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Sports review of the year

From gold medal athletes and record-breaking rowers to tennis aces and great golfers, school sports stars have had a top-scoring year in Scotland.

Roddy Mackenzie picks out some of the best


Sean Watson, All Saints Secondary, Glasgow

Sean, 17, was the only Scot to win gold on the track at the inaugural UK School Games at Scotstoun in early September. The 400-metres runner started the year by finishing just outside the medals at the Scottish Schools'

Indoor Championships at the Kelvin Hall, where he finished fourth, but won the outdoor title at Grangemouth in June in a time of 50.83 seconds, almost two seconds clear of second-placed Scott Hughson (George Watson's College, Edinburgh).

With a personal best of 49.84 seconds, Sean knows he will need to shave off a couple of seconds if he is to qualify for the European Junior Championships in 2007, which is one of his goals for the new year.

Long-term, he is targeting the Olympics in London in 2012 and the Commonwealth Games two years later.


Chris Harding, Queen Anne High, Fife

Chris followed up the bronze medal he gained at the 2005 Commonwealth Junior Championships in India with another fine year in 2006. Coached by Ken Rose, he climbed to number one in his age group in Great Britain for the epee and narrowly missed out on a double gold at the UK School Games in Glasgow in September. He lost in the final of the individual competition to England's Ben White 15-13 but led Scotland to the team goal medal, so denying England a clean sweep of the titles.

Currently training four nights a week as well as attending competitions throughout Britain, he is also starting to make his mark at adult events.

The sixth year pupil hopes to spend a year in Hungary after leaving school to improve his fencing by working with some of the best fencers in the world.


Rachel Holmes, Johnstone High, Renfrewshire

The 16-year-old goal shooter was selected for the Scotland Under-17 side in early 2006 and captained the team at the European Under-17 Championships in Sheffield in March. Despite defeats against England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the team picked up two wins to finish fourth overall in the tournament.

At the National Netball Finals' Day in May, her Johnstone High team beat Beacon 35-19 in the Scottish Under-17 Cup Final.

Stepping up to train with a senior club, Rachel is playing for Glasgow's Bellahouston Netball Club and made her debut in the elite National Netball League in October. She was selected to play for the Scotland senior team for the Four Nations Tournament in Singapore in November.

The youngest member of the team, she gained her first Scotland cap against the tournament hosts and went on to play as Scotland won two of their four matches to finish third behind Singapore and Papua New Guinea. Now established in the senior side, Rachel's aim is to retain her place in the squad for the 2007 World Netball Championships in Fiji.


Murray Wilkojc, George Watson's College, Edinburgh

As captain of the boat club, Murray led the George Watson's coxed four to victory at the Schools' Head of the Rivers in London in March, setting a new record of 19 mins 50 secs over the four-and-a-quarter mile River Thames course.

Switching from a four to a double scull with partner Sean Dixon, Murray won a gold medal in the Under-16 double sculls at the National Schools Regatta in Nottingham in May, taking victory by nearly three seconds from the rest of the field over the 2km course.

The duo repeated that success at the Scottish Championships later in the summer, this time winning the Under-18 event and further success came at the British Championships, at Strathclyde Park, where they won silver.

A member of the winning Great Britain eight at the Franco-British match in Abbeville in June, Murray rounded off his summer with a Scotland cap at the Home Countries International in July.

At 17, Murray has another year of junior rowing ahead of him and he hopes to establish himself firmly in the Scottish set-up.


James McKie, George Heriot's, Edinburgh

Coached by Ross Murdoch and a member of the Waverley club in Edinburgh, James came out top in the Tennis Scotland Under-16 grand prix in 2006 and capped a memorable year by representing Scotland in the Aberdeen Cup at the end of the year alongside Andy Murray.

He won both of his matches against English opposition at the Aberdeen Cup in singles (over James Chaudry of Southampton) and in doubles (with Glasgow's Caitlin Steel) and has also won East, West and Midlands Under-16 titles in Scotland.

A regular member of Scottish squads since the under-10 age-group, the right-hander is now looking forward to taking his game up a notch or two in 2007. Also a useful rugby player, he has chosen to concentrate on tennis in 2007 and will play in European events in a bid to gain world ranking points.


