Banchory athletics coach Willy Russell has discovered his own version of the Bermuda Triangle on Deeside.
A remarkable number of successful athletes have emerged from a small corner of the north-east over the past 12 years, especially in the world of Scottish sprinting and long distance running.
And Russell says “it’s all down to the mysterious Torphins-Finzean-Birse triangle” which has been home to the likes of Rhona Auckland, the 2014 European under-23 cross country champion, and Robbie Simpson, the 2018 Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medallist.
But it is the astonishing record of a trio of sprinters who all come from within the triangle that Russell has highlighted.
He has been examining the national ranking lists for the period from 2009 to 2020, produced by the Scottish Association of Track Statisticians, and made some remarkable discoveries.
He said: “I’ve been looking at the top-10 senior women’s rankings in the 60m, 100m and 200m for each of these years and found that three Banchory Stonehaven AC runners have an amazing record.
“Alisha Rees has appeared in the rankings 19 times between 2013 and 2020, including eight times at number one.
“Kathryn Christie has also been ranked 19 times, between 2009 and 2015, with four number one rankings. And Maddy Silcock has been in the top-10 four times between 2017 and 2020.
“At least one of them has achieved a top-three ranking in every year since 2011.”
Christie was the trailblazer for the others, winning the 100m and 200m sprint double at the 2012 Scottish championships, then repeating that feat in 2014.
Her 2012 triumph, at the age of 17, made her the first junior age group athlete to achieve the double since Linsey Macdonald in 1981.
Then Alisha Rees stepped forward to win the 200m title four years on the spin from 2015 to 2018. Her first victory came just four months after celebrating her 16th birthday.
Silcock is the youngest of the trio and she represented Scotland in the 100m at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games, reaching the semi-final.
Russell added: “Kathryn, Alisha and Maddy all joined the Banchory section of the club as youngsters. Kathryn and Alisha were eight or nine when they first came along, while Maddy was 14.
“They became seniors in 2016, 2019 and 2020 respectively, but all three gained their first Scotland senior vests while still in the junior age group.
“In 2020, Alisha set the current Scottish women’s 60m record indoors at 7.32secs. She is also the second fastest over 100m in 11.45 and, in 2020, she was the 12th-placed Scottish woman, for all events, in the world athletics rankings, scoring 1110 points.”
Rees is now in her final year at Loughborough University and is an established Great Britain international.
She is on the fringes of the Olympic selection, her best chance perhaps coming in the 4x100m relay.
Christie and Silcock have both suffered from foot injuries which have hindered their development in recent years, but both hope to return to action before too long.
Russell points out that there are many more talented young athletes coming from this area including Lisa Herrington, Louisa Rowse, Lindsey Young and Craig Strachan among others.
He may hint that there’s some mysterious force at play, generating such a conveyor belt of talent within the small part of the north-east, but in truth there’s a simple explanation.
It’s all down to the hard work, skill, enthusiasm and encouragement provided by the likes of Russell and his coaching colleagues at Banchory Stonehaven AC over many years.
Russell, who celebrated his 80th birthday recently, was recognised for his contribution to the sport when he was awarded a British Empire Medal in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List.
Call for sign-ups to north-east National Athletics League club
North-east athletes looking for a higher level of competition are being invited to join the Jaguars Track and Field Club.
The Jaguars, constituted in 2020, is the only Scottish club competing in the National Athletics League, which was formed following the disbandment of the British Athletics League and the UK Women’s Athletic League.
Membership is open to all senior and U20 athletes, who currently have a Scottish first claim club and feel they would benefit from this pathway.
For more details contact Mark Stringer by email at Jaguarstandf.firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Athletics League has put in place a revised fixture list for 2021.
Dates and venues: June 6– Manchester Regional Athletics Arena; July 3 – Manchester Regional Athletics Arena; August 7 – Robin Park Athletics Stadium, Wigan; August 28 – Wavertree Stadium, Liverpool.