60 Years of Rankings . . . Arnold Black on our Middle Distance runners

Wednesday 9th June 2021

Above: Yvonne Murray (photo by Mark Shearman)

Check out the rankings at scotstats.net

Read previous articles in this series

scottishathletics Historian, Arnold Black, continues our look at the last 60 years of Scottish rankings with the focus this time on the middle-distance events of the 800m and 1500m

‘This particular category surprised me as I did not expect it to be dominated by the women in the way it is, with the top seven all being female,’ said Arnold.

‘This is probably due to a greater focus on combining these two events on the women’s side whereas the men have tended to focus on a single event, eg Tom McKean, Paul Forbes and Guy Learmonth on the 800m, or the men have graduated to longer distances more quickly than their female counterparts.’

Here’s the overall top ten list (in reverse order) . . .

10 Jake Wightman

The focus on both 800m and 1500m has seen Jake gather the points to move into the overall top ten in a relatively short time frame, first making an impression in the top ten rankings in 2012 when he recorded 1:51.6 for the 800m while still in his teens.

In a fiercely fought category, he has never finished outside the top two for each event in the last five years and in 2019 and 2020, he led both the 800m and 1500m rankings.

9. Hayley Parkinson/Ovens

Hayley Parkinson/Ovens emerged as one of Scotland leading runners in a career which saw her win seven Scottish 1500m titles (3 of which were indoor) and three British indoor titles.

She was a finalist at both the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games 1500m events and competed for GB at the 2003 World indoor championships. She first appeared in the Scottish senior rankings at the age of 15 but it was another three years before she broke into the top ten in the 800m, 1500m and 3000m.

Hayley topped the Scottish 1500m rankings in 2003 and 2004 and again in her final truly competitive year in 2006.

8. Frank Clement

The leading man in the category, Bellahouston Harrier Frank featured in the top ten rankings for the first time in the 1500m in 1971 and bowed out after the 1981 season when he was ranked third.

In between, he had twice topped the 800m rankings setting a Scottish record of 1:46.0 in 1973 and an unratified 1:45.76 in 1976. His main event, though, was the 1500m where he led the Scottish rankings for the five years from 1973 to 1977, winning the World Student Games title, finishing fourth at the 1974 Commonwealth Games and fifth at the 1976 Olympics.

Frank set a Scottish 1500m record of 3:37.4 running for GB v Sweden in 1974, holding both the 800m and 1500m records at the same time.

7. Rosemary Stirling/Wright

Wolverhampton & Bilston’s Rosemary Stirling/Wright topped the Scottish 220 yards rankings in 1966. Fifteen years later, she led the marathon rankings!

Initially her success came over the one-lap distance where she twice competed at the European Championships and medalled (bronze) at the 1969 European indoors and won gold in the 4x400m relay at the 1969 Europeans, but it is at 800m and the 1970 Commonwealth Games that she is best remembered, memorably winning gold in front of a cheering Scottish audience in a great finish.

Rosemary competed for Scotland at three Commonwealth Games – at Kingston in 1966, she had finished fourth in both the 440 yards And 880 yards, glory came in 1970, and she was a semi finalist at the 1974 Games.

Laura Muir in action at Gateshead Diamond League in May 2021 (photo via British Athletics/Getty Images)

6. Laura Muir

Laura and Jake are the two current athletes in the overall top ten who are continuing to add to their tallies this year.

Laura broke into the Scottish top tens in 2012 and then led both rankings for the first time in the following year. Since then she has dominated the Scottish middle-distance scene like no other athlete bettering 2 minutes for 800m and becoming the only Scot to date who has broken four minutes for the women’s 1500m, a feat she has achieved on 16 occasions.

Laura’s successes on the international stage include the European 1500m title in 2018 and the European 1500m/3000m indoor title double in 2017 and 2019.

5. Christine McMeekin/Whittingham

Originally with the old Maryhill Ladies Athletic Club, Chris McMeekin’s first appearance in the top ten rankings was at 400m as a 15-year-old in 1972. By 1975, still a teenager, she led the 800m rankings and competed at that event at the 1976 Olympic Games.

