Stephen Mackenzie – the long jumper from Ullapool is set for GB vests in Germany and Sweden over the next four weeks (photo by Bobby Gavin)
Four young Scottish athletes are celebrating selections by British Athletics for forthcoming international events – Stephen Mackenzie, Erin Wallace, Praise Olatoke and Fraser Angus.
Long jumper Stephen and 1500m runner Erin, who each won British U20 titles at the weekend at Bedford, are headed for the European U20 Champs in Sweden next month.
The pair were announced in the first wave of selections for the event in Boras on July 18-21.
Prior to that, Pitreavie AAC athlete Mackenzie will win a first GB and NI vest at the Mannheim International in Germany in the long jump – with that event taking place this weekend.
Joining him for the trip to Germany for 200m slots and 4 x100m Relay places are Kilbarchan AAC athlete Olatoke and Giffnock North AAC sprinter Angus, following their good performances at Bedford.
It’s brilliant news for these athletes and their families – but also for their coaches and clubs who have helped in their development.
So well done to Linda Nicholson (Mackenzie), Andy Young (Wallace), Colin Sinclair (Olatoke) and Ryan McAllister (Angus).
In terms of the European U20s, the likes of Praise and Fraser now have a chance this weekend to push for selection for Sweden while Alessandro Schenini (long jump) Isla Calvert (800m) and Eloise Walker (3000m) should also still be in contention – with a second selection wave to be announced at a later date.
Erin Wallace races to the England Athletics U20 title at Bedford last weekend
Fraser Angus in sprints action in Giffnock North vest in Glasgow last month
Praise Olatoke in action in Kilbarchan AAC vest at the FPSG Senior Champs last summer
For Ullapool teenager Stephen, leaving school at the age of 17, it is an exciting time and likewise for his coach Linda, who for the first time now has coached an athlete to GB level.
‘I think Stephen’s story should be inspiration for a lot of Scots in track and field and indeed other sports,’ Linda told scottishathletics, after a final round 7.59m jump won him gold at Bedford and a qualifying standard (7.55m).
‘He’s from Ullapool with very limited facilities, his family supported him to travel to Inverness for training, and now he is being coached remotely by me from Peebles with some training meet-ups at Pitreavie in Dunfermline.
‘Yet from that geographical background he’s become British champion at U20 and won selection for his first GB and NI vests at the Mannheim International and the Euro U20s themselves in Sweden next month.
I’m absolutely thrilled for him. It was a huge ask at the weekend and he had to pull out the PB and the qualifying standard jump in the final round to win the competition and stamp his passport into the team.
‘We normally think of Stephen as doing his best jumps in the first couple of rounds, when he’s high on adrenalin. This time, I told him just to concentrate on the process and forget about trying to make the distance.
‘I watched him at take-off and there was maybe another 15cm there so it really was a huge jump. He has great potential and he is only 17 at the moment.
‘What you have to factor in as his coach is there is a lot of travel involved. He actually flew this weekend but, normally, there are very long drives involved. You have to plan the competition schedule accordingly – and the training.
‘I’ve been up to Ullapool and fortunately they do have a long jump pit at the High School there and about a 25m bit of track for the run-up. There’s a gym, too, so there are some facilities we could tap into.
‘He also comes to Pitreavie once in a while – that’s a three or four journey one-way for him and his family and the rest of the group travel for an hour from Peebles to Pitreavie to join him.
‘It is just about making it work and we do all sort of modern communications including You Tube video, WhatsApp and so on to keep in tough and assess jumps and techniques.
‘It’s fair to say: there’s plenty of material bouncing between Peebles and Ullapool at any given time.’
Nicholson also has Ellie O’Hara under her wing with the 16-year-old once again breaking the Scottish U17 Triple Jump record last weekend.
‘Ellie is working hard and I think there is still a lot of development to come there,’ said Linda.
‘She is motivated to keep pushing on the Triple Jump Record but at this time I couldn’t even say whether she will develop best as a triple jumper and long jumper.’
Coach Linda Nicholson with jumper Ellie O’Hara back in June 2018 after Scottish Schools success