Berwick flyer Cameron Tindle (Edinburgh AC) arrived like a tornado to win the 146th New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse 12 months ago.
But if the forecasts are to be believed, he may well have to cope with severe gales tomorrow at Meadowmill Sports Centre, East Lothian, in the heats and at Musselburgh Racecourse on Friday for the final if he is to become the first person since Willie McFarlane (Glasgow) in 1934 to retain the the famous professional handicap crown.
Still only 17, the Berwick Academy pupil went on to become the youngest ever winner of the Scottish senior 200 metres title in Aberdeen in August, then won a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Youth Games 100 metres in Samoa in September.
Having recently been invited to join the British junior (under-20) men’s relay squad, Tindle has been working hard this winter with coach Bruce Scott (Jed-Forest), and though Tindle has had his NY handicap cut by three metres to two and has done “very little sharpening up”, Scott insists his sprinter should not be written off.
Drawn in the fifth of the 12 heats of the 110 metres race, which again carries a first prize of £4000, Tindle, the backmarker, will lock horns again with fellow-Borderer Ryan Houten (Cardrona), who ran him close in the 2015 final, finishing just 0.03 seconds behind, and is a metre better off.
Also in this heat is Sarah Malone (EAC), off 19.75m and one of several female entries who are considered genuine contenders for the honour of becoming the first woman to win.
Another is Peebles teacher Stacey Downie (EAC), off 17.25m in heat four which, according to Fife coach Eric Simpson, is the “heat of death”.
Also in this heat is Jed-Forest’s Jazmine Tomlinson, off 20.5m, Craig Knowles (Corstorphine, 6.5m), who ran well at Meggetland last July and Kevin Wilson (Kelty 12m), a member of the Jimmy Beattie Fife “school” who once had the dubious distinction of being favourite after the heats but when the final was delayed a week by bad weather was unable to rekindle his form.
Handicapper Adam Crawford is delighted with this year’s entry not only from female runners but from the West of Scotland, a trend he has noted at the summer professional games.
One such is Cara Murdoch (Larkhall), who goes in heat three off 19.5m while others to watch are Hope Robertson (Lockerbie 22m) in heat 12, Ancrum’s Emily Dagg (EAC 21.5m) in heat 10 and Rachel Robertson (Lasswade 21.5m) in heat nine.
The usual generous list of supporting events on the first day includes the senior open handicap 800m final in which one of the three joint back-markers off 40 metres is Rory Muir (Dundee Hawkhill), the younger brother of Britain’s top female 1500m runner Laura Muir.
Craig Robertson (Logierait) and Colin Welsh (Kelso) will start from the same mark.
Betting on the heats is not allowed by East Lothian Council at the Meadowmill track.
THE 147TH NEW YEAR SPRINT: ONES TO WATCH
Heat one: Kieran Kivlin (EAC) handicap 6.25m
Heat two: Greg Turnbull (Tweedbank) 6.75m
Heat three: Cara Murdoch (Larkhall) 19.5m
Heat four: Stacey Downie (EAC) 17.25m; Craig Knowles (Corstorphine) 6.5m
Heat five: Cameron Tindle (EAC) 2m; Sarah Malone (EAC) 19.75m
Heat six: Jessie Concannon (Dunfermline) 20.5m
Heat seven: Leon Ali (Hawick) 11.25m
Heat eight: Jordan Charters (Dolphinton) 11m
Heat nine: Rachel Robertson (Lasswade) 21.5m
Heat 10: Eoin Lowther (Jedburgh) 12m
Heat 11: Dylan Ali (Hawick) 5m
Heat 12: Greg Kelly (East Kilbride) 8m and Hope Robertson (Lockerbie) 22m