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douglas and hilland take senior races at whinlatter

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29 May 2016

Whinlatter Forest was the majestic setting for the European Mountain Running Championships Trials on Saturday with Andrew Douglas (coach: Sophie Dunnett) and Rebecca Hilland taking victory in the senior races.

With places on the team for the European Mountain Running Championships in Arco, Italy in July to be earned, there was plenty at stake as the athletes took on the challenging up and down course in the Lake District.

Douglas was made to work hard for victory in the senior men’s race by Andrew Davies (Steve Vernon) who pushed the Scottish athlete for two and a half laps. With a steep ascent coming within seconds of the start, the course was brutal from the off with athletes manoeuvring for position over the 12km course with 750m of ascent.

After the first short lap, it was relatively bunched with Douglas and Davies already opening up a slight gap on the rest, headed by Ricky Lightfoot. However, by the time they came around after the first long lap which included the ascent to Seat Howe, the field had been opened up but Davies was still hotly in pursuit of his Scottish opponent. However, on the final twisting climb, Douglas had that extra gear to make the defining move and held on for another victory at a European Trials.

Douglas, who was sixth at the World (up and down) Mountain Running Championships last year said afterwards: “It was really tough but it is what you expect from up and down courses but because it had a really fast downhill that made it extra tough. I’m really happy with that – I managed to make a breakaway on the third lap but I was conscious I never really had that much of a gap so I had to keep working hard.

“You are really hurting on those climbs but you have to think everyone else is too, you just have to hope you are hurting less!”

Davies did finish second ahead of Ricky Lightwood in third, both of these athletes heading to the world long distance mountain running championships next month. Alex Pilcher (self-coached) and Ben Mounsey rounded off the top five after strong second halves to their races.

In the senior women’s race, Bath’s Hillland secured a first Trials triumph after only taking up the mountain running discipline last year. After moving to Norway to live with her new husband, she trains in an ideal mountainous location which prepared her fully for the course at Whinlatter.

The front of the field was quite close after the opening lap with the main protagonists spearheading the field; however, it was Hilland who accelerated away on the final long loop which made the impact. She finished almost a minute ahead of her closest competitor Heidi Dent (Derek Hurton) who also enjoyed one of the races of her career. WMRA World Cup champion Sarah Tunstall made up a lot of ground on the final lap to take third place after sitting fifth halfway through the race.

Hilland was delighted after saying: “It was really fun and a nice course – there was only one section which was quite steep but you could work off the flat bits and downhills. I didn’t expect to go off so hard and thought I’d be hanging on behind others at the end, it was a really strong field.

“I’m fairly new to mountain running but I live in Norway and you can’t go out for a run without going up a hill.”

The junior men’s race started at the same time as the senior women and was one of the closest contests of the day. With six athletes going through within a few seconds of each other at the halfway point, it was set for a thrilling finale as they climbed up the final hill. However, Gavin Bryson made it a second Scottish victory on the day as he pulled away from the rest to confirm the win. Ciaran Lewis (James Thie) was second with Josh Boyle taking third spot.

The junior women kicked off proceedings so were the first to take on the heat and the testing course. With a 3.55km course, it was going to be a fast and furious race and it lived up to the billing. Laura Stark (Arthur Smith) made it a hattrick of Scottish wins on the day as she just had enough to pip Scarlet Dale to the line by four seconds to take her first Trials victory. Becca Williams finished third a further five seconds back.

Senior men and women's results

Junior men's and women's results