It was not until 1977 that she started taking the 1500m seriously and, having improved her 1977 time by 20 seconds to 4:12.43 in 1978, she led both the 800m and 1500m rankings and represented Scotland at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, finishing fourth in the 1500m final.

Christine continued her running career to 1988, including another Commonwealth Games appearance at the 1986 Games in Edinburgh.

4. Lynne MacDougall

Lynne was first seen in the Scottish rankings in 1977, ranking 20th in the 1500m with 4:52.3 at the age of 12. By 1984, she topped the 800m and 1500m rankings and her longevity showed when she led the 1500m again in 1996.

Her range of distances extended latterly to the marathon, where she was the leading Scottish runner for the three years from 2000 to 2002. She won six Scottish 1500m titles (and two at 3000m) and represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 1986 and 1990, where she finished eighth and then fifth in the 1500m.

Lynne was a finalist at the 1984 Olympic Games and twice competed at the European Indoor Championships.

3. Susan Scott

Susan Scott will be remembered for being the first Scot to better 2 minutes for the 800m, achieving this at the 2002 Commonwealth Games final, frustratingly finishing fourth.

She repeated the feat four years later, bettering her own Scottish record, but yet again could only finish fourth. From 2002 to 2008, she led the 800m rankings each year and also was top of the 1500m rankings four times in that period.

Susan competed at the World and World indoor championships at 800m and the Olympics and European indoors at 1500m and was twice British 800m champion and once indoor 1500m champion to go with her seven Scottish titles over the events.

2. Yvonne Murray

Yvonne Murray is rightly recognised as one of the greats of Scottish athletics and if I had extended this category to include the 3000m, she would have undoubtedly topped this review.

She was first ranked in the top ten in 1980 at 1500m and continued her career to 1997, retiring still as the top ranked 1500m runner. Her major international successes came at 3000m where she won the World indoor title in 1993, the European title in 1990 and the European indoor in 1987, but she also won the Commonwealth 10000m title in 1994.

At 1500m, Yvonne represented Scotland in three Commonwealth Games, finishing fourth in 1990. She led the Scottish 1500m rankings 11 times and the 800m rankings five times.

1. Margaret MacSherry/Coomber

Cambridge Harrier Margaret MacSherry/Coomber is an athlete who had an outstanding career both on the track and over the country, whose career has gone very much under the radar.

She was ranked in the top ten for the first time in 1966 (at 440 yards) and was still a top five athlete (at 1500m) some 18 years later. She competed for Scotland at three Commonwealth Games (1970, 1974 and 1978) and represented GB at the 1972 Olympic Games.

Margaret won the Scottish 1500m title on four occasions and led the Scottish rankings for the first time over 1 mile in 1967, topping the 1500m rankings in 1970 and 1977 and leading the 800m in 1973.


Chris O’Hare – third in the Men’s list for our Middle Distance 60 Years of Rankings (photo by Sue Gyford)

Here are the top 10 points scorers on the men’s and women’s lists:


1 Frank Clement, 161 points

2 Jake Wightman, 148

3 Chris O’Hare, 143

4 Tom McKean, 142

5 John Robson, 130

6 Graham Williamson, 119

7 David Strang, 118

8 Paul Forbes, 117

9 Hugh Barrow, 113

10 Guy Learmonth, 111


 Lynne MacDougall is placed fourth in the Women’s list in our 60 Years of Rankings for Middle Distance (photo by Mark Shearman)


1 Margaret MacSherry/Coomber, 255 points

2 Yvonne Murray, 243

3 Susan Scott, 233

4 Lynne MacDougall, 196

5 Christine McMeekin/Whittingham, 174

6 Laura Muir, 166

7 Rosemary Stirling/Wright, 165

8 Hayley Parkinson/Ovens, 160

9 Anne Clarkson/Purvis, 141

10 Susan Parker/Bevan, 129



Tags: Chris O'Hare, Guy Learmonth, History, Jake Wightman, Laura Muir, Tom McKean, Yvonne Murray

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