportunity during the summer season,” said Laura, named Scotland’s Athlete of the Year on Sunday night by the governing body.
“I raced at the National XC Relays at Cumbernauld for my Uni and will do the 4K Champs at Bellahouston for my club, Dundee Hawkhill. I’ve raced there the past few years and enjoy the event.
“I’ve always loved cross country and it is part of my programme. I enjoy being out there competing against the girls I’ve been racing since I was little and in the youth age groups.
“It is brilliant to see the numbers rising for these events and the women’s race, in particular. Getting a progression from teenagers through to senior level is vital for the health of the sport – and getting people out competing is important, too.
“We tend to lose people in their late teens or early 20s so if people are seeing me and taking any kind of inspiration from that, then I’m absolutely delighted because I love my sport. If we can have more teenagers stay in the sport right through to senior then that’s great for athletics in Scotland.”
Nisbet, who quit high jumping after the Commonwealths, said: “I’ve been running for a few months now and enjoying it.
“I am racing at Bellahouston to try and get some speed as I have a half marathon coming up the following week.”
The Short Course Champs on Saturday are part of the Lindsays XC Season. GB international Andrew Butchart defends the men’s title he won last season with his club, Central AC, favourites to win the scottishathletics Short Course Team Challenge which covers three events. Overall entry numbers are 1077 – up 26 per cent from 851 in 2014 – with more than 700 senior athletes ready to race over the 4K course on Glasgow’s south side.
“We’re thrilled with the response once again from clubs to National events,” said scottishathletics chief executive, Nigel Holl.
“I am convinced athletes, coaches and clubs have been galvanised by the double effect of the Olympics in 2012 and the Commonwealth Games in 2014. It is particularly pleasing to see senior athletes getting out to compete and the growth in the women’s cross country races for events like this one really is spectacular.”