Paul Van Reitvelde, Preston Lodge High, East Lothian

At 15, Paul is training six days a week and is part of the East Institute of Sport with access to top-level back-up. He is training with Scotland's high-performance junior group and has already won national titles at Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 levels.

He travelled to tournaments in Europe in 2006 and won the Croatian Junior Open and the Lausanne Junior Open with Thomas Bethell from Bellshill.

He has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Robert Blair, another player from East Lothian, who has gone on to play for England and won a silver medal in the men's doubles at the last World Championships in Madrid.

His coach, Christine Black, says: "He has a great attitude and is in here every Thursday morning at 7 o'clock, which shows the level his commitment."


Kelsey MacDonald, Nairn Academy, Highland

Brought up living opposite the championship course at Nairn Dunbar, the 16-year-old was destined to make a name for herself in golf. Coached for the past eight years by the club's PGA professional, David Torrance, she has steadily progressed and, at one stage in 2006, smashed three course records in five weeks (at Forres, Nairn Dunbar and Kingussie).

She helped the Scotland girls' Under-18 team win the Home Internationals in Portstewart, Northern Ireland, where she won all three individual ties and her three doubles matches. As part of the Scotland Under-21 team, she finished second in the Belgian Junior Open in August and she has been named in the Scottish National Ladies' winter training squad for 2007.

In 2007, she hopes to help the Scotland Under-18 team retain the Home International title in Wales, and to move up to the full Home International team in Dunbar.

"The assistance in the past year from the Highland Institute of Sport in the form of physical training has paid massive dividends for Kelsey and there is no doubt she is set for future golfing stardom," says Mr Torrance.


Liam King, Shawlands Academy, Glasgow

A member of the Scotland Under-18 training squad, Liam has become a regular in the first XI for Clydesdale and helped the team to promotion from the second division of the National League in the first half of 2006. Coached by David Mackie at Clydesdale, he has matured considerably over the past year and has the makings of a future senior international. "Liam is a very hard worker on and off the pitch," says Mr Mackie. "I think he is capable of attaining full international status if he continues with the hard work he has put in to date."

The new year promises to be a big one for Liam, as he seeks to make the starting XI for the Scotland Under-18 team and help his club retain their top league status. He hopes to steer them to success in the West District Under-18 Cup.


Darren Wood, Strathaven Academy, South Lanarkshire

The 13-year-old judo player has caught the eye of the Scottish selectors over a year in which he has dominated his weight category in Scottish and British competitions.

A member of Motherwell's Kokoro Judo Club, he was selected for the Scottish team for the Celtic Cup competition in Edinburgh in April. As well as helping Scotland to a medal in the boys' team competition, he took gold in the under-55kg boys individual category ahead of competitors from across the British Isles.

In September he added a gold medal at the Scottish Age Band Championships, winning the under-60kg event, and a month later took the British Age Band title before adding the Scottish Schools' Championship in November.

Darren was recently selected for the Scottish Performance Squad, where elite judo players are invited to train with current and former World, British and Olympic competitors in the hope of producing future champions.

The Kokoro club's senior instructor, John MacDonald, says: "I'm delighted for Darren. He's really worked hard at his judo and he has got his reward."


Hazel Gow, Belmont Academy, South Ayrshire

The 16-year-old has had a breakthrough season with Troon, still unbeaten this season in the Scottish League. She played for Troon in the first round of the European Cup against RSR Walfer (Luxembourg) in December, when the Ayrshire side became the first Scottish women's team to win through a round in Europe.

She played in the second division with South Ayrshire last season but has made a huge step up in 2006. At 6ft, she has the height to make it in the game and her club coach Vince Krawczyk believes she has the potential to be a future star.

"She has good basic technique and is one of those players who picks up things very quickly," he points out. "Already, people have remarked to me that, for a 16-year-old, she could have a big future."

Hazel hopes to pursue a sports scholarship in future. With volleyball having been given pound;4 million funding towards the 2012 Olympics in London, there could be new opportunities for her on the horizon.

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