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151st New Year Sprint: Report

42 year old Ian Horsburgh of Central AC showed that patience is indeed a virtue as he deservedly won the 151st New Year Sprint, only a year after coming back from a thirteen year break from athletics. The Sprint title came with the cut glass trophy, gold medal and a 5000 prize.

Ian was the bookies' favourite at evens after winning his heat in the fastest time. His odds shortened to 1/2 after winning the fastest cross-tie, though only a few hundredths of a second separated all four cross-tie winners.

Entries for the New Year Sprint were well down on last year, the 150th staging of this historic event. However turnout was high at 85% and competition was fierce throughout the event in what was a wide open contest.

The latter stages of the New Year Sprint were held on 1st January 2020 at Mussleburgh Racecourse.

Unluckiest athlete of the meeting must have been Brodie Cowan of Jed AC who slipped badly just metres from the finish of the fourth cross-tie when she appeared to have victory in her grasp. Hopefully we will see Brodie again next year with improved fortune.

Biggest winning margin of the meeting was in the 800 metres Open where Craig Sowerby of Seaton AC, previously better known for his sprinting exploits, won by almost half the home straight in the fastest ever time for 800 metres / 880 yards at the New Year Sprint meeting. For the New Year Sprint supporters with long memories, this win was reminiscent of the convincing win in 1984 at the same distance by his uncle, Albert Gordon Eland. Back then the event was run in heats.

Ian Horsburgh winning the New Year Sprint. Cameron Smith (green bib) was fifth and Douglas Young (bue bib) was sixth.
Ian Horsburgh winning the New Year Sprint. Cameron Smith (green bib) was fifth and Douglas Young (bue bib) was sixth.
Photo: Grossick Racing Photography.

Judging by the winning times of the cross-ties, the final of the New Year Sprint was anyone's race. However, as the athletes headed towards the 80 metre mark, Ian (10.25 metres) started to pull clear and won with a clear metre to spare. In second place, and less than half Ian's age and running off a similar mark, was Murray Blair of Lasswade AC (10 metres). Nevertheless, Murray's fleetness of foot and his success in reaching two New Year Sprint finals while still a teenager, certainly marks him out as a name for the future. Stacey Downie of Edinburgh AC (19 metres) hung on to third place ahead of Kyle McLean of Giffnock N AC (10 metres).

Veteran Cameron Smith of Central AC (15.75 metres), who won the Veterans 90 metres event two days before, took fifth place inches ahead of Douglas Young of Kelso (7.75 metres) who shaded out Craig Bruce of Selkirk (12 metres) with Calum McWilliam of East Kilbride AC (7.5 metres) in eighth.

This was an experienced selection of sprinters, with only Kyle McLean never having previously run in the New Year Sprint final. Three of these runners have run in four or more finals - Craig Bruce, Callum McWilliam and Cameron Smith. Callum has reached the final each of the five times he has entered the Sprint - including the victory in 2018 - a truly remarkable achievement.

The relatively slow times in the cross-ties and final reflected the soft going and blustering headwind. Conditions during the first day's racing were unusually kind without the typical Meadowmill headwind on the home straight.

Ian Horsburgh winning the first cross-tie. Second was Alessandro Schenini (red bib) while Scott Hannaway (yellow bib) was fourth.
Ian Horsburgh winning the first cross-tie. Second was Alessandro Schenini (red bib) while Scott Hannaway (yellow bib) was fourth.
Photo: Grossick Racing Photography.


Craig Bruce winning the second cross-tie from Callum McWilliam (red bib). Stewart Clark (nearest camera) was third and Iain McEwan (partially obscured by Clark) was fourth.
Craig Bruce winning the second cross-tie from Callum McWilliam (red bib). Stewart Clark (nearest camera) was third and Iain McEwan (partially obscured by Clark) was fourth.
Photo: Grossick Racing Photography.


Cameron Smith winning the third cross-tie from Kyle McLean with Sarah Malone third.
Cameron Smith winning the third cross-tie from Kyle McLean with Sarah Malone third.
Photo: Grossick Racing Photography.


Murray Blair (brown bib) coming second in the fourth cross-tie.  Winner Douglas Young is obscured by Blair. Stacey Downie was third.
Murray Blair (brown bib) coming second in the fourth cross-tie. Winner Douglas Young is obscured by Blair. Stacey Downie was third.
Photo: Grossick Racing Photography.

The 151st New Year Sprint meeting kicked off at the East Lothian Athletics Arena in Prestonpans on Monday 30th December. The heats of the New Year Sprint were run and the other events in the meeting were all completed: 200 metres Open Handicap, 800 metres Open Handicap, 90 metres Veterans Handicap, 90 metres Ladies Handicap , Youths 90 metres Open Handicap , Youths 200 metres aged under 13 Open Handicap , Youths 200 metres aged under 16 Open Handicap and Youths 800 metres Open Handicap .

