History was made in yesterday’s New Year Sprint final at Musselburgh Racecourse when Jazmine Tomlinson became the first female winner in the race’s 147-year history.
The 18-year-old student from Jedburgh held off the favourite, Ryan Houten, to win in 11.38 seconds.
I thought the pressure would get to me after I won my cross-tie but it didn’t - I just went for it. It’s unbelievable and it still hasn’t sunk in yetJazmine tomlinson
Tomlinson is coached by Bruce Scott and John Steede and it was a heart-warming moment for Steede especially, as in the past he has seen his niece, Karen, go close three times. The nearest she came to victory was in 2001, when she was second.
There was great pride, too, for Tomlinson’s father Darren, who was eliminated in heat 12 of the preliminaries at Meadowmill last Wednesday.
In the 40 years or more since women were first allowed to enter, many have attempted to break the male monopoly, going back to Christine Miller of Jarrow, a contemporary of George McNeill in the 1970s.
More than one has gone close, including Gemma Nicol (Dunfermline), the Commonwealth Games 400 metres competitor – another who finished runner-up.
The £4,000 first prize was almost forgotten yesterday in the emotion of the occasion but 8-1 outsider Tomlinson, a Jedburgh Grammar School FP who is studying for an HNC at Galashiels College, thoroughly deserved it.
She said: “I thought the pressure would get to me after I won my cross-tie but it didn’t – I just went for it.”
Clutching the impressive crystal trophy and a cheque for £4,000, she said: “It’s unbelievable and it still hasn’t sunk in. I’m going to use the money to buy a car.
“It was a really close finish but it was a great feeling to win in front of more than 5,000 people – it’s by far the biggest crowd I’ve raced for. It’s a great venue, too, and a brilliant atmosphere.
“There won’t be too many celebrations as I don’t drink, but it’s amazing to be the first girl to win this as everyone wants to win the New Year Sprint.”
From a start of 20.5m for the famous 110m handicap she shot from her blocks, kept her form and crossed the line first, with Houten (Cardrona, 9m) just .03 secs behind.
Coincidentally, that was exactly the same margin that he finished behind Cameron Tindle the previous year.
Houten’s consolation was another £900 second prize. Also close in third place (£450) was Kieran Reilly (Lasswade AC, 8.75m) in 11.44 secs, while Jordan Charters (Dolphinton, 11m), the second favourite, was fourth in 11.45 secs and fifth-placed Callum McWilliam (Giffnock 9.5m) was given the same time.
Defending champion Tindle had gone out in the second cross-tie earlier in third place behind Reilly, describing the grass track as “softer than last year”.
Both Tomlinson’s coaches were quick to praise their charge for her dedication and hard work in training, almost exclusively on all-weather surfaces, both at Tweedbank Stadium and on the 90 metres strip at Jedburgh.
“It’s very important – it’s Jazmine’s third year in the final and she placed third last year – she’s very dedicated,” said Steede, a renowned runner himself on the pro circuit and also as a veteran.
“It’s a proud day for Jedburgh and our club and I’m delighted a girl has won at last.”
Scott added: “She ran out of her skin – she handles the pressure in the big races so well.”
Scott and Steede founded the TLJC club in 2009 and Steede added: “It’s significant day for the club.”
Presenting the trophy was former Musselburgh Lord Provost Tom Wilson, who, 68 years before, had himself competed in the Sprint heats when the event was held at Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh.