Handicappers are the first to admit they don’t have an easy time of it – and Border Games pair Don Campbell and Ernie Blair are no exception.
If the number of blanket finishes and new faces winning the events are anything to go by, however, the dynamic duo don’t have much to fear this season.
At Oxton on Saturday, yet another young runner took his first Borders sprint title – 18-year-old James Park from Newtown St Boswells.
Park (10m) won his heat ahead of Jed AC’s Cameron Grieve (8m), who progressed as a fastest loser, before winning his cross-tie in 11.93 seconds. In the final, Grieve was once again in the running along with Euan Pettigrew (9m) from Kelso, Selkirk’s Craig Bruce (13.5), Jack Beattie (14.5) from Rosyth and Hawick man David Hush (21).
Park trailed a bit at the halfway stage with Grieve looking the danger man, but the Newtown youngster dug deep and headed full throttle towards the line in what was one of several photo finishes on the day.
After an agonising wait, Park was given the nod with Grieve in second and Bruce back in third position.
A delighted Park told TheSouthern: “I left it a wee bit late. I didn’t get the best of starts, but I felt good and although I had a bit extra to do I managed to find what I needed to get there.”
Park had competed at Langholm the previous day and admitted that he had been feeling the effects of a hectic schedule going into his cross-tie.
“There are a lot of meetings over the summer and some days you feel ok and some you don’t,” he added.
“For me it’s just a case of getting up in the mornings and seeing how I feel. Most of the time it’s ok, though, and I feel great now which makes up for the times I feel not so good.”
Park left school just before the summer and will shortly be attending Borders College where he has signed up on a graphic design course and plans to continue training with the TLJT club at Tweedbank where he has been training for the last six years.
Coach Bruce Scott said: “I said before the final today when I saw the runners that this race was going to be a test of character and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. You couldn’t split them on time and that was always going to put a question mark over it.
“James has been showing potential. He won at Crieff last year and now he has answered the question today. I’m really pleased for him.”
Park isn’t the only athlete answering questions on this season’s circuit with a whole batch of junior, youth and female athletes now coming through to challenge for the main events.
Following her victory at Langholm the previous day, Jed AC’s Martha Douglas notched another victory, this time when cruising home in the 200m final.
“The circuit is growing every year,” added Scott, who is also the Border Athletics vice-chairman.
“The introduction of a junior section has been a big thing and James’s win today proves that the graduation from junior to youth and then through to senior really works for the athletes.
“Another big difference is the number of females we have on the circuit. When I first started competing 30+ years ago there were only two or three females running in the senior events and now we have so many coming through, again from the junior and youth set-up, and that can only be a good thing.
“Martha Douglas and Mhairi Henderson (TLJT) are a great example of this and are an inspiration to younger girls looking to progress in athletics.”