When teenage athlete Caelidh Ross, from Sutton, took part in her first competitive race, she was so naive that she didn’t even know which lane to stand in.
Now she is a multiple champion at national, regional and county levels, and has landed a prestigious four-year scholarship to one of the top sports universities in the USA.
Caelidh, 19, showed more than enough in that debut race as a ten-year-old competing in a county championship at U13 level to suggest she was a rare talent. And strong clues had also emerged from her first-ever cross-country event when she took on more than 130 youngsters at Berry Hill in Mansfield. Expected to finish down the field, she won it!
“That was when we realised she could run!” said dad Doug, 53. “We were flabbergasted, so I asked Richard Massey, a coach at Mansfield Harriers, to take a look at her. He couldn’t believe it.” Doug and wife Alison, 49, ran for Harriers for many years, extending a strong family link with the club. “But Caelidh has more talent than the lot of us put together,” Doug says. “She is a bit of a freak.”
The rest is history as Caelidh joined Harriers and later had a spell with Leicester Coritanians AC, developing a reputation as one of the best young 800m runners in the country. Caelidh, of Lucknow Drive, peaked at U17 level when she was ranked in the top five in the world and became the fastest-ever 800m runner in the Midlands at that age. As well as her plethora of titles, she earned a UK Athletics scholarship in which she was mentored by leading British 800m runner Jenny Meadows and identified as someone with the potential to make athletics her career.
Now, after a rare disappointing season when she was found to have a magnesium deficiency, the Scot is taking the most exciting step so far of that career.
A former pupil at Quarrydale Academy in Sutton and West Notts College, Caelidh received no fewer than 27 offers from the USA before plumping for the Stephen F.Austin University in Texas, where she has started studies for a degree in kinesiology, which is the mechanics of body movement.
“But she is really there to run,” said Doug. “She will be competing at the top level of US university sport, and she says she is loving it”
Her new coach Cody Clark says: “She is one of the top young talents in Britain, and I can see her breaking university records very quickly in her career here.”