Greg Kelly won Scottish U20 sprint double in Aberdeen in August 2018 (photo by Bobby Gavin)
Greg Kelly claimed the £8000 top prize for winning the 150th New Year Sprint in a blanket finish at Musselburgh Racecourse.
In doing so, the Scotland internationa regained the title he had lost at New Year 2018 to his East Kilbride AC club-mate and training partner Calum McWilliam.
Defending champion McWilliam was attempting to become the first back-to-back winner of the iconic 110m handicap since Willie McFarlane in 1934, but the weight of history proved too much although he fought bravely to reach his fourth successive final.
He eventually finished seventh behind surprise medallists Douglas Young (Kelso) and Alessandro Schenini (Giffnock), who both scraped through to the final as fastest losers. In fourth place, 17-year-old Lasswade kid Murray Blair announced himself as a possible champion of the future.
Kelly and Pitreavie’s Billy Doyle went quickest in Sunday’s qualifying heats and the switch from synthetic track to grass did not slow them down.
A tight schedule meant the eight finalists had barely an hour between semis and final and although the limited recovery time and bitter conditions caused Connolly to pull a muscle, the other seven all rose to the occasion.
Holder McWilliam made little impression despite bettering last year’s winning mark, while Doyle failed to reproduce his qualifying form. Up front, surprise packages Young and Schenini and teenager Blair were split by just 0.06secs as they battled to make the medal podium, but Kelly breasted the tape a full metre clear, posting an outstanding winning time of 11.50 off a start of just 5.5m.
‘I really wanted to become a double winner because it hasn’t been done for a long time,’ said Greg, as he clutched the Eric Liddell Trophy and a cheque for £8000.
‘I went into the event as favourite, so that put more pressure on me, but I ran a smooth race in the semi-final. I won it quite comfortably and was easing down towards the end. I just wanted to get the job done and get through to the final.
‘My physio is constantly helping me, so my legs felt good for the final. I was very nervous, but I had a belief that I would do it and you need that. You can’t have any doubts.
‘I got out of the blocks well and felt strong and bouncy. I probably thought I’d won it with about ten metres to go. Some of the other guys were still level with me, but I knew I’d pass them.’
— judy murray (@JudyMurray) January 1, 2019