Daniel Elliott was sporting a broad smile at the conclusion of the Earlston Games last Saturday – and the Hawick teenager had every reason to be happy.
Plagued by injury, he had missed out on the Borders athletics running circuit last year, making it a dark and frustrating time.
However, at the ‘Haugh’ running track, home of Earlston Rugby Club, the Davie Grieve-coached athlete put his nightmare well and truly behind him by getting the new open athletics season off to a dream start in winning the top event of the day – the 90 metres handicap.
A student at Heriot Watt University, Elliot showed he had something to offer when surging to a heat victory in 9.38 seconds.
Representing the Hawick Riverside Peds Club, Elliot followed this up with a cross tie triumph in 9.33 seconds.
This win earned him a final spot along with stable companions Ronan McKean (7.5m) and Corey Wilson (10m), plus TLJT pair Emily Dagg (15.5m) and Greg Turnbull (4.5m), and Edinburgh’s Craig Knowles (5m).
The last showdown turned out to be a thrilling affair which brought about a photo finish, with Elliot and Dagg the main contenders.
Elliot got the decision in a winning time of 9.44 seconds, with Dagg second and Knowles third.
A delighted Elliot said: “I didn’t run at all last season because of a cartilage injury and I didn’t really expect to do well. I was hoping perhaps to win my heat, but that was all. The final was really close and I was over the moon to win it, but it was completely unexpected.”
Veteran David Hush (43m) also put victory the way of Hawick Riverside Peds by taking pride of place in the 200 metres handicap.
A day before his 55th birthday, he broke the tape in his heat in 22.06 seconds through a fine run.
Come the final, Hush did it all again. In the latter stages, however, he had to dig in deep and show a lot of character in holding off a strong challenge from Jedburgh’s Sophie Elder (40m), who was racing in from the back. Elder finished second and Mathew Bell of Hawick (26m) third, with the winning time 21.72 seconds.
Colin Welsh of Kelso (60m) produced the goods to take the 1600 metres handicap. He looked the part from the start in eating up the track through some purposeful strides.
With the bell sounding for the last lap, Welsh took the lead and the Tweedside runner duly powered on to take the honours ahead of Scott Watson of Hawick (140m) and Paul Bellingham of Cramlington (300m) in 4 minutes 30.12 seconds.
Welsh said: “I went for it early and this paid off for me as I managed to catch the front runners pretty soon. I felt good, as I have been training hard, and I am a lot lighter as I have lost two stones since last season.”
Tommy Finkle of TLJT (7.5m) won the veterans’ 90 metres handicap from David Lauder of Hawick (7m) and Jack Beattie of Rosyth (9m) in 10.19 seconds.
In a new event on the Earlston programme, Laura Munro of TLJT (17m) gained the honours in the Ladies Open 90 metres handicap when edging out Sophie Elder of Jedburgh (17.5m) and Samantha Turnbull of Peebles (17.5m) in 9.47 secs.
The youth events conjured up some exciting racing, as well as some top-notch performances.
Running for the Leithenburn Club, Sam Archibald (15) did coach John Motion proud in pulling off a splendid double in winning the youths’ 90 metres A sprint handicap, as well as the youths’ 200 metres handicap.
Charlie Jones (10) of Chirnside (300m), a real pocket dynamo, shone in winning the youth 1600 metres handicap.
Craig Angus of Moorfoot (70m) produced a great run from the back to pip Aaron Glendinning of Leithenburn and Sarah Davenport of TLJT (150m) on the line in the youths’ 800 metres handicap.
Samantha Dagg of TLJT (32m) triumphed in the youths’ 200 metres B handicap, while Brogan Beattie of TLJT (18m) gave a five-star show to take the youths’ 90 metres B handicap.