Hawick athlete Thomas MacAskill heading for Grand Canyon state to get up to speed on track

Thomas MacAskill on his way to winning the senior men's race, in 42:20, at 2022's Teviotdale Harriers club championships (Photo: Alex Corbett)Thomas MacAskill on his way to winning the senior men's race, in 42:20, at 2022's Teviotdale Harriers club championships (Photo: Alex Corbett)
Thomas MacAskill on his way to winning the senior men's race, in 42:20, at 2022's Teviotdale Harriers club championships (Photo: Alex Corbett)
By the time he gets to Phoenix, the amount of silverware in up-and-coming Hawick athlete Thomas MacAskill’s trophy cabinet will no doubt be rising.

The 19-year-old is unlikely to pick up as many cups, shields and other trophies as in previous summers, however, as he’s going to have to cut short his outdoor season and do a runner to America, having now decided what college there he’ll be taking up a track and field scholarship at.

MacAskill, a member of his home-town’s Teviotdale Harriers running group for the last seven years, has plumped for Central Arizona College in Coolidge, south of state capital Phoenix in Pinal County.

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Starting in August, the teenager, due to finish a two-year course at at Borders College in Galashiels in May, will spend two years there studying for a degree in sports psychology and science, then, if all goes to plan, move on to a National Collegiate Athletic Association division-two university for another two years.

“I was all over the Highland Games circuit and Border Games circuit last summer but I didn’t really do any amateur track races as such as I was focusing on those games, but I think this year it’s going to be the opposite way round,” he said.

“I’ll do a bit more official track stuff rather than the Highland Games and that sort of thing. That’s the plan for this year anyway.

“We’re going out to America for the first week in August so obviously I’ll have to cut my season short by six weeks or something like that but I’ll continue my season when I get over there.”

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MacAskill, currently coached by Derek Clyne but set to be paired up with Jonathan Harmon in the US, is looking forward to the heat being on once he gets to the other side of the Atlantic, the temperature in Phoenix at the moment being 17C as opposed to 6C in Hawick.

Explaining his choice of college, he said: “It was a variety of factors really. First, what I looked at was what kind of offer they were giving me, second was the environment and facilities and third was how I got on with the coach I’d be getting, whether he was giving me a good vibe and what his background was.

“Another big thing was the location. Arizona’s in the middle of the desert and really hot, just perfect for what I want really.

“I’ll get a bit of a culture shock when I get there but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and these opportunities don’t come round often so it’s not something I could turn down.”

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America is uncharted territory for MacAskill, having never been there on holiday before and having conducted his interviews with US colleges – arranged by his agent at Athlete Sports Management Scholarships, Gavin McLeavy – via Zoom.

“It’ll be my first time over the pond,” he said. “I’ve been to Spain, Portugal and Turkey before but I’ve never been to the States.”

He’s also anticipating missing Scotland, never having been away from home for over a fortnight previously.

“The longest I’ve ever been away is probably two weeks, so obviously it’s going to be a bit longer,” he said. “I’ll definitely miss the Borders.

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“They’ve actually only got two semesters over there as well so there are only two holidays in the whole year, just at Christmas and then there’s a whole five or six months before the term ends in June.

“It’s not like here, where you get holidays once every three or four months. I will be coming home for three weeks in December, though.”

The former Trinity Primary and Hawick High pupil will be specialising in running over 3,000m and 5,000m during his US scholarship.

His current personal best times are nine minutes and 17 seconds for 3,000m indoor, set in December 2021; 4:17 for 1,500m, set in January 2022; and 2:05 for 800m, set in September 2021.

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He’s aiming to get under 14:50 for 5,000m, 8:40 for 3,000m and 1:55 for 800m, adding: “I want to become the best version of myself and progress my career to the next level.

“I want to experience a new culture and environment with like-minded people driving towards the same goal.

“Scotland offers a great level of support and facilities, but to take myself to the next level as an athlete and person, I believe America is the place for me.”