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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Teenager Dylan Ali wins 145th Musselburgh New Year Sprint

Teenager Dylan Ali wins 145th Musselburgh New Year Sprint

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Dylan Ali wins 145th Musselburgh New Year Sprint

by SANDY SUTHERLAND
The Scotsman
02 January 2014


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.

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Sandy Sutherland has been covering the New Year Sprint for Scottish newspapers since the 1970's. Seems he might have been on to something when, prior to the heats, he filed this preview featuring the eventual winner - Dylan Ali.
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Ali shuffles in to New Year sprint reckoning

by SANDY SUTHERLAND
Edinburgh News
30 December 2013

Yet another teenager has emerged as a contender to win the 145th New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse on Wednesday.

Dylan Ali, who is based in Hawick and is coached by David Rae, has been showing up well on the Border Games circuit for several years but is still only 18.

Ali has been training with another Hawick man, Leigh Marshall, who four years ago lifted the coveted £4000 prize and would have been tipped to repeat this time but has unfortunately suffered a pulled muscle and will not start.

Ali, off 7.5 metres in heat nine of the ten heats on the first-day programme for tomorrow, is described as “strong” by one Borders observer and he will need to be as the going on the Musselburgh turf promises to be soft after all the recent rain.

Ali clashes in his heat with the runner-up two years ago, Seb Harrison (Jedburgh), off 6.5 metres.

Meanwhile, Capital hopes for the famous 110 metres professional handicap, which continued through two world wars and like London’s Windmill Theatre “never closed”, are focused on a 17-year-old Gambian-born Liberton High School pupil.

Morro Bajo could achieve the rare feat of winning the New Year Sprint from the back mark, something even the great George McNeill failed to do in 1971 after his 1970 victory at Powderhall.

Bajo, who is coached by Bill Walker, will start in heat four off 2.75 metres and will be giving away starts of up to 19 metres.

Among his heat rivals will be the 3-1 joint favourite Craig Robertson (Pitreavie) off 13 metres.

But there is still uncertainty about how Bajo, an impressive winner of a time trial at Meadowbank last week, will perform on grass, a surface he has never raced on. Bajo is one of three teenagers from the same club who are at the back of the grid for the two-day event, the final and cross-ties of which will be held together with the National Hunt Meeting on New Year’s Day.

Also chasing the £4000 first prize will be the 17-year-old defending champion Ben Robbins (EAC) in heat two, where he is off 4.00 metres compared to 7.5 metres when he won.

Robbins, who has recovered from the leg injury which made him a doubtful starter last week, is well aware of the burden of history, with Glasgow’s Willie McFarlane in 1934 the last runner to retain the New Year crown.

Another EAC teenager, 19-year-old Heriot-Watt University student Sam Revie, is off 3.75m in heat three, where he clashes with Gemma Nicol (Dunfermline) off 15.75m.

There could be few more popular or deserved winners than the 27-year-old Nicol who has been involved in the meeting since she was ten when she helped her mother Wendy collect the runners’ bibs at Meadowbank. A competitor also in the youths events in those days before the meeting moved to Musselburgh, Nicol has been in contention in the “Big Sprint” for over a decade and has been six times a finalist, including third last time and back in 2003, and the runner-up in 2006, so it would be wholly appropriate if she could at last become the first ever female winner.

If she did – and her continued concentration on over-distance training as she bids to clinch a Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games 400 metres place suggests she has not lost her focus on her main goal for the year – then no one would be more delighted than her mother, who herself has been third twice, and her grandfather John Sharp, a former professional runner.

Heat One: Ross Kirk (Pitreavie, 9m) early joint 3-1 favourite. Jordan Charters (Dolphinton, 8.5m) was fourth last time.

Heat Two: Ben Robbins (Edinburgh, 4m) defending champion. Jessie Concannan (Glenrothes, 18m), Scottish Schools internationalist.

Heat Three: Gemma Nicol (Dunfermline, 15.75m), six times finalist and third last time out.

Sam Revie (EAC, 3.75m) Second back marker.

Heat Four: Morro Bajo (EAC, 2.75m) Liberton High School pupil and back-marker despite being a “novice”. Craig Robertson (Pitreavie, 13m) joint 3-1 early favourite

Heat Six: Francis Smith (Pitreavie, 6m) former Scottish 200m, 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles champion. Wendy Nicol (Dunfermline, 29m) third in the final twice.

Heat Eight: Tony Daffurn (Kilbarchan, 5m)

Heat Nine: Dylan Ali (Hawick, 7.5m) rated the strongest Borders hope. Seb Harrison (Jedburgh, 6.5m) runner-up in 2012.

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