THE skirl of the bagpipes from the Gala Ex-Service Pipe Band, the bang of starter Allan Laidlaw’s gun and the cheers of the crowd filled the air at Oxton Games on Saturday.
And on the surface of the Justicehall Haugh track itself there was also plenty of noise, as there was some cracking running on show.
Making a blast in the 110m handicap was Jedburgh’s Craig Grieve. Winner of the St Ronan’s Games sprint the week previous, Grieve turned on the style again and tasted victory for the second time in succession.
A member of the TLJT club and trained by John Steede and Bruce Scott, 18-year-old Grieve (7m) was beaten in his heat, edged out by Hawick’s David Lauder (13m).
However, with the first two qualifying for the semi-finals, Grieve had reached his goal, and from there on there was no holding him back.
The young Jedburgh flyer booked himself a final spot along with Iskan Barskanmay of Jed AC (6.5m), Calum Murray of TLJT (9.5m), Graeme Armstrong of Edinburgh (18.5m), and Hawick duo Ross Weir (21m) and Ryan Trimby (15.5m) with a fine cross-tie triumph.
Grieve now had the bit between his teeth and, come the final, hit his best form of the day.
After getting off to a spot-on start, Grieve went on to produce an excellent piece of sprinting which was highlighted by a scorching finish to gain the honours in 11.24 seconds.
The other placings went the way of Barskanmay and Trimby.
Grieve told TheSouthern: “Although I had been pulled two metres for winning at St Ronan’s I thought I was in with a good chance today as I have been running well and I felt confident.
“I have been doing a lot of training during the winter and this has helped me a lot.
“In particular I’ve been working on my finish – and that had a big say in how I won the final.”
Hawick schoolboy Darcy Graham also made a big impact on a well-organised Oxton meeting, winning not just one but two events.
A runner with a lot of style, the 14-year-old first chalked up a victory in the youths’ 90m handicap. Competing from 11m, the Billy Edgar-trained youngster surged to a heat victory in the quickest time of the opening runs. In the final, Graham broke the tape ahead of Martha Douglas of Jed AC (16m) and Jasmin Tomlinson of Jed AC (17m).
His day of glory was not quite over, though. Pulled two metres for his sprint win and going from 20m, Graham then did the business in his heat in the youths’ 200m handicap in 24.32.
In what turned out to be a keenly-contested final, the teenage Teri pulled out the stops once more. Running wide on the final bend to avoid being blocked in, he finished strongly to triumph from Jed AC pair Jasmin Tomlinson (34m) and Martha Douglas (32m).
With five wins now under his belt this season, Graham commented: “When I won my first race at Hawick Games I thought that it might be my last one and I can’t believe that I have now won five.”
Stephanie Common of TLJT (41m) did the business in the 200m handicap. Reaching the final of the event by coming in second in her heat, 16-year-old Common, from Galashiels, really excelled in her last run. Coming down the home straight, Emily Douglas of Jed AC (44m) was out in front with Common in hot pursuit. Metres from the finish, Common strode ahead to gain victory in 22.19. Douglas gained second place and Dylan Ali of Hawick (21m) third.
In the 800m handicap Andrew Thomson of Jed AC (65m) sped to his first win as a senior, thanks to an excellent run. Former youth runner Thomson, coached by Chico Woods, was a place behind race leader Gordon Eland of Broughton (170m) at the start of the last lap.
Showing purpose in every stride, the Jed Thistle rugby player closed the gap and duly took over the lead to win from Eland and Keith Redpath of Wishaw.
Sixteen-year-old Thomson said: “I have been trying hard to get a win all season and have been second thrice, so it’s great to have got my first victory as a senior.”
Gary Law of Hawick (385m) led from beginning to end to lift the 1,600m handicap. Despite giving chase throughout, the field just could not catch the front runner. Adam Craig of TLJT (100m) and Keith Murray of Hawick (208m) finished in second and third respectively.
Following her fine victory in the junior 200m handicap at St Ronan’s Games, Bethany Wardhaugh of Gala Harriers (6.5m) got into the winning frame again by emerging triumphant in the junior 90m handicap. Wardhaugh improved on her heat win time in the final while Hawick youngsters Brodie Graham (9.5m) and Ronan McKean (12m) gained the other spots.
Victory in the youths’ 800m handicap went the way of Chirnside’s Rory Williams (200m).
Marshall Smith of Gala Harriers (215m) led the pack as the bell went for the last lap before being overhauled by Williams.
Coached by Henry Gray at Eyemouth, the first-season campaigner – who has performed extremely well for a nine-year-old – had the look of a victor and showing no sign of tiring strode purposely forward to win convincingly.
Smith emerged second and Ruaridh Britton of Moorfoot (130m) third.
In the youths’ 1,600m handicap Moorfoot Britton of Moorfoot (205m) gave a five-star show to emerge a clear-cut victor from Joe Armstrong of Durham (140m) and Craig Anderson (345m).
Eleven-year-old Scott Armstrong of Durham (14m), a regular on the Border Games circuit, buzzed to victory in the final of the junior 200m handicap. Bethany Wardhaugh (9m) was second and Grant Goodfellow of TLJT (16m) a place behind her.
Scott’s father, Neil Armstrong (3.5m), made it a double for the Armstrong family when winning the 90m veterans’ handicap from David Grieve of Hawick (3.5m) and Bruce Scott of TLJT (6m).