Hawick teenager Dylan Ali was the toast of the town last week after winning the prestigious New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Race Course.
The 18-year-old was one of five Borderers to line up in the final of the historic event, in front of a massive race-day crowd, after cruising through his cross-tie in 11.80 seconds.
It hadn’t been all plain sailing for the youngster, however. He only just qualified for the semi-final stages as the slowest of 10 fastest losers in Tuesday’s heats in a time of 12.26 seconds.
He told TheSouthern: “I was pretty disappointed with my heat, but I also had a run in the Invitation Sprint which gave me that wee bit boost.
“I think that extra run helped a lot and I came second which was a bonus. I knew then that I had it in my legs.”
Indeed he did. Running from his mark of 7.5m, Ali, who is a waiter/barman at Hawick’s New Deli Bar and Restaurant, lined up in the final as joint favourite alongside fellow Teri Jack Wilson 13m, Seb Harrison (Jedburgh) 6.5m, Craig Bruce (Selkirk) 12m and the only female runner to make it to the final, Jazmine Tomlinson for the TLJT club, who ran off 21.5m. Also in the final line-up were Kevin Eddie (Dunfermline) 9m, Charlie Carstairs (Lasswade AC) 7.75m and Cameron Smith (Central AC) 8m.
Ali repeated his cross-tie feat and then won the final in a scorching 11.59 seconds, despite the heavy ground conditions, to become the 10th Hawick winner of the 110m race which has been held annually on or around New Year’s Day since 1870. Eddie was second with Harrison taking third place.
“I’ve only entered the event the last couple of years and never got past the heat stages, so I’m absolutely chuffed to bits to have won it,” added Ali who has been entering both professional and amateur events since the age of nine.
Coach David Rae was moved to tears as he watched his charge sail in, while training partner Leigh Marshall, himself a former winner of the race, was one of the first to congratulate him.
“Dylan’s performance today was absolutely phenomenal. It’s a pleasure training with him and to be honest the whole squad is great,” he said.
Rae added: “I can’t emphasise enough the amount of work that Dylan has put in to achieve the level he is at.
“He trains so hard and at 18-year-old is prepared to put in the effort and miss out on a lot of the things other lads his age are doing. He thoroughly deserves this win.
Ali in turn paid tribute to his mentors.
“I have so many people to be grateful to,” he said.
“David, Che Campbell (assistant coach), Steven Riddell (physio), the squad, my family – they have all been great and I’m just delighted to give them all something back.”
And then, of course, there is the £4,000 prize pot to be taken into consideration.
“I haven’t thought what I will do with the prize money yet, but I think I may be buying a few beers for the boys,” he concluded.
Marshall, who was unable to compete in this year’s event due to an injury, hopes to be fit enough to join Ali when competing indoors at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow later this month.
Participating in the supporting events at Musselburgh the previous day, David Grieve also put victory Hawick’s way by taking the spoils in the veterans’ 90m handicap event. A member of the Billy Edgar school, 58-year-old Grieve (13.5m) earned a spot in the 90m handicap open final due to this, and came in third.
Borders athletes dominated the youths’ events with Jedburgh’s Cameron Fisher taking top spot in the 90m sprint and Tweed Leader Jed Track trio – Laura Munro, Angus Bryce and Danielle Lockie – bagging one, two, three respectively in the 60m 10-under 13s run.