Athletic accomplishments by members of the well-known Borders TLJT Club were acknowledged at a special presentation night last Friday.
Club chairman, Leagh Douglas, opened the evening by welcoming an audience of over 120 to St Boswells Village Hall for an evening which promised to be full of fun, reflection and celebration.
Introducing their esteemed guest for the evening, Doddie Weir OBE, she had time only to touch upon a handful of impressive highlights in his resume.
Emotions ran high when mentioning Doddie’s outstanding fund-raising achievements – over £4 million having been spent on MND (motor neurone disesase) research and supporting affected families.
Reflecting on the year, Leagh explained it was near impossible to cover all elements of success across the club’s 74 members but, instead, turned to a video compilation, which highlighted success at international, national, district and senior Border Games level.
‘Thank yous’ were extended to the hard-working committee and then to each coach within the club.
Gavin Tait, the middle distance coach, took to the stage to highlight some of the impressive achievements his group had accumulated over the season, including a vast array of wins within the Border Games circuit and a fantastic silver medal, picked up at the National Relay Championships in the U17 4x300m category.
The reins were then firmly placed in the hands of the club’s head coach, Bruce Scott.
He took time to outline the coaching groups across the club, their purpose and, indeed, the progression pathways they enabled for the athletes. Bruce then highlighted the array of accomplishments achieved across all levels, from primary school championships right up to international competition.
Doddie then took to the stage for some pre-awards presentation fun. His dynamic personality spilled over as he engaged with audience members, both young and old, resulting in lots of memorable interactions and laughs.
Doddie closed with some key messages for the athletes to reflect upon.
Using his lifelong friend, ex-Jed-Forest and Scotland scrum half Gary Armstrong, as a shining example, he highlighted how there should always be a time for fun and laughter in the sporting world, even at the highest level.
Paramount compliment to this, however, was to retain full recognition of when it was time to knuckle down and focus.
Gary epitomised this sentiment, explained Doddie, and it was most definitely a winning combination with Gary
Armstrong, having arguably been the best rugby player in the world at the height of his success.
With all this at the forefront of everyone’s mind, the evening proceeded to the awards ceremony.
Following distribution of the Club Championships podium winners, Bruce moved on to the more coveted awards.
For the first time, the club decided to expand upon the silverware suite.
Most improved accolades were awarded as follows:
Junior Female – Georgie Wood, Junior Male – Tommy Beck, Senior Female – Danielle Lockie, Senior Male – Kevin Wood.
Bruce then moved on to those athletes deemed top performers for last season, taking additional time to highlight why these athletes were chosen by the coaches.
Top Junior Female – Grace McWhinnie. She performed consistently all season, both on track and field. Bruce explained Grace was not only a long jumper, and her seasonal highlight was at the East District Championships. She entered the competition ranked 10th in the U13 long jump category. Against all odds, however, each of her jumps went from strength to strength, culminating in her taking the gold podium position.
Top Junior Male – Jason White. He predominantly ran in the Border and Highland Games circuit. However, despite the handicapper continuing to pull him back after a victory, Jason just continues to defy the odds and win again. He has won in the region of 10 races across the circuits, which is just unheard of. Most recently, he turned to the Open Graded arena to gain an official PB at 800m. His time positioned him 14th in Scotland in the boys U13 category.
Top Senior Female – Emma Brus. Like Jason, she has focused her attention predominantly on the Border Games circuit. She has knocked an impressive nine seconds off her time over the season and reached the semi-final of the U17 Scottish Championships at 800m. She was part of the
4x300m U17 silver medallist team in the National Relay Championships this summer.
Top Senior Male – Finn Douglas. Bruce highlighted Finn’s challenge with juggling an intensive rugby schedule with his running commitments, stating the combination did often have an impact on recovery strategy and his ability to perform high-intensity training sessions.
Despite the difficult balancing act, however, Finn is recorded as fastest U16 in Scotland over 60m and his accolades include Scottish School U16 60m Champion, East District U17 Silver medallist, both 100m and 200m, Border Schools 100m and 200m champion (setting new records for each), Hawick Games U17 champion, Birnam Highland Games Youth Champion, Braemar Spring Double Champion.
Athletes’ Athlete of the Year – This award was chosen by the athletes and was shared by Emma Brus and Grace McWhinnie, for the same reasons – in both instances, a combination of their impressive performances when out competing, and their friendly and helpful demeanour at training.
President’s Award – This award is chosen by John Steede, the club’s honorary president. He explained his selection was made on overall performance and thus chose Finn Douglas, predominantly on the back of having gained a Scottish National title.
Bruce then moved on to a very emotion conclusion to the evening – the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to the club’s second esteemed guest, its president John Steede.
Bruce reflected on John’s phenomenal athletics career, which spans 70 years. Winner of numerous Masters titles on the Scottish, British, European and World stage, including gold in the Masters World Championships in South Africa over 400m. Also double Jed Sprint winner in 1963 and 1972.
Bruce concluded it was only right that the club recognised the longevity of his commitment. His thousands of hours of preparation behind the scenes, his versatility as an athlete who could win over an extensive range of distances, and the fact John has for the last 45 years, trained both children and adults to success at all levels, including the British competitive stage.