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Cross Country: Hawkins adds to family gold

THE wind chill factor would have stunned Sochi but a watery sun shone on glimpses of a bright future on a verdant, if muddy, patch of land in Falkirk yesterday.

The largest entry for more than 20 years at the Scottish National Cross-Country Championships in Callendar Park produced sparkling performances across all age groups but the blue riband event showcased two winners of extraordinary potential.

Callum Hawkins took his family's haul of cross-country championships at national level to 12. The 21-year-old, winning his first senior men's title, added another layer of gold to a family history that encompasses the exploits of father Robert and brothers Scott and Derek.

Rhona Auckland, a previous winner of the under-17 and under-20 events, raced away with the senior women's title on her debut, defeating a field of considerable class.

Hawkins - whose brother Derek has already qualified for the Commonwealth Games marathon - had strong ambitions on continuing the brilliant family tradition at the cross-country championships.

Howerver, he was also seeking further encouragement in his attempt to achieve a qualifying time for the 10,000 metres at Glasgow. He burst away at the start of the 12,000m race, winning by almost a minute.

"My original plan was to sit in for the first 8k but I felt good at the start so I just went for it," he said of a race in which he led from start to the line, finishing in 37 minutes 41 seconds. His most persistent pursuer, Andrew Butchart of Central, was second in 38 mins 46 secs with Tewoldeberhan Mengisteab of Shettleston Harriers third in 38:54.

The field for the senior women's race included Freya Ross, who won the title from 2009-2012, northern champion Eilidh Mackenzie, last year's winner Beth Potter and the classy marathon runner Susan Patridge.

However, it was the 20-year-old Auckland who stretched the field of more than 300 runners over 8000m, winning in 28 minutes nine seconds. The Edinburgh Uni runner was followed home by Partridge, seven seconds in arrears, with Potter a further eight seconds back in third.

"I felt strong and really enjoyed it," said the runner from Banchory. She added that she believed the quality of the field had helped her by lowering her expectations and thus relieving the pressure on her. However, she took some notable scalps.

Among them was ninth-placed Sarah Benson, whose partner is competing in the bobsleigh in Sochi, and Ross who is coming back from injury and has targeted the marathon at Glasgow 2014 as her goal. "I am looking forward to stepping up my training now," said the Edinburgh AC runner who finished fifth.

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