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Shebster sisters make international grade

By SPP Reporter

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Emma and Oonagh Dunnett out in front on their way up the challenging course at Menstrie to qualify for the Junior Home International, which will take place in Wales later this month.
Emma and Oonagh Dunnett out in front on their way up the challenging course at Menstrie to qualify for the Junior Home International, which will take place in Wales later this month.

SHEBSTER runners Emma and Oonagh Dunnett have competed in a 3.7km hill challenge which formed the selection race for the Junior Home International event.

The race was held at Menstrie near Stirling and combined selection races for the Junior Home International and the senior Commonwealth Mountain Running International, which take place in Snowdonia, Wales, later this month, and the Veterans’ International in Italy.

Because of the selection opportunities, the races attracted the top Scottish hill runners, all vying for a national vest. A large number of both the junior and senior athletes had already competed for Scotland, including Emma and Oonagh, and a select few had also represented Great Britain over the summer in Europe. As a result of this, the standard of the races was high. With the first two runners in each race gaining automatic selection, there was a lot to be played for.

Emma and Oonagh were competing in the under-16 girls’ race on a course which provided a mixture of Land Rover track, grass and rough hillside. Mix this with the tail end of Hurricane Irene and the race was extremely challenging – but rewarding – with the fantastic support of marshals and supporters at key points on the course.

The Caithness duo set off at a steady pace but put clear daylight between themselves and the rest of the field in the early part of the climb.

After an initial uphill section on Land Rover tracks, the course took a grassy route which continued to the final 70m of climb which was on rougher ground.

The girls worked well together, taking it in turns to block the wind until the final section of the climb where Emma started to pull way. By the time the girls turned downhill, she had opened a 20m lead. After a slight detour on the course due to a missed flag, Emma headed downhill at a strong pace.

On the first half of the downhill, underfoot conditions were favourable on the grass track.

The final downhill route was on a tight section of track with hairpin bends causing some scary descents as runners tried to make up ground on those in front of them.

Despite Oonagh throwing caution to the wind in an attempt to catch her sister, Emma – who is well known on the racing circuit for the speed at which she descends – managed to pull out a 150m lead by the finish line.

Emma finished first in 20.33 min, with Oonagh in second in 21.07, with both girls demonstrating their class by finishing four minutes clear of the next runner.

Emma and Oonagh gained automatic selection, with the final two places in the team being decided by the Scottish Athletics selectors.

The race results also saw Emma taking first and Oonagh second in the Scottish Hill Running League for 2011.

The girls next compete in the international in Wales on September 24. The race on this occasion will be over 6.4km with a 305m climb.

The girls competed for Scotland last year in this international when it was held in Ireland and will be hoping to improve on their respective fourth and 11th-place finishes from that event, which saw Scotland winning the overall team title.

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