Who’s your pick? Runners set to take their marks for big race

Billy (The King) McColm, the borders most famous pro games punter.
Billy (The King) McColm, the borders most famous pro games punter.
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athletes, coaches, handicappers, bookies and punters – all part and parcel of professional running.

So, with the biggest event on the open athletic calendar coming up with the staging of the New Year sprint handicap at Musselburgh Racecourse tomorrow and Saturday, TheSouthern has tracked down an individual from each group and found out their views on who would do well in the £4,000 sprint, as well as selecting a winner.

MARC COCKBURN – ATHLETE

Trained by his grandfather Charlie Russell, a top coach on the Scottish Games scene, Selkirk teenager Marc Cockburn won the Morebattle Games 110m handicap in fine style in August.

He told us: “Going by what I saw at the games during the summer, Jordan Maxwell could win the New Year sprint.

“He was second in the final of the Jedburgh Games 110m, when he was beaten in a photo-finish by Amy Clancy.

“It was a really close race, and Maxwell wasn’t far away from winning the biggest race on the summer games circuit.

“Maxwell comes from a good running school in Hawick, and I can see him doing well at Musselburgh.

“Leigh Marshall, who is in the same school as Maxwell, has a chance to win too, even although he has won it before.

“There are a good few Borders runners in the sprint – Seb Harrison, Iskan Barskanmay and Greg Turnbull – and they will all be worth watching.”

SELECTION – Jordan Maxwell (Langholm).

BRIAN ‘CHICO’ WOODS – COACH

Former runner Brian ‘Chico’ Woods is now coach of successful running school Tweed Leader Jed Track.

He said: “The sprint is wide open this year and is tightly handicapped.

“I expect Leigh Marshall to run well. He won the sprint two years ago, a clear winner, and he knows what it is all about.

“There are a few other runners I could mention like Marc Cockburn, who showed up well when he won the Morebattle Games sprint, but nobody really springs out for me.

“However, I would like to think that the winner could come from my own school.

“I am not being big-headed or bumptious in saying this, but I honestly think Iskan Barskanmay and Seb Harrison are both in with a great chance.

“Like other schools, there have been problems for training due to the snow, but there has been a lot of clearing of the white stuff done to allow some training to go ahead, and the pair of them are fully fit.

“There is little separating them, and both of them are going for it.”

SELECTION – Iskan Barskanmay or Seb Harrison (both Jedburgh).

ERNIE BLAIR – HANDICAPPER

Held in high regard in pro running, former athlete Ernie Blair has a vast knowledge of the sport.

He told TheSouthern: “There are a few runners that catch my eye, but I can’t go past Iskan Barskanmay.

“He is strong and powerful, has the right attitude and his coach ‘Chico’ Woods will have him well prepared.

“He was disappointed not to win the sprint a year ago, and will be wanting to make up for that.

“Greg Turnbull is in the same mould as Barskanmay, and will show up well, but is one-and-a-half metres worse off in the handicap – and that is a lot.

“I also expect something from Leigh Marshall, who won the sprint two years ago. I have heard that he has been injured, but there are always rumours going about. If fit, Marshall should do okay.

“Seb Harrison looked good when winning the Hawick Games sprint in the summer. He is a promising youngster and it will be interesting to see how he has developed since then.

“There have been a lot of whispers about a lady runner, Gillian Cook, being in with a chance. Apart from hearing she is a very decent amateur, I don’t know much about her.”

SELECTION – Iskan Barskanmay (Jedburgh).

ARCHIE SCOTT

– BOOKIE

A well-known figure at Borders running and flapping tracks is Fife bookmaker Archie Affleck, who goes under the name of Archie Scott in the betting world.

He said: “Iskan Barskanmay and Greg Turnbull are both in with a chance.

“They both reached the final last year, but were so busy battling it out with each other that they missed out to Daniel Paxton who won the race.

“I have a fancy for Sean Harris to do well. He didn’t run much in the Borders during the summer, but was fourth in the British 90m championship at Langholm Games.

“Harris won a few handicaps in the Fife area, and is a good runner.

“Although he is more of a quarter-miler than a sprinter, Martyn Paterson is well worth looking out for.

“I have seen him training recently, and he is shaping up well, but will have to improve on his block work.

“There are a good few others that will show up well, such as Leigh Marshall and Steven Charters, but I am going for Seb Harrison.

“I liked the way he won the Hawick Games sprint in June. Since then he didn’t do much, but he is a classy young runner.

“He will have been well trained by coach ‘Chico’ Woods, and he could do well.”

SELECTION – Seb Harrison (Jedburgh).

BILLY ‘KING’ MCCOLM – PUNTER

Well known for his passion for open athletics, as well as his love for a bet, Billy ‘King’ McColm is a colourful character to say the least.

He told us: “Leigh Marshall, Iskan Barskanmay and Greg Turnbull have to be fancied, and Jordan Maxwell can’t be ruled out either. Ross Borthwick showed up well when winning his heat in the sprint a year ago, and I feel he could have improved since then.

“Although a lady has never won the sprint, Lee Gillie could prove to be a dark horse, but the conditions might not suit her.

“‘Chico’ Woods has a knack of producing good youngsters. Seb Harrison is one of them, and he could be there or thereabouts.

“In the final of the Jedburgh Games sprint this year, I was very impressed with the running of Martyn Paterson.

“He came in third, but looked the part, even although going from a standing start.

“The handicapper has given him a decent mark, and Paterson has the look of a winner. He is my main man, but I will probably have other bets as well.

“That’s if I can get a bet on, for the bookies get a fright when they see me, so they might run away.”

SELECTION – Martyn Paterson (Clackmannan).

z Senior 60m, 90m, and youths’ 60m and 90m handicaps complete the Musselburgh card.