Saturday 11th July 2009
The sun came out to shine on the Johnstone Park to mark the 153rd anniversary games. Proceedings got underway with the arrival on to the field of De Gronne Tambourkorps, a fifes and drums band from Denmark who, proudly carrying their national flag, played for some 20 minutes, marching around the arena. They were followed on to the field by the pipes and drums of the Dungillie Pipe Band, also from Denmark, and current Grade 4 champions at home. They performed a mini tattoo to the delight of the crowd which was already at numbers never previously seen before the games actually got under way.
The Alloa Bowmar Pipe Band was led on to the field by Chairman, Provost Derek Stewart, Lord Lieutenant, Sheena Cruickshank, Games President Campbell Lyon, our guest of honour, Philip Paris, Chairman of the Scottish Section of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain and his wife, Hayley and last year's guest of honour, Roy Ramage. Philip opened the games officially and they went on to last almost six full hours.
160 dancers from around the globe took to the boards in one of the largest competitions ever witnessed and the heavy weight competition was graced by athletes from Poland, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and of course closer to home. Polish strong man Sebastian Wenta finally managed to toss the caber which for two years had refused to be turned. He went on to win the overall points competition with 40 points and with a ten point advantage over second placed Aaron Neighbour of Melbourne, Victoria.
The athletics were of the highest quality and quantity. Five full heats sprinted up the undulating slope that makes up the sprint track with the eventual wiiner, Ken Telfer from Canberra lifting the J B Yates trophy. He did so in 2007 and was so taken with Alva that he decided to return to try it again and in spite of a tight heat, he found enough to take top prize in the final. In the spirit of international co-operation, Ken declined the sash which had been donated by Victoria trainer John Henry and his wife, Maree, and gave this to second placed, David Watson of Kilbarchan AC.
Two great performances from Scott Robertson of Dunfermline in the 400 and 800 metres handicaps earned him the Johnstone Torphy as athlete of the day. In the youths, Alva first timer, Craig Wellcoat of Law & District AC, who ran in every race open to him, picked up the James Hunter Memorial Trophy as Junior Athlete of the day after a 3rd place in the 400m and wins in both the 800 and 1600 metres, the latter from the scratch mark.
You know that when the name of Oliphant appears on the card, the cycling is going to be spectacular. And so it proved. Although both Evan and older brother, Lewis, both missed the first race (800m won by Dumbarton's James Melville) they were soon picking up the cash in the longer distances. Scotland Commonwealth games representative Evan came into his own taking back the Scottish 3200 metres championship and coming second to brother Lewis in the Deil tak the hindmost by just a 1/4 of a length. Lewis collected the Cunningham Cup as the cyclist with most points overall.
The hill races are always spectacular and 2009 saw a 21st century first with Seniors winner Alastair Dunn of Helm Hill Runners in Kendal taking the top prize for the fourth year running, the first time since legendary fell runner, Tom Sedgwick, did so back in the 1970's. A delighted Dunn was thrilled with his own performance and is now going to try to beat the 20 minute barrier to which he has come tantalisingly close but not yet breached. He set off like an express train and was first to the summit - also for the first time - and came in over 70 seconds ahead of second place. 53 runners came behind him with Val Done of Bradley near Skipton smashing her previous best to be first lady home. Alva games Committee member, Ryan Martin, was the first local home in a very creditable 12th place.
Thomas Sessford in the distinctive Keighley & Craven vest was the winner of the under 17 race (for the second time) and the under 12 and 14 races went to Neil Orr of Border Harriers (an Alva debut performance) and James Knox of Kendal respectively who has won previously at the games.
Foreign visitors flocked to the Johnstone Park in record numbers with participants in the visitors' races coming from as far afield as Australia, USA, Switzerland, France and Ghana! The action did not stop until well after 6pm but the masses remained until the final good night came over the airwaves. Games Secretary, Craig Dunbar, said "I said last year that they had been the most enjoyable games I had experienced since joining the Committee but this year has simply blown that away. The hard part is going to be in keeping up the standard for 2010. The works starts now!"