On starting blocks for a racing career

24th June 2005 at 01:00
Champion in the running Colin Severin tells Roddy Mackenzie how the school of sport approach pays

Colin Severin is on a winning streak. He crossed the finishing line first, not once but twice, at the Scottish Schools Track and Field Championships at Grangemouth earlier this month and now his name will be etched alongside some of the best Scottish sprinters in history.

Elliot Bunney (formerly of Bathgate Academy) and Jamie Henderson (ex-Edinburgh Academy) both won the Scottish schools' 100m title and became European Junior champions, with Bunney going on to win an Olympic relay silver medal.

Colin, a sixth year pupil at the Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy, admits those names are fading memories for him but he recalls another former schools' 100m champion, Nick Smith. He was the only Scot in the British men's athletics team at last year's Olympic Games.

"I've been reading the names of schools track champions and it's fantastic to get my name on such a historic trophy," Colin says.

"My target was always to win the 100m and to achieve 10.93 seconds was a personal best for me. It was the first time I'd run under 11 seconds and I was pleased.

"I didn't really expect too much in the 200m, so it was a bonus to win that, also in a personal best of 22.6 seconds."

Colin is one of 21 athletes at the Glasgow School of Sport - the only school of its kind in Britian - and he has found the structured approach to academic and athletic excellence is paying off.

He could have opted to leave school after achieving As in Higher English, history, modern studies, chemistry and PE at Balfron High lat year. Instead he chose to change schools for his final year.

The school of sport offers specialised coaching in badminton, gymnastics, hockey and swimming as well as athletics and fits sport into the curriculum by a reduction in PE, religious education and technology subjects.

Pupils can be accepted at all ages and can study for as many as six Standard grades in S4, three or four Highers in S5 and another three or four in S6. Apart from careers in law, medicine and veterinary science, which require specific Higher qualifications in one sitting, the school can meet the qualifications for most careers.

Colin has just sat Highers in maths and psychology and has been accepted to study psychology at Glasgow University.

He started athletics in his final year at primary school when he joined Victoria Park Athletics Club and in recent years had been coached by Hugh Baillie before moving to the school of sport. There is no doubt it has provided the sprinter with the platform he has needed. Working under specialist athletics coach Frank Rafferty at the school, he has seen his track times get better and better.

Last year, the 17-year-old concedes, he seemed to have hit a wall at around the 11.2 seconds mark for 100m. He clocked 11.21 at last year's Scottish Schools Track Championships in fourth position.

"The structured coaching I have received has helped and my fitness has improved," Colin explains. "You are not going to work miracles in the space of a year but my times have improved and I feel that Frank is developing my potential. I even went warm weather training with him to Gran Canaria earlier this year, which was a good experience.

"The school of sport is just what I needed and it would be an ideal situation to have more throughout the country.

"It is more flexible than a normal school timetable. A typical day starts with a period of strength and conditioning with other athletes before going to academic classes and the day finishes with sports training sessions and specific individual coaching.

"It works for me. In some ways, I maybe wished I'd found out about the school of sport sooner but I wanted to get my Highers first and there was a lot of stress sitting five last year."

Now, after his performances at Grangemouth, he expects to be in the Scotland team for the British Track and Field International in Cardiff next month.

There is an outside chance of him making Scotland's team for next year's Commonwealth Games. Colin admits that it is a long shot at this stage but how he improves this summer will determine whether he will be going to Melbourne next March.

"I thought that with my speed, I would be able to do something in athletics," he says. "So, this could be just the beginning for me."

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