Twelve Scots head for Liverpool tomorrow with ambitions of featuring in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team to contest the European Cross Country Championships in Budapest on Sunday December 9, writes James McAllister.
Scotland had six representatives in Slovenia last year and two aiming to be selected again are Matt Graham, of Kirkintilloch Olympians, and Dundee Hawkhill Harriers' Laura Muir, while Derek Hawkins, the Scottish Cross Country champion from Kilbarchan AAC, is on the startlist for the trials but will make a late decision as to whether to run or not. Tomorrow's races do not fit with the schedule for Steph Twell and Freya Murray but Elspeth Curran, of Kilbarchan AAC, will contest the senior women's race with Rosie Smith (Hunters Bog Trotters) and Amy Campbell (Shaftesbury Barnet).
It could be that the Under-23 and Under-20 age group offers the best chance of significant representation for Hungary. Emily Stewart (Edinburgh AC) and Beth Potter (Victoria Park-Glasgow) will hope to be in contention in the U23 race while Graham has been running well and the Central AC pair of Alex Hendry and Scott McDonald also compete in this age-group.
Rhona Auckland (Banchory and Stonehaven) has been in great form north of the border – she won the scottishathletics 4k championship at Bellahouston Park then had a big win over a longer distance at the Scottish Student championships at Stepps – and hopes to feature prominently in the U20 race.
A good showing on Merseyside this time last year secured Muir her first GB vest for Slovenia before a subsequent appearance at the World Juniors over 3000m on the track.
Grove Menzieshill seem well on their way to retaining their Aberdeen Asset Management national league title – they won all their games so far to establish a five-point lead – but it is Edinburgh University, under the coaching eye of Sam Judge, who are emerging as the main threat, writes Craig Madden.
The students served notice last season when they finished a very creditable fourth under Judge's tutelage, but now they are second and in line for a European spot. Judge expressed satisfaction with Edinburgh's progress despite having dropping five points in a 2-1 loss to Grove and a 1-1 draw with Milne Craig Clydesdale Western which she puts down to inexperience and the games being early in the season.
"The difference this season has been the introduction of experienced players like Nikki Kidd and Louise Fleming, and having a top goalkeeper in Nicki Cochrane," said Judge. "The intensity at training is high – the girls work really hard during the week – so there is a real competition for a place in the team now which is great."
Goalscoring is their speciality: the Scotland trio of Nikki Kidd, Judge and Sarah Robertson have the lion's share of the 36 goals notched so far. Judge anticipates a tough match with Dundee Wanderers for whom she expects Vikki Bunce, Becky Ward and goalkeeper Carmin Dow to be the most influential players.
Leaders Grove are unlikely to give up any ground at home to Grange from the lower reaches of the league, but Western will be anxious to return to winning ways against Glynhill Kelburne at Titwood, although Rachael Ewing is in fine form for the Paisley side, having scored four goals last weekend.
Danny Markowitz, the New Yorker who plays for Alaska Aces and has arrived on Tayside for a six-week trial, has his first chance to impress his new bosses tonight (7.30) when he makes his Dundee CCS Stars debut, writes Nigel Duncan. It's a tough first game, against the current Elite League pacesetters, Belfast Giants, but their player/coach Jeff Hutchins welcomes the addition following the injury to their defenceman Doug Krantz.
A controversial call by the referee Andy Carson ended Dundee's resistance at Sheffield on Wednesday when Steelers slotted home a penalty shot winner. As well as a welcome point from a draw in regular time, there were positives for Hutchins whose side led 2-0 and 4-3 before a late leveller sent the tense clash into overtime.
Giants lost their last outing 4-3 after overtime at fourth-placed Cardiff Devils on Sunday and will be without Robby Sandrock with an injury sustained by a hit during the game in Cardiff. Doug Christiansen, Giants' coach, also has worries over Scott Champagne.
Mark Bennett, the promising young back, is expected to return to action in Scotland tomorrow by turning out for Stirling County at home to Dundee HSFP in the RBS Premiership, writes Gary Heatly. The 20-year-old former Cumnock and Ayr player joined Glasgow Warriors on loan from the French club Clermont Auvergne last week and is expected to compete for a place in the Warriors' midfield in the weeks to come. As part of the pro draft system he will first get some game time under his belt for the Bridgehaugh club having been named in the centres alongside Danny Gilmour for the match that kicks-off at 1pm.