NEIL GOURLEY: from Giffnock to the Emirates via the USA to race Europe’s Finest
Neil recently noted on Twitter that he could not really believe he would be racing for Team GB at the European Indoor Championships. However, given the relentless development and progress he has made as a young athlete in Scotland and also since his decision to pursue his athletics career in the United States,we at Giffnock North are not surprised at all, just delighted with his success.
It is only fitting that we should reprint here a fuller outline of Neil’s journey to the Euro Champs wearing a GB vest in the 1500m. We also celebrate the statistic that he takes his place in a British Team which has the largest contingent of Scottish Athletes representing GB in 50 Years
New 600m PB 1.19.16 (Giffnock North AC club record)
New 800m PB 1.47.04 (3rd in 2018 Scottish rankings; 12th in all time Scottish rankings; 4th in all time Scottish indoor 800m rankings; Giffnock North AC club record)
New 1500m PB 3.35.98 (4th in 2018 Scottish rankings; 7th in Scottish all time rankings; Giffnock North AC club record)
New mile PB 3.57.11 (3rd in 2018 Scottish rankings; 12th in Scottish all time rankings; Giffnock North AC club record)
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) 800m champion.
Member of the Virginia Tech National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Distance Medley Relay championship winning team. (First national track title for VT.)
British Athletics Championships (including European trials) 3rd place
Athletics World Cup (first senior vest for GB) 3rd place
IAAF Diamond League Anniversary Games 8th place (Diamond League debut)
Scottish Athletics 1500m National Champion (1st senior national championship)
IAAF Diamond League (Emsley Carr Mile) 8th place
Long Island Mile 3rd Place
5th Avenue Mile 3rd place
As can be seen from the above, 2018 has been a breakthrough year for Neil. He completed his college running career where he has competed for 5 years for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) by anchoring his DMR team to victory in the NCAA championships. The DMR is a unique event in which the four team members run legs of 1200m, 400m. 800m and one mile. It’s very highly regarded and this was not only the first time that Virginia Tech had won it but was the first national track title ever secured by the university.
With his outdoor eligibility finished Neil was able to concentrate on achieving the times and places he needed to gain a place in the British team for the European Championships – his biggest target for the season. To do so he had to bring his 1500m PB down from 3.39.92 to under the qualifying standard of 3.37.5 and, to guarantee selection, finish first or second in the trials. Having not managed to achieve the qualifying time in the lead up to the trials he first had to concentrate on placing there. Scots again dominated the final, taking all the medals, with Neil missing out on the 2nd spot and automatic qualifying position by .01 of a second to Jake Wightman, who subsequently went on to win the bronze medal in the Euro Champs. Neil finishing third left the decision up to the selectors even if he managed to secure the qualifying time which he duly did in the exotically named Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy, running 3.36.54 on 11 July. The selectors, however decided to pick the athlete who had finished fourth in the trials for the Euro Championships.
Missing out on Berlin, although a huge disappointment, gave Neil the