Runners on their marks for 149th New Year Sprint
JUST LIKE TRAINING A DERBY WINNER.... Shane Fenton writes
On the eve of the 149th New Year Sprint it is a good time to look back down through the years at some of the great champions and winners of this famous and intriguing event.
Not many of us would have been around in the early 1930's when Willie McFarlane of Glasgow became and, as yet, the only man to retain the title. Most of those who can remember back far enough would definetly say Australian Eric Cumming who won in 1952 was one of the best.
The 60's and 70's saw the emergence of a clutch of outstanding Scottish sprinters and New Year champions. The likes of Ricky Dunbar, Davy Deas, Bert Oliver and the greatest of them all, the legendary George McNeil.There are many stories that can be told, like the time Ricky ran 8 yards inside evens up the cinders at Saughton Enclosure. George McNeil is one of the greatest ambassadors for the sport and one evening in 1970 at Meadowbank Stadium he broke the world record for 120 yards three times in the one night, with the time of 11.14 a record which still stands to this day.
The move from Powderhall to Meadowbank Stadium in 1971 brought a number of firsts for the event. Pat Mulgrew and Brian Mulgrew who who won in 1974 and 1986 respectively became the first and only father and son winners. San Diego duo Kipper Bell and William Snoddy went in the history books as the first American winners, Snoddy once held the record as being the fastest man in the world over 100 metres, albeit wind assisted.The late 90's saw Joseph and Jocelyn Thomas[Woodford Green] become the only brothers to triumph, the latter in 1998 was the last winner at Meadowbank, doing so in a blinding blizzard when the runners at the start couldn't see the finish line!
The mid 90's saw wins for Dougie Walker who went on to be the European 200m champion and Scottish hurdles champion Ken Campbell.It was onto the grass of Musselburgh Racecourse where Fifer Nick Smith won in 2001, Fifer Smith went on to dominate Scottish sprinting in the noughties winning numerous Scottish Athletic titles as well as the SHGA championship at Braemar 10 years in a row. He is still the 2nd fastest Scot this century.This era also saw the oldest and youngest winners of the race with 72 year old Tony Bowman's Leeds City AC 2006 win being followed 12 months later by 16 year old Craig Robertson, Gala. The 2015 winner Cameron Tindle was also a 16 year old.
After a few going close, the famous race finally got it's first female winner in 2016 with 18 year old Jazmine Tomlinson from Jedburgh creating her own bit of history when she edged out her male counterparts in a thrilling race where the first five finishers crossed the line almost in unison.
On December 30th at the Meadowmill Sports Centre the heats will be run off in close succession with only the winners and 10 fastest losers going through. Heat after heat runners will go to their marks as if to execution. The next 11 seconds will tell if all the hard work has been worthwhile. It's now sudden death. The hard luck stories are told and argued into the night. On New Years Day at Musselburgh Racecourse the cross-ties and final are run. For the winner it's champagne, reporters, photographers and a £4000 cheque.
For the losers, well there's always next year.All the trainers and sponsors will tell you they all lose money. But they don't care.
It's just like training a derby winner.
Footnote# The coverage and presentation of the last years the 148th New Year Sprint was the best and most professional ever. The racecourse now sees the sprint as an integral part of their New Years Day race meeting and last year went out of their way to give it the best coverage ever.
There was a much more professional approach to the all round coverage with the cross ties and final being afforded much more time for the introduction of the athletes.
The in-house presenting team of Derek Thomson and Robert Hogarth carried out intervies throughout the day with the athletes, coaches, starter, sponsors and members of the public, all of which were shown on the big screens around the racecourse, and generally kept the public informed on all aspects of the race.
Racing UK commentator Gareth Topham called the cross ties and final, but not before the runners were individually introduced and their names and images flashed up on the big screen Diamond League esque.
First days events at Meadowmill get underway at 11am and admission is FREE.
Published: 2017-12-29 11:06:44