As mentioned earlier, Craig Sowerby of Seaton AC (130 metres) ended up a runaway winner in the 800 metres Open, beating second place Ewen Dyer of Pitreavie AC (30 metres) by almost half the home straight, in the record time of 1min 44.25 secs. Dyer just pipped David Allan of Clydesdale (110 metres) while Matthew Fleming of Kelso (125 metres), Lewis Hunter of Pitreavie AC (115 metres) and John Thomson of Glenrothes (160 metres) finished within a few metres of each other in fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively.

The second final of the day was the 90 metres Youths Open Handicap which was eagerly anticipated as usual. Ava Lees of TLJT (24 metres), who won her heat by all of 5 metres was pitted against fastest qualifier Zoe Blair of Jed AC (17 metres), third fastest heat winner Evie Renwick of TLJT (19.5 metres), fast finishing Callum Gladwin of Harmeny AC (15 metres) and Ryan Morrison of Kirkcaldy (9.5 metres) and Phobe King of Lasswade AC (20 metres). Ava hung on to her lead until the final few metres but Callum's storming finish, which we saw a glimpse of in his heat, proved irresistable. Zoe finished just behind Ava in third place with Evie a metre back in fourth. Ryan finished in fifth with Phoebe sixth.

The 90 metres Ladies Handicap, this year run as a straight final, saw Stacey Downie of Edinburgh AC (17 metres) just get the better of last year's 200 metres Open winner, Andrea Goodman, with a winning time of 9.37 secs. Brodie Cowan of Jed AC (21 metres) was a foot behind in third with Sarah Malone of Ediburgh AC (17 metres) a metre back in fourth. A couple of metres separated each of the remaining runners - Natasha Turnbull of TLJT (22 metres), Samantha Turnbull also of TLJT (20 metres) then last year's winner Rianna Sterricks of Lasswade AC (18 metres). Three of the first four runners also qualified for the New Year Sprint cross-ties; only Andrea didn't qualify - but she wasn't entered.

The 90 metres Veterans Handicap could only muster a couple of heats this year, but there was still sufficient quality for a close, fast final. Evergreen Cameron Smith of Central AC repeated his feat of last year to win off the same mark of 13 metres, a foot ahead of John Fleming of Kelso (14 metres). A metre back in third was Tommy Finkle of TLJT (16 metres) who had been just pipped in his heat by Smith. Darren Towart of Tynedale AC (15 metres) was a metre back in fourth, just edging out Keith Kong of Lasswade AC (15.5 metres) into fifth with Graeme Armstrong of Edinburgh (20 metres) in sixth.

In contrast to last year's Youths 800 metres Open Handicap where thirteen of the fourteen entrants took to the starting line, this year a field only 4 strong contested the race. Backmarker Alistair Scott of Lasswade AC (85 metres) overhauled frontmarker and clubmate Eloise Scott (185 metres) to win by a few metres in 1 min 57.73 secs. Some distance behind was Matty Fleming of Kelso (160 metres) with Katie MacKay of Leithenburn AC (180 metres) in fourth. All four runners deservedly won prizes.

Ava Lees (55 metres) gained the victory in the Youths 200 metres aged under 13 Open Handicap that narrowly eluded her in the shorter sprint. Eloise Scott (50 metres) just failed to catch Ava but hung on to second place from fast finishing backmarker Josh Landers of TLJT (31 metres). Second backmarker Aaron Glendinning of Leithenburn AC (34 metres) was a couple of feet back followed by clubmate Grace Turnbull (23.25 metres) and Sam Renton of Haddington RC (50 metres).

In the Youths 200 metres aged under 16 Open Handicap Callum Gladwin (33 metres) repeated his victory in the shorter sprint, this time his train-like finish gave him a very comfortable 3 metre margin of victory. Evie Renwick (39 metres) came second, well clear of Zoe Blair (34 metres) with backmarker Rory Voss of Dunfermline T&F (8 metres) closing hard for fourth. Ryan Morrison of Kirkcaldy (17 metres) was fifth followed by brother Robbie (14 metres) in sxith.

The final act of the day was the final of the 200 metres Open Handicap, which drew runners from just three poorly attended heats. Nevertheless the final was hotly contested with victory not decided until right at the finish where Cameron Lindsay of Kelso (24 metres) pipped last year's winner Andrea Goodman (40 metres). Winner of the third heat, Scott Hannaway, of Greenock G H (21 metres) was third with Stewart Clark of Stonehaven (24 metres) fourth and veteran and former New Year Sprint winner, Tommy Finkle of Jed AC (36 metres), in fifth. Veteran Malcolm McPhail of Ayr (36 metres), who won the first heat, didn't show for the final.

See Also
Finals Results
Sprint Full Results
Photofinish
Winners Gallery