FOR three years, Mark Dry had chased history with a vengeance but always, to his immense frustration, had fallen frustratingly short. The Highlander, now 27, has taken his fair share of punches in life despite claiming hammer bronze at last year’s Commonwealth Games, soaking up their impact and then lunging forth once more in pursuit of gains which he sensed still lay within his reach.
At the Loughborough International yesterday, amid wind and chill, he created his own perfect storm. Dry steadied himself and then spun before flinging an effort of 76.93 metres to secure the Scottish record while earning the qualifying standard for the IAAF World Championships that many felt would be an unattainable goal.
Chris Black’s existing mark had stood unsurpassed since 1983. Ironically, the past maestro, Dry revealed, had lent a potentially decisive helping hand. His usual coach, Tore Gustafsson, lives in California and has been out of sight and often out of mind. This past week, Black stepped into the void and offered words of wisdom and encouragement. “It’s been good to get his appraisal of me,” his new pupil affirmed. Now his torch has been passed and his record removed.
“I’ve been trying to break it since 2012,” Dry said. “Now it’s finally done, hopefully this opens the floodgates to keep over 75 metres. I want to keep dropping it out now. I want to go to good competitions. I’ve got the Beijing standard.
“Whether I need it twice or not, I plan on doing it again and I’ve got plenty of time. It puts me up there now.”
He now sits fifth on the UK’s all-time list but still trails his domestic foe, Nick Miller, who threw 75.39 for second with fellow Scot Chris Bennett improving his own lifetime best to 74.66 in third. Miller, in a not unnoticed move, has been lavished with Gustafsson’s attention in recent months while Dry has been forcibly self-motivated.
“I can’t afford to take the time off work to go over there and it’s left me in a bit of a rut,” he said. Until now. “I believed I could do it, but it helped that Nick threw so far because it gave me the drive. It’s frustrating if you’re left behind. So it’s good to get something that I’ve looked for.”
Loughborough lived up to past reputation as a useful barometer for those emerging from their winter hibernation, as well as a stage for new faces to announce their presence. There were fine showings and second places for Zoey Clark and Grant Prenderleith in their respective 400m while 16-year-old Perth prospect Ben Greenwood moved into second place in the world youth rankings with a 800m time of 1:50.44, earning the Scottish Under-17 record for good measure.
Chuxx Onyia was runner-up in the triple jump with a personal best of 15.20 while another teen, sprinter Cameron Tindle, lowered his 200m mark to 20:94 in third, improving his hopes of a world youth championship berth.
Some established names also signalled some intent with Chijindu Utah running a wind-assisted 10.02 secs in the 100m before a legal 20.50 outing in the 200m. Scotland international Laura Whittle, representing Loughborough, won the 3000m in 9:06.84.
The eyes of many remained on Jessica Ennis-Hill and a second appearance since her return from pregnancy. The Olympic heptathlon champion came third in the long jump, one spot ahead of Edinburgh AC’s Sarah Warnock, before languishing in sixth in the javelin.
The decision, she signaled, will come tomorrow on whether to attempt to earn the Rio 2016 qualifying mark in Gotzis later this month or to hold back.
“The training’s not gone brilliantly but it’s a start,” she said. “I’m finding my way and I’m happy to get out and compete and get back into the swing of things. I don’t know if I can be too disappointed.”
In the team event, Team Scotland came fourth as England topped the points standings with a lone victory secured by Emily Dudgeon, who led home Glasgow-based hopeful Mhairi Hendry in the 800m, an opening effort on which the Dundee University medical student now plans to build.
“It’s a combination of two things: where your training is aimed at and where you want to peak, which for me, wasn’t this race,” Dudgeon said. “It’s about how many races you go through to get there, plus having the warm-ups, the call rooms, just the process of racing. It’s a simple thing and you don’t forget it but you want that sharpness.”
Elsewhere, Jax Thoirs broke his own Scottish pole vault record with a 5.65m jump at the Pac-12 Championships in Los Angeles. “It is a World Championships standard so it’s a great day,” he said. Rhona Auckland delivered a superb run to win the UK 10000m title in London, securing her place in the GB&NI team at the European Under-23 Championships.