Robbie wins top Holyrood event

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Banchory’s Robbie Simpson said he was “delighted” to have secured his first major national cross-country title last weekend.

Simpson defeated a quality field in the Scottish inter-district championships at Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park.

The 21-year-old athlete, who is one of Britain’s leading hill runners, is relatively inexperienced on the cross-country circuit but made a major breakthrough in the capital.

Simpson went into the final lap of four behind leader Wegene Tafese (Ronhill Cambuslang Harriers) on the muddy 8km course before pulling away to win in 26min 2sec.

Sean Fontana (VP Glasgow) produced a strong sprint over the closing 300m to win silver just a second behind Simpson, with Tsfese third in 26:05.

Aberdeen University’s David Vernon was the leading U20 athlete and finished fourth while Banchory Stonehaven AC’s Michael Ferguson finished third in the age group and 20th overall.

Simpson believes tactics wre key to his success.

He said: “With it being a four lap race, pacing was very important and I was able to stay near the front all the way through.

“There were four of us who pulled away on the last lap and I was able to open up a bit of a gap on the hilly section towards the end. I was just able to hold on going down the stretch, winning by one second.”

Simpson said the win came as a bit of a surprise.

“I wasn’t really expecting to win,” he said. “But I’ve been working hard and the fact that it was a tactical race suited me.

“I knew that if I performed to my best I had a strong chance of doing well.”

Next up for Simpson is the Celtic Cross Country International in Cardiff on January 20. He will be competing in the under-23 event and is hopeful of success.

“It will be a tough race but it is one I believe I can win,” Simpson said. “The Scotland team as a whole will be very strong and we have a really good chance in the team event.”