In the Herald tomorrow and hopefully more from this area can compete against the best from the West/East even though we are at a disadvantage due to a number of things. Like I said it the only sport you can mix with the best, no matter your age.
Cameron/Gregor compete against the Ewings. and the McNair mentioned and there is no reason why more in the future can do the same.
Well done to all that are going to the Emarites this weekend to compete in the Super 12s. It shall be fun.
WHETHER elite athletes in any sport have a tangible impact on the next generation remains the perennially unanswered question. However, the evidence at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow yesterday and today suggests that the success of this country’s very best track and field stars is indeed having a hugely positive effect on Scotland’s aspiring athletes.
Over the course of these two days, more than 1300 boys and girls from over 200 schools spanning the length and breadth of Scotland will compete in the Rotary International Scottish Schools’ Indoor Track and Field Championships and just one look indicates that the incredible recent success of the elite of Scottish Athletics is seeping down to the next generation.
Athletes of the calibre of Lynsey Sharp, the Hawkins brothers, Eilish McColgan and Eilidh Doyle cut their teeth at the Scottish Schools Championships and this year’s event showcased young athletes who have the potential to emulate these now stalwarts of the Scottish team. Split into under-16 and over-16 age categories, the action was constant and almost impossible to keep track of. However, one of the standout performances of day one came from Erin Wallace, a 16-year-old 1500m runner from Eastwood High School in East Renfrewshire who broke 2016 Olympian Beth Potter’s over-16 1500m record. For a number of years, Wallace has been touted as one to watch and while she retains a typical teenager’s reluctance to brag about her potential, she admits that witnessing the success her compatriots gives her a belief that Scottish athletes can make it to the summit of her sport. “The success of Scottish Athletics shows that there’s a good system there,” the 16 year-old said. “So if that system has helped athletes like Laura Muir get to the top then hopefully it’ll help us get there too. I think it does make me believe that if they got there, why shouldn’t any of us?”
Considering the number of athletes involved over the two days, it is quite remarkable how smoothly the event runs. Marshalling the troops is Frances Fegan, President of the Scottish Schools Athletics Association and all round problem-solver. Fegan has been running the event for a decade and has witnessed the number of young athletes competing grow exponentially during her time in charge. She has an obvious passion for the sport and has been a real driver in professionalising the event, which can only benefit the kids as their athletics careers progress. “At an event like this, they’re competing at the same venue as the top athletes, running on the same track, experiencing proper officiating, going through a call-room- all of these things are important because it educates them about the structure of real competition,” Fegan says, before adding how thrilling it is to witness athletes who she remembers as school children compete on the world stage. “It’s a real joy to watch the athletes who have come through this competition go on and compete at Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Even when the athletes are kids, you can see that they’ve got something special- they’ve got a real belief in themselves. And it’s great for the event to have Olympians as past winners.”
One such past winner is Jax Thoirs, Scotland’s top pole vaulter, who was at the Emirates to present prizes. The 23 year-old recalls how important an event the Scottish Schools Championships was in his development. “When I was young, a major competition like this was a really big thing and I definitely looked forward to it,” he recalls. However, things have changed since Thoirs competed and he feels there has been a change in atmosphere at the event due to the success of Scottish athletes in recent years. “Looking around, it seems like there’s more of a belief from young Scottish athletes that they can do big things,” he says, his eyes scanning the field of play. “I can see a confidence that was maybe lacking in the past- I think there’s a Scottish self-deprecating thing where we feel like it’s ok not to be confident but seeing athletes like Laura Muir, Andy Butchart and others do so well, it proves how important it is to believe in yourself and I see that belief in the younger athletes now too.”
The very best of the young athletes are able to do more than merely watch Scotland’s best athletes from afar though. On completing their under-16 1500m heat, David McNair from Castlehead High and Joe Ewing from Stewart’s Melville catch their breath before revealing who their sometime training partners are. “I train with Callum Hawkins sometimes and it’s brilliant for me, it really helps me improve,” McNair says. “Seeing how hard he’s worked to get to where he is really pushes me on. He’s so fast though- I’ll think I’m running pretty well and then he’ll be 100m ahead of me.” Ewing has a similarly high calibre of training partner. Coached by Carol Sharp, the middle-distance runner often has the opportunity to train with former European champion, Lynsey Sharp. “It’s brilliant to see what Lynsey’s achieved is possible by a Scot,” he says. “It’s so inspiring knowing where she’s come from and it really helps motivate me to think that if you put in the work, it could be you there too.”