NINE years ago, a Hawick schoolboy by the name of Dylan Ali showed great promise and potential in winning the Peebles Beltane Sports 90m handicap on his Border Games debut. On New Year’s Day, 2014, Ali fulfilled this promise and potential to the full in winning the historic New Year Sprint Handicap at Musselburgh Racecourse.
And what’s more, the 18-year-old David Rae-trained youngster did it in glorious style with a display of sprinting at its very best.
Twenty four hours earlier, however, things hadn’t looked quite as promising after Ali was beaten in his heat on the opening day of the two-day event.
Competing from a mark of 7.50m, he did, however, earn a cross-tie place as a fastest loser.
Reflecting on the situation, the teenager flyer told the Hawick News: “I was disappointed with my show in my heat as I knew I could have ran a lot better.
“However, my time was still quick enough to put me into the cross-ties, and I was very relieved when I heard this announced.
“I had got another chance and I meant to make the most of it, as I felt I had a lot more running in me.”
Ali continued: “After my heat I was asked to run in the invitation sprint, and I came in second. This run was very beneficial for me as it gave me a second go on the heavy track, and I learnt something from this.”
Fastest up on the first day of the sprint, which had a first prize of £4,000, was another young Hawick flyer, Jack Wilson (13m).
From the Billy Edgar running stable, 19-year-old Wilson had blitzed his way to an impressive win in 12.05 seconds.
Come day two, Ali recorded the fastest time of the cross-ties through an explosive winning run in 11.80 seconds.
Much more was to come from Ali in the final, though, as he scorched to a superb win in 11.59 seconds.
Kevin Eaddie of Dunfermline (9m) finished second, and Jedburgh’s Seb Harrison (6.50m) was third. Wilson was placed fifth.
Talking of his golden triumph, Ali said: “I was much more relaxed on the second day, and had a full focus on what I was doing, and a picture in my mind of how I was going to win.
“Everything then just fell into place for me. In the final I got a good start, hit full stride, and just went for it.
“I got a bit emotional after I realised I had won, because winning the New Year Sprint has been my dream since I started running as a wee boy when Alan Scott was my coach.
“I was thinking has this really happened? And it took a bit of time to sink in that it had.
“It’s a great feeling to have won the New Year Sprint, and I have a huge thanks to say to the many people who have helped me in different ways, from those involved in our school and my family.”
Coach David Rae, who has been Ali’s mentor for several years, commented: “Dylan deserves to have won the New Year Sprint as he is dedicated to his running. I have always thought he was a terrific runner, and now he has shown he is different class.”
David Grieve also put victory Hawick’s way by taking the spoils in the veterans’ 90m handicap event.
A member of the Billy Edgar school, 58-year-old Grieve (13.5m) earned a spot in the 90m handicap open final due to this, and came in third.
A delighted Grieve said: “I’m over the moon, especially as it is the third time that I’ve won the veterans’ sprint at the New Year, as I also won it in 2006 and 2009.