East Kilbride’s Greg Kelly emulated 2015 champion Cameron Tindle as a teenage winner of the world-famous New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse today.
The 17-year-old started off 8.25 metres and cruised home fully two yards clear in 11.54 seconds as he repeated his semi-final victory over Lasswade long jumper Jordan Charters with fellow teenager Emily Dagg close behind in third.
Despite a gap of barely 90 minutes between semi and final, Kelly stayed in form to clinch to victory in the 148th running of the 110m dash and earn a handsome crystal trophy and a first prize of £4000, although the cold and blustery conditions ruined any prospect of adding a big money bonus, which veteran promoter Frank Hanlon had offered for a superfast time.
The newly-crowned champion and his proud father were unconcerned, however, and a beaming Kelly admitted: “It still hasn’t sunk in yet, to be honest. This is just the biggest race and it’s mad for me to have won it.
“I felt confident I could do it after beating Jordan in the semi-finals, but there’s such stiff competition that you can never really think you’re going to win. I knew Jordan was one of my biggest threats, so I treated the semi like a final.
“Getting a walkover in Friday’s heats was a good thing because people didn’t really know what I was capable of. I wanted to have a good hard race on Friday, but my first real run was the semi-final.
“2016 was a brilliant year for me. I won the 100m and 200m double at the national championships and competed for Scotland at the Celtic Games in Swansea, which was a great experience.
“Doing the Highland Games during the summer compliments my other races really well, so I plan to keep competing as a professional.”
Dagg, also 17, had created quite an impression during Friday’s qualifying heats at Meadowmill Sports Centre when she clocked the quickest time of the day – a sizzling 11.50 – off 20.5m. A repetition of that would have been good enough to win, but the unfavourable weather and the switch from synthetic track to grass made direct comparisons fairly meaningless.
“I’m really pleased,” said Dagg after going four places better than last year. “Getting to the final again was a bonus and I felt I ran well, so I have no regrets.
“I tried not to think about it too much after running fast on Friday. I didn’t do so well in the semi and there was a wee doubt that I might not make the final, but the times in the other races were slower than mine, so I got through.
“I tried to put a wee bit more aggression into my run in the final and I managed to block out the people behind me until I saw them when we hit the finishing line.
“All my training has been focused on getting ready for this race and I’d like to run here again next year. I also want to say that everything is down to my coach, Bruce Scott. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Dagg’s podium finish was welcome compensation for Scott after he had earlier seen another of his athletes, defending champion Jaz Tomlinson, fail to retain her title. Having become the race’s first female winner last January, the Jedburgh teenager was treated less generously this year by handicapper Adam Crawford and only scraped through the heats as a fastest loser. True to form, she was unable to make further history as she missed out on a place in the final after finishing only fourth in semi-final three, won by 57-year-old Doug Donald, the champion back in 1991. Edinburgh AC’s Stacey Downie bowed out in the second semi after winning her heat on Friday.