HAWICK’s Dylan Ali became the latest teenager to triumph in the New Year Sprint, winning the £4,000 first prize in the 145th edition of the famous professional handicap by two metres at Musselburgh Racecourse yesterday.
After an impressive victory in his cross-tie in 11:80 seconds, the first sub-12 second time electronically recorded in this year’s event, the 18-year-old powered away from his seven rivals in the final to win in 11:59 seconds, which, even from a start of 7.5 metres, is fine running for 110m on a heavy grass track.
“A brilliant run,” said his training partner Leigh Marshall, who had won the event four years ago and might have been a contender again this time had not injury intervened.
Second in 11:81 was the Pat Chester Open 90m handicap winner Kevin Eddie (Dunfermline – 9m), who added £900 to his £300 prize of the first day, and third a previous runner-up Seb Harrison (Jedburgh – 6.5m), who picked up £450.
Mercifully, the rain held off and conditions for the final may have been better than for the earlier races.
Written off after the heats on the first day, from which he progressed only as the slowest of the ten fastest losers in 12:26 seconds, Ali was joint favourite at 4-5 before the final along with Hawick rival Jack Wilson, the fastest of the heat winners on Hogmanay.
“That was just a bad run,” said Ali, who works as a waiter and barman in a Hawick restaurant.
“He was tight then, probably due to nerves, but he’s done his running this time,” said Marshall, who hopes to be fit enough to join Ali in competing indoors at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow later this month.
Coach David Rae and assistant Che Campbell prepared their charge mostly at Hawick Cricket Ground, as well as with weekly visits to the Tweedbank track, and Ali was quick to praise all the support he has received, including that of physio Steve Riddell.
Ali competed in the event last year, going out in Marshall’s heat and has also caught the eye in Highland Games meetings. However, he will certainly be a marked man now as the 2013 winner, Ben Robbins of Edinburgh AC, found to his cost.
Robbins, penalised 3.5m for that success and off 4m this time, could not quite reproduce the 12:05 seconds form he found for his heat, limping home third in 12:22 in the fourth cross-tie won by Charlie Carstairs (Lasswade – 7.75m) in 12:08 from Gemma Nicol (Dunfermline), who was second in 12:17.
That was not good enough to take the 27-year-old Scottish 400m champion through, though she had improved by .05 seconds from her heat.
“I used my starting blocks this time,” said Nicol, who was disappointed not to reach what would have been her seventh final in 11 years.
“She’s got more important things to aim for but the money would have been nice,” said her grandfather, John Sharp.
Nicol is in the mix for the 4x400m relay squad in the Great Britain indoor international at the Emirates Arena on 25 January.
“I need to push on and get some good times in,” said Nicol, who is bidding to reach her third Commonwealth Games.
There was a surprise female finalist, however. Jedburgh’s Jasmine Tomlinson (21.5m) finishing third in Ali’s cross-tie in 12:15 to qualify as a fastest loser and oust Nicol by a mere .02.
Tomlinson justified her achievement by dipping under 12 seconds in the final in which she finished sixth in 11:98, just behind Jack Wilson who, off 13m, was fifth in 11:90 secs.
However, after all the speculation the first female winner looks no nearer and Willie McFarlane’s 1934 repeat feat has still to be matched.