Thom Evans claimed a fourth-place finish in the Scottish National Senior Indoor championships – in only his third outing as a sprinter.
The former Scotland rugby international, forced to retire after suffering a career-ending neck injury against Wales in the 2010 Six Nations, reached the final of the 60 metres sprints after qualifying as one of three fastest losers in the three heats.
Then, with two athletes dropping out of the six-man final – with two disqualifications at one time – Evans set a personal best of 7.20 in finishing fourth of the four runners.
Northern Irish athlete Dean Adams won the title with 6.95 seconds and Chris Baillie picked up a bronze as he edged out Evans. Baillie, a Commonwealth Games silver medallist in 2006, had run in Birmingham the previous day but still managed to win the 60 metre hurdles Scottish crown as well as taking third place in the sprints final.
Evans, watched by celebrity girlfriend Kelly Brook in the Kelvin Hall stand, admitted he’d been very nervous about his start in the first race and then left frustrated when a much better one counted for nothing as the final false-started.
“I was pretty nervous before the heat because I didn’t want to false start on my first competitive appearance,” said Evans, who ran 7.23 behind Adams in that opening heat after arriving in Glasgow with a PB of 7.22. “But I did an awful lot better in the final and it was so frustrating that someone else had false-started and we had to go back to the line. I would love to know what I would have run otherwise.
“The bottom line is I’ve set a PB in the re-run and reached a national final in only my third outing on the track after two open graded meetings in London in January. That is pretty much what my aims were coming here so I am very pleased.
“It was good to be here and get a real feel for athletics. Obviously it is a massive difference from the world of rugby where it is a team sport and you can ‘play your way into a game’ which lasts 80 minutes.
“So it is all new to me but I enjoyed it. I want to compete in Scotland during the spring and the summer and that will be over 200 metres and 400 metres. I am ready to start the training for that with the help of my coach, Margot Wells, and her experience and guidance is great.”
Kelvin Hall in Glasgow was the centre of much media interest with the 26-year-old taking his first competitive steps as an athlete. With girlfriend Brook in the stand, Thom also drew support from brother Max and former Scotland rugby captain Al Kellock.
On Saturday, Freya Murray and Derek Hawkins retained their scottishathletics National Cross Country titles at Falkirk.
It was a sixth crown in seven years for Great Britain international Murray as she once again proved unbeatable in the women’s senior race. Hawkins, from Kilbarchan, also successfully defended his senior men’s title with an impressive display.
Both Murray and Hawkins showed their class on their return to Scotland from altitude training in Africa through most of January. Funded by scottishathletics, they trained with Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe in Kenya.
It was a good day for Kilbarchan in the age-group levels with team titles also for the likes of Edinburgh AC, Victoria-Park Glasgow and Central AC. And there were poignant victories for Giffnock North lads Neil Gourlay (Under-17) and Luke Traynor (Under-20) with the Glasgow club having tragically lost young athlete Ewan Murray a week earlier after the 18-year-old was killed in a road accident.