Sporting the yellow colours of Kilbarchan Athletics Club for the very first time yesterday in tribute to her Paisley-born mother, Steph Twell wanted to commemorate the occasion with a performance worthy of the vest. The family has long been based in southern England, where the two-time Olympian was born, but the Caledonian roots remain entrenched in the soil. And in the mud of Falkirk, Isobel’s daughter did her proud by claiming the Scottish cross-country title on her maiden appearance at the event.
Overdue, she acknowledged, for someone whose nine gold medals at various editions of the European Cross marks her out as a specialist of the art. In temporarily adopting Kilbarchan – the cradle of marathon’s Hawkins brothers amongst others – afforded the European Championship 5,000 metres medallist an opportunity to carve a small slice of history, becoming the first to claim both the English and Scottish titles.
“To run for Kilbarchan was special,” she declared. “I’m following in a lot of amazing footsteps.” In truth, all were left to follow the 29-year-old who tore away in the second loop around Callendar Park and was never remotely threatened, her only company the hundreds of club runners given the privilege of being lapped by a championship performer.
She won in 38 minutes and 38 seconds, a long stretch clear of the fast-improving Moira Stewart – Glasgow raised but an internationalist for her mother’s homeland of the Czech Republic – with Morag Millar passing defending champion Mhairi Maclennan for third.
“I tried to stretch out but it was hard to do that,” Twell declared. “I did feel tired on the last lap because it is a testing, true cross-country course. I loved it and I hope to be back.”
The track and the roads will now occupy her thoughts. Not for her a crack at next month’s world cross in Aarhus. That would be a welcome addition to the schedule, admitted men’s winner Adam Craig, pictured inset, who continued to rebound from deflation indoors with another dominant showing.
Olympic marathon runner Derek Hawkins was among those left in the Borderer’s wake when he pressed his internal turbo boost and zoomed out of sight. Audacious and ambitious, he was rewarded with a formidable 58-second margin over Kevin Wood in clocking 33:50 with Hawkins eventually sixth.
Now for the world trials in Loughborough next month. “It wasn’t on my radar to start with. All my focus has been on indoors. I thought I’d do Scottish cross and that would be it. But having not had a good indoors, I’ll start looking at it.”
Freddie Carcas was a comfortable winner of the men’s Under-20 7.5km race in 24:49 while Eloise Walker took the women’s event in 28:25, 25 seconds ahead of triathlon prospect Erin Wallace.
Meanwhile, UK Athletics will formally advertise for a new chair on Wednesday to fill the void left by Richard Bowker’s resignation.
It is understood Scottish Athletics chair Ian Beattie, who had been tipped as a candidate, has been forced to rule himself out due to governance rules put in place for the post.