On track for success
The newly completed Meadowmill track.
New athletics track a huge boost to county sport
East Lothian's constant battle to keep top athletes in the county could finally be won after the first stage of the handover of the state-of-the-art new £800,000 athletics track at Meadowmill took place last Friday.
Mooted for more than 20 years and set back by weather and technical delays, the all-weather track, together with facilities for various field events and a spectator stand, provides a huge upgrade to the county's athletic facilities and it is hoped will encourage promising athletes to remain with local clubs.
Although the six-lane track will not be opened to the general public until next Friday (July 27) the first official event was successfully held there on Monday and has sparked great optimism among athletes and coaches alike.
County athletics stalwart Henry Muchamore, East Lothian athletic development group senior athletics coach, was delighted to see the project finally brought to a conclusion.
"It's an incredible boost," he told Courier Sport. "I have been fighting for this for 20 years and to see it actually materialise means that we're not going to have to let all our decent athletes go to Edinburgh or to other clubs.
"We can provide facilities here both for athletes and for coaches that are second to none."
Work on the track finally began in July last year, after the contract was awarded to Northern Ireland-based Crawford Group, and it was initially hoped that it could be completed by the end of the year, but delays forced the opening back.
Last Friday's handover to East Lothian Council was only partial, as a few health and safety issues involving the stand must be ironed out over the coming weeks, though Muchamore was confident that these were "nothing massive".
"We're hoping that in the next couple of weeks we're going to get the all clear," he added.
"These last few weeks have been getting us tantalizingly close. The next big step will be getting all the equipment, for which we've made quite a big order. We've got to get things like hurdles, shots puts, discusses, javelins, all the equipment that goes with putting on athletic events."
However, the HELP Startrack Athletic Summer School was able to start as planned on Monday and continued this week, with a further summer school event planned in two weeks' time.
The summer school serves as an introduction to athletics for eight to 12-year-olds.
Enjoyleisure will manage the new facility and the council hopes to hold an official opening for the track next Friday, coinciding with the opening day of the Olympic Games in London.
The official opening for the facility as a whole will take place together with the Junior Athletic Championships at the track on September 8. As well as official dignitaries from the council, invites have been sent to top county athletes past and present, including track legends George McNeill and Yvonne Murray-Mooney, and powerlifting superstar Mary Anderson.
The opening programme will include a one-mile fun run as well as invitation events for club and elite senior athletes over various distances. One of these will be an attempt to emulate the legendary Roger Bannister by running a mile in under four minutes.
Meanwhile, Borders Athletics will host a handicap event at the track on August 5.
As well as the six-lane running track, which features an eight-lane sprint section, a throws and jumps area forms part of the new facility, providing space for athletics events such as long jump, high jump, javelin, discus and shot put among many others.
The new facility has already received the seal of approval from the official track inspector for UK Athletics and Scottish Athletics, who visited it on Tuesday.
"He guaranteed he was going to be sanctioning it as a Class B track," said Muchamore. "The only reason it's not Class A is that it doesn't have pole vault facilities and only six lanes, so we couldn't have Olympic events.
"It's looking really good and hopefully we will be able to get it all up and running very soon."
Muchamore - who last November was named the UK's top athletics volunteer at the Aviva UKA Awards - also stated his hope that the track could help the newly launched 'Team East Lothian Athletics' to success.
It is hoped that the new club - an amalgamation of county clubs Musselburgh and District Athletics Club, Haddington and East Lothian Pacemakers (HELP), and Dunbar Running Club - will make it easy for East Lothian athletes to compete in larger team competitions.
"We hope it will take off and bring people all over East Lothian together," Muchamore explained.
"At the moment the three clubs can't really support full teams but by running under the banner of Team East Lothian hopefully we will be able to put in composite teams both in senior and junior events."
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Jul 26, 11:29
I must admit I find the comments from the press officer of East Lothian SNP Cllr Stuart Currie in ELC 27th July Edition quite amusing, especially when it was the same individual who previously objected to a local power station being changed to gas, who was opposed to a new local dog track and who was more than happy to outsource local jobs to an arms length company.
Why not ask him while he was in power how many local companies received contracts from ELC.
If anyone is to blame for not creating local jobs, the blame is firmly with him.
But I am sure that Cllr Stu in his position as press officer is not using it to better his own political ambitions, I am sure that he will not be seeking to stand in the forthcoming Westminster Elections or Scottish Parliament Elections.
And I am also sure he will not be applying for a position on the new Scottish Fire Board with a £280 payment for each day , I am sure that Cllr Stu is interested in what is best for his constituents and the people of East Lothian.
Although I have one message for Cllr Stu “nobody is listening”
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Jul 26, 15:09
I took the opportunity of visiting Meadowmill last Wednesday, I must admit it is a first class facility. The work has been carried out to a high standard and ELC staff involved in the all parts of the process should be congratulated for their efforts, hopefully it will be the start of something good and produce future Olympians and off course Commonwealth Games Stars
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