There was a brilliant bronze medal for Ailsa Innes in the PHS vest at the Scottish Schools Indoor Champs Over-16 800m today at The Emirates in Glasgow. Having won her heat with a controlled and fairly comfortable race, she lined up in what was due to be a hot final knowing that a well executed race would put her in with a chance of a medal. Settling in fourth early on, she moved into third with two laps to go as the front two favourites stretched into a good lead. They continued their ding-dong battle right to the line with Ailsa running strongly in behind but never close enough to threaten gold or silver. But she put good daylight between her and the rest to maintain a 10m gap back to fourth and safely secure the bronze in a very even-paced time of 2.15.49.
Also running in the same event was Charlotte Clare who ran the third fastest qualifying time across the four heats but was denied a place in the final by virtue of the very odd qualification rule used by SSAA for this race alone which saw only the first two in each of the four heats qualifying with no provision for fastest losers. All the other 800m age-groups' qualifications were based on a strict time ranking across all the heats, ironically a process which saw an inexperienced Charlotte miss out on the U16 final last year despite comfortably winning her heat. Normally, if not using this "time trial" qualification system, for four heats down to eight qualifiers, you would expect the qualification to be heat winners plus the four fastest losers. But SSAA, at only 30 minutes notice when posting the heat draw, confirmed it would be just the first two in each heat, leaving Charlotte with a mountainous task in the strongest of the heats, Heat 4, against two others with PBs of 2.12. That is fully five seconds quicker than Charlotte's PB of 2.17. But she gave it a real go off a very fast early pace, going through the first 200m one second ahead of her planned pace in order to keep in touch with the qualifying positions. The rest were nowhere. She had to push hard to try and stay in contact - the right thing to do for sure - but couldn't match the pace of the front two and as she tired over the last 100m her time slipped a few tenths of a second outside her PB and she crossed the line third in 2.17.99. Word was that the front two, which included the eventual gold medallist, were also unhappy at the qualification process and the fact that CC pushed them into running such a hard heat whilst the other medal contenders had been able to cruise their qualification in times 5-10 seconds slower.
So despite such a gutsy quality performance Charlotte was out - or was she? When the results were posted, they showed qualification based on the four heat winners and four fastest losers, with the sought-after "q" next to CC's name as the fastest loser by miles. Clearly the official who was doing the results knew what the qualification process should have been! However, with SSAA having clearly stated prior to the heats, albeit with only 30 minutes notice, that it was first two and no fastest losers, and with several second placed runners clearly not racing all-out to the line in their heat, it was correct, but unfortunate for CC, that they reverted to the qualification process that had originally been notified and amended the list of qualifiers accordingly. Just to rub a bit more salt into Charlotte's wounds, the second placed finisher from her heat failed to line up for the final, maybe feeling the effects of her hard-run heat on the back of two 1500m races the previous day. Fourth in the final behind Ailsa was a lass who finished a good few metres behind Charlotte ten days ago at the U17 National Champs.
Reaching the final was Charlotte's pre-race target and whilst the black and white results will show that she didn't, she knows that she posted a performance well deserving of doing so and may well have finished fourth in the final.
Also racing on what looked to be, apart from the 800m qualification blip, a well run event, was Euan Hood who, on the back of a week's illness and losing his voice (a beneficial side effect said Brian!), ran two excellent races yesterday in the 1500m and today in the 800m with a two-second plus PB of 2.05.00.