Congratulations conveyed to Borders athletes who tackled New Year Sprint

Praise and plaudits have been bestowed on a number of Borders runners who took part in the Covid-cursed New Year Sprint last weekend.

Nina Cessford, who won the Vets 90m open handicap final at Meadowmill, Prestonpans, during the 152nd New Year Sprint, is pictured with her coach Bruce Scott, flanked by fellow TLJT Club runners Brogan Beattie and Janine Boyle, right (picture by Bill McBurnie).
Nina Cessford, who won the Vets 90m open handicap final at Meadowmill, Prestonpans, during the 152nd New Year Sprint, is pictured with her coach Bruce Scott, flanked by fellow TLJT Club runners Brogan Beattie and Janine Boyle, right (picture by Bill McBurnie).

The showpiece athletics event, which normally helps usher in a new calendar year by featuring some of the country’s top talent, was forced out of its traditional spot by pandemic restrictions, then postponed several times before it was felt the rules had been relaxed enough to allow as many athletes and spectators as possible to travel safely.

The 152nd Sprint was eventually scheduled – six months late – for Sunday past at Meadowmill, Prestonpans. But then more Covid-19 regulations were imposed by East Lothian Council at only two days’ notice, following further concerns about a rise in cases.

The result was the programme of events was pared back to the open sprint sections – namely the New Year Sprint, the 90 metres Ladies Handicap and the 90 metres Veterans Handicap.

The youth events, 400 metres Open Handicap and 800 metres Open Handicap were all cancelled and spectators were not allowed inside the arena.

Promoter Frank Hanlon apologised sincerely for the call-offs and acknowledged there would be widespread disappointment at the devaluation of the event.

However, he hoped people would understant that, on top of the previous call-offs, and in light of the fresh concerns and the permission which would be needed, staging all the events would have meant a level of organisation and resourcing that he hadn't planned for and which couldn't be achieved at such short notice.

A number of Borders athletes took part in what remained of the race diary, including a handful from the TLJT Club, who were congratulated by sprint coach Bruce Scott.

“It was a very good return from our four sprinters, who all ran exceptionally well and did the club proud,” he said.

“The New Year Sprint carries the biggest prize money anywhere in the country and with it goes the prestige and a place in history.

"Janine Boyle’s training programme was geared towards a big event like this since her arrival back in August last year, when she took up her post as a trainee optometrist at Specsavers in Gala.

"For Janine, lockdown did not put a halt on her training. Instead, there were adaptations like home gym. Her fortnightly weekend work meant Sunday morning training over the winter meant training in the dark at 7.30am before her 10am start.

"Her hard work was geared towards success. No compromise within that training regime would be acceptable to Janine. Her (runner-up) performance reflected the hard work she had put in on the track and the excellent strength and conditioning work she does under her S&C coach, Declan Gallagher.”

Scott added: "All her individual sessions over that period had outcomes and all her sessions were banked. This was her first run of the season and, in her heat, it showed. Although she won comfortably, she looked tight. In her semi-final, in equally impressive style, she flowed and looked more relaxed.

"She improved again in the final as she set about the task of chasing down (winner) Molly Reville, who started 3m in front. Her start was blistering as she ate up the distance in the first 20m but, as the race progressed, and with 20m to go, Janine still had a metre to catch. She went right to the wire and looked to be there or thereabouts on the line. The photo finish separated Molly Reville from Janine by 0.02 seconds, with a winning time of 10.83 and Janine recording 10.85 on the clock.”

Well-known Borders athlete Nina Cessford, of St Boswells, was the winner of the 90m veterans’ handicap and also took third place in the ladies’ 90m sprint.

Scott said: “Nina, like Janine, appeared on the track on Sunday for the first time this year. Also like Janine, Nina does not miss training sessions. In training, she has been showing up well and a vast improvement has been noted in her block starts.

"What was very evident, however, was her entire race had improved. She ran the perfect race from start to finish and was a very clear winner in 8.94 seconds. She was required to run the ladies’ final immediately after and still managed to gain third place.

"Had she been given a bit more time, we might have been looking at a sprint double. Nina will no doubt be looking towards the Scottish Masters with confidence as she prepares for the 100m and 200m events.”

Fourth place for Earlston runner Brogan Beattie, in the ladies’ 90 metre final, demonstrated all she needed now were good races, said Scott.

“Brogan has, like Nina, been showing up well in recent weeks,” he added. “A good opener to the season and an excellent confidence boost.”

Scott Tindle, of Berwick, ran in a very competitive first heat in the 100m New Year Sprint and put in a very solid performance, coming in a close third.

"Scott is now starting to develop into one of our top male sprinters,” said his trainer. “He can look towards getting into the winning frame in big races like the New Year Sprint with a good winter behind him.”