Rees all about it: The se­cret’s out and there’s more to come

The Herald - Herald Sport - - ATHLETICS - STE­WART FISHER

SCOT­TISH ath­let­ics af­fi­ciona­dos have whis­pered in con­spir­a­to­rial tones for a while now about the tal­ents of a 17-yearold sprinter called Alisha Rees, but the teenager may have blown her cover once and for all at the Scot­tish Se­nior ath­let­ics cham­pi­onships at the Emi­rates Arena on Satur­day.

This pow­er­fully-built prodigy from Ban­chory, by way of Tor­phin, ended the day with two na­tional ti­tles to her name – in the 60m and 200m – run­ning a PB of 7.51 sec­onds to land the former and tak­ing the lat­ter in a time of 24.18sec which shaved two-hun­dredths of a sec­ond from Lin­sey Mac­Don­ald’s Un­der-20 record which had stood for fully 35 years.

Hav­ing brought a sil­ver and a bronze medal back from the Com­mon­wealth Youth Games in Samoa in 2015, Rees is now just .27 away from reach­ing the Com­mon­wealth Games proper in the Gold Coast next April. She turns 19 the day af­ter the clos­ing cer­e­mony but don’t bet against it be­ing a dual cel­e­bra­tion.

With a name like Rees it will per­haps be no sur­prise to find that this Ban­chory Academy pupil has some Welsh blood cours­ing through her veins. Her fa­ther hails from Llanelli and some of her team-mates might tease her about her ac­cent from time to time but Rees is as Scot­tish as they come. “Peo­ple say I’ve got an English ac­cent and a Welsh last name but I do it all for Scot­land,” Rees said. “I’ve lived here all my life.”

Ath­let­ics ap­pears to be her true call­ing but the Welsh like their rugby and one look at the broad-shoul­dered Rees in ac­tion pro­vokes the thought that per­haps, had things gone dif­fer­ently, she might be gear­ing up for the women’s Six Na­tions right now. In fact, the teenager does have form for thun­der­ing down the wing – but on the foot­ball field rather than the rugby pitch. With echoes of Scot­tish women’s foot­ball star Kim Lit­tle, also brought up in Aberdeen­shire at Mint­law, Rees put in some of the hard yards when play­ing among the boys at her se­condary school foot­ball team.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to do rugby and I’ve al­ways thought I’d be quite good at it,” said Rees. “But I played foot­ball when I was younger and def­i­nitely when I was 13, 14, I con­sid­ered it as my main sport. I liked be­ing part of a team.

“I re­ally liked play­ing with all my friends and I was quite good. I did play with boys. We had a Dee­side girls squad who all came to­gether. But there was a boys’ team for S1 and S2 and I was al­ways in the line-up for that. I liked get­ting it down the wing where I could sprint af­ter it or shoot.

“But I was quite shy back then so while I re­ally en­joyed it I never saw my­self be­com­ing good at it,” she added. “Becca Fla­herty was on my team and she’s now at Liver­pool Ladies. And there were other peo­ple around me who wanted it. I was do­ing ath­let­ics at the same time so I wasn’t sure which to go for. But I love ath­let­ics and I love com­pet­ing ev­ery week­end.”

Two medals at the Com­mon­wealth Youth Games and a sil­ver medal at the Euro­pean Youth Cham­pi­onships in Tbil­isi, Ge­or­gia, last year have helped this teenager shed what­ever hang-ups she had. An in­di­vid­ual medal, and per­haps a re­lay spot, at the Euro­pean Ju­niors again this year is one goal, while mak­ing the Gold C o a st qua l i f i c a t i o n stan­dard would top the lot . Scot­land were un­able to find a sin­gle sprinter, male or fe­male, ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing at Glas­gow 2014, but Rees hopes to thrive in the slip­stream of Bri­tish sprint­ing stars such as Dina Asher-Smith and De­siree Henry, even if some have al­ready ear­marked her po­ten­tial should she move up to the 400m.

“I feel like I’ve grown more con­fi­dent in the last year,” said Rees. “When I was younger I was al­ways so ner­vous with my­self. But now I’ve got big in­ter­na­tional medals at age group cham­pi­onships, I’ve in­creased my con­fi­dence and I think: ‘I can do this, I am up there with any­one else in Europe’. I don’t know about the world but I am up there now. It’s a con­fi­dence booster and be­ing con­fi­dent in my­self has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on my per­for­mance.

“Euro­pean ju­niors are my main tar­get this year,” she added. “Hope­fully I get a medal in the in­di­vid­ual race but also get in the Bri­tish team for the re­lay and see if we can get in the medals there. I’ll fo­cus on the 200m. The qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard is out and it’s 20.8 but last year I ran 20.57 so it’s def­i­nitely within my range. I think I’ve got some good en­durance. Starts aren’t my strong point and I’ve got long legs – ev­ery­one tells me I should go up to 400m but I’m not ready for that yet.”

An­other young Scot mak­ing waves at the Emi­rates Arena on Satur­day was Heather Pa­ton (pic­tured inset), the 20-year-old 60m hur­dler whose time of 8.37sec was a new Scot­tish na­tive record. Pa­ton, based at the Birch­field Har­ri­ers club, is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of her fa­ther Billy McGinty, who played rugby league for Scot­land, Great Bri­tain, War­ring­ton and Wi­gan. This was a stylish per­for­mance from a young ath­lete who works part-time at a hair­dress­ing sa­lon to pay the bills.

Jemma Reekie, the train­ing part­ner of Laura Muir, set an­other Scot­tish ju­nior record as she fin­ished sec­ond be­hind Mhairi Hendry in the 800m, while Olivia Vareille, the daugh­ter of former Kil­marnock and Air­drie striker Jerome, was an­other im­pres­sive young win­ner on the day.

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