THERE was something poignant about Scottish internationalist

Jemma Reekie presenting the medals for the 1500m at the Scottish Schools Athletics Championships. There was a sense that the current generation was meeting the next generation of the sport.

Reekie, who is a training partner of Laura Muir, is currently one of Scotland’s brightest middle distance talents and presented the medals for the girls over-16 1500m – with gold being won by Sarah Calvert of Linlithgow Academy.

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If anyone doubts the effect that meeting one of the best runners in the country can have on young athletes, it takes only a few minutes for Calvert to make it clear. “Last weekend I actually raced against Jemma and also Laura Muir so to now be getting presented with my medal by Jemma is really cool,” the teenager said of the former Scottish Schools champion. “It’s great to have her here and for her to want to be involved.”

The two days of competition at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, which concluded yesterday, saw almost 1000 young athletes from nearly 200 high schools from across Scotland compete for titles. Most of Scotland’s current crop of top athletes have worked their way through the Scottish Schools system, with most winning silverware on one of their early steps towards elite status.

Calvert’s victory was particularly notable as it followed her younger sister Isla’s gold medal-winning run in the under-16 1500m, giving the family a brace of gold medals to go home with. And with two elite athletes in the family, there is, admits Isla, a considerable amount of competitiveness between the pair.

“We do get very competitive both in training and when we race against each other but it’s nice having my sister there and we’re both going through the same things,” she said. “We definitely push each other on.”

For Frances Fagan, who has been organising these championships for almost a decade-and-a-half, she was delighted with this year’s event and the support that the senior athletes such as Reekie, as well as Sammi Kinghorn – who also presented medals – give it. “It’s been a good level this year so I’m pleased,” she said.

“It’s fantastic that athletes like Jemma and Sammi come back to present prizes – I think it’s really helpful and inspiring for the young athletes to see these senior athletes who have been previous winners of the event and it makes them realise what they can contribute.

“Athletics is like a family and they all know one another, so the more opportunities these young athletes get to see the elite athletes, the better.”

Another stand-out performance was by pole vaulter Dylan Thomson of Inverkeithing High, who broke both his personal best and the championship record on his way to gold. The 17-year-old, who has his sights set on the 2022 Commonwealth Games, was delighted with picking up a Scottish title but more so, he recognises the importance of an event such as this in his development. “It’s amazing to win,” he said.

“This event is great because it prepares you for the future. It pits you against some very strong competitors and it also gets you used to competing in a big arena, in front of a crowd, which is important moving forward.

It’s nice to see the calibre of athletes who have won this championship in the past and to be able to compare myself to them.”

Former Scottish internationalist and Commonwealth Games medallist, hurdler Chris Ballie is now head coach for Scottish Schools Athletics Association stressed the importance of young athletes competing in major championships, but he cautioned that athletics must not get complacent just because the current senior team is so strong. “These kind of championships are hugely important for young athletes – they give them a very high level of competition in their age-group and it’s a really important stepping-stone to go on from and challenge athletes higher up the ranks,” he said.

“So many of the senior athletes who have done well in the past and who are currently done well have come through the schools championships and so hopefully that will continue.

“There’s a very good level here – we have some very talented athletes in a number of events but I would still like to see more depth. I think there was greater depth when I was young and that’s purely because there’s so much more choice of which sports to do for kids these days. Access to other sports is so wide so kids can try many more sports than people my age could.

“It’s hard to know how to attract kids to athletics – you need to capture their imagination and make sure that when they do come into athletics, it’s fun. That’s what will keep kids in the sport.”