Laura Muir and Lynsey Sharp have blazed trails and conquered tracks aplenty in recent years, the paths normally divergent but their careers skirting the highest peaks of middle-distance running. Both European gold medallists, each striving for excellence, products of a Scottish system that has set them up to excel.
Hence, what is a rare meeting between the pair in Birmingham this afternoon should be savoured. The fastest two women in Scottish history will square off in a stacked 800 metres final at the British Championships which will offer the top two finishers automatic berths at August’s European Championships in Berlin. Both Scots won their heats impressively yesterday. With others well-capable, it will be a battle royal.
With an edge too. It has been assumed that Muir would target only the 1,500m at August’s Euro jamboree in Berlin but her entry into the shorter event without advance notice in the published start list caused ripples of dismay.
“There seems to be exemptions for some people,” declared Sharp. “But it’s a pretty open event. There are lots of girls who have done the qualifying time. And far as I’m concerned it’s good to have someone else fast in the race because I like to run fast.”
Muir insisted that the 800 had always been in the plans drafted by her coach Andy Young. “Ever since the start of the season,” she confirmed. “I was just looking forward to racing here. There’s such depth in the 800.”
Competitors to the last, it should especially spur Sharp who has shaken off early stumbles this season, including an early exit at the Commonwealth Games, and looks much closer to her impressive best. “It’s taken a couple of months to get back to 100 per cent. At the time I wasn’t firing on all cylinders but I am now.”
So too Chris O’Hare, with the double European medallist primed to defend his title in the 1,500 metres and repel a pack of hungry challengers in what might be the showpiece of the second day’s action. He won his heat. As did Jake Wightman. As did their fellow Scots Josh Kerr and Neil Gourley, who shared a time of 3:46.22 and could not be separated.
With that English interloper, Charlie Da’Vall Grice also progressing, splitting three from five will take some doing. “The final should be fun,” O’Hare said. “It will be a race and hopefully the best three go to Europeans.”
Chris Bennett punched his ticket to Berlin by coming second in the hammer behind Nick Miller as the Glaswegian continues to pick up the pieces from the failure at the Commonwealths which tortured him greatly. He threw 73.29m with Scottish foe Mark Dry third, but short of the qualifying mark and carrying a hip injury that will soon end his season.
Morgan Lake was thwarted in her attempts at a British high jump record of two metres but improved her personal best to 1.97m to see off Katarina Johnson-Thompson, with Scotland internationalist Nikki Manson third with an outdoor best of 1.89m.
Elsewhere, Dina Asher-Smith won the women’s 100m in a championship record of 10.97 secs while Reece Prescod emerged victorious in a eagerly-anticipated men’s 100 with Zharnel Hughes and CJ Ujah second and third. A UK 1-2-3 at the Europeans is a possibility.
Holly Bradshaw retained her pole vault crown and Nick Percy took bronze in the discus behind Brett Morse.