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Athletics: Aberdeen is home from home for Lucas Davidson

Inverness sprinter has enjoyed his recent trips to the Granite City.

Lucas Davidson on the track
Inverness sprinter Lucas Davidson Image supplied by Scottish Athletics.

Youngster Lucas Davidson may be an Invernesian born and bred, but when it comes to competition venues, his favourite track lies quite some distance from his hometown.

Both the 2021 and 2023 editions of the Scottish Age-Group Championships have been held in Aberdeen, and on both occasions, Davidson has picked up two national titles – quite some record given the standard of competition offered at national level.

In 2021, when Davidson was competing in the under-13 category, he took gold in the 100m and 200m, edging out Giffnock North’s Zander Summerhill over both distances.

Last month, with the Scottish Age-Group Championships returning to the north-east of Scotland, Davidson managed to repeat the feat with remarkable consistency: same events, same result. The runner-up was even from the same club as the second-placed finisher two years prior.

Lucas Davidson has had a successful season

Davidson now ends another successful season top of the Scottish rankings in three sprint events: the 60m, 100m, and 200m.

Oddly enough, Inverness’s club records over the sprint distances remain intact. The club’s under-13 100m and 200m records are still held by Iain Wallace, who set the times in the late 1980s.

The under-15 records are similarly difficult to surpass: Colin Allan’s 11.2sec has stood since 1988, and Peter Durham’s 23.13sec, set in 1980 for the 200m, remains unbroken with a legal windspeed.

Given the Culloden Academy pupil’s recent successes, one senses he may not be too fussed.

Guided by his grandad

Davidson has been guided throughout the early stages of his career by his grandad, Chris Bryden, who himself was a cross-country runner with East Kilbride in his heyday.

Being coached by an old-hand has its advantages. When Davidson prepared for the age-group championships as an under-13 in 2021, his grandad knew he stood a chance, but it was an inkling he kept well hidden, as Davidson explained.

Lucas Davidson and three other sprinters, Davidson in the lead
Lucas Davidson winning the 100m at the Forres Highland Games in July.

He said: “I didn’t know I was any good at running. My coach did, but he kept it a secret from me. He didn’t tell me I had a chance of getting in the medal positions (before the age-group championships in 2021). I wasn’t the top-ranked athlete but I went down to Aberdeen and I won.”

Although Bryden has only taken a more hands-on approach coaching Davidson in recent years – he is now a qualified coach and part of the Inverness Harriers set-up – he has always been involved in Davidson’s career in one sense or another.

Emma Davidson, Lucas’s mum, said: “His grandpa has been with him since the beginning to give Lucas advice, because that’s what he needed when he was a bit younger.”

“Having my grandad as my coach has its perks,” Lucas added. “I can always speak to him. He’s a family member and I get to see him a lot because he lives just round the corner from us. I have another level of understanding which I might not get from a normal coach.”

Learning to cope with pressure, as well as not winning, is another important lesson which Davidson has been learning as a young athlete. Going into last month’s championships, there was no hiding the fact he was the pre-competition favourite this time around.

“There was certainly a lot of pressure,” Davidson said. “The guy who came second has been my main competitor all year.

“We’ve been neck and neck – one race I’ll win and then the other race he’ll win. It was definitely a way bigger championship going into it, knowing it was going to be a proper fight for first place.”

Benefits of Birmingham experience

One week after Davidson’s double gold in Aberdeen, the teenager headed with his mum to the Midlands to contest the England National Championships at Birmingham’s Commonwealth Stadium.

The experience for both of them was something of an eye-opener. Davidson had seen the stadium full to capacity one year earlier at the 2022 Commonwealth Games – preparation of a sort, one might think – but being there as the competitor as opposed to the spectator is a different kind of pressure.

“It was a little bit overwhelming at first,” he said. “It is a huge step up from Inverness competitions, and there are a lot more officials than we’re used to. You come here (in Inverness) and the competitions are very well organised, but you go down there and you’ve got to wear special lanyards, there’s a private warm-up track – it’s a huge, huge stadium surrounding you, like, crazily huge.

“After your first couple of rounds you settle in a little bit, and realise that you are meant to be there. The Irish, Welsh, English, champions all run ridiculously quick times. I go down there as the Scottish champion, and I know that I should be there, but at the same time they are such a league up from you – it’s mental.”

‘I was a little bit overwhelmed’

Bryden, however, remained the calming influence over the weekend for both Lucas and his mum.

Mrs Davidson said: “My heart goes 100 beats per minute when Lucas is racing – I think my heart rate goes at the same rate his does.

“I was a little bit overwhelmed. It definitely helped having grandpa there, because he was a registered coach for the weekend.

“He got access with Lucas to do all the warm-ups and could go to the areas I wouldn’t get to as a spectator; that definitely helped ease the nerves for Lucas a little bit, having him by his side all the way through it.”

Whatever his grandad said to keep the nerves at bay, it seemed to work – Davidson ran his fastest legal 100m time of the season in the semi-final in Birmingham, a time of 11.50sec to put him top of the Scottish rankings by 0.29sec.

Though slightly down on his best, Davidson’s 200m times in Birmingham were still impressive – identical performances of 23.82sec in both the heat and the semi-final were strong showings for the final competition of the season.

“We just want him to come off thinking he’s done well,” Ms Davidson added. “He could come first or last and I’d be proud of him no matter what, but you just want him to come off the track feeling he’s had a good run.”

Should the national championships come back round to Aberdeen any time soon, young Lucas Davidson may well fancy his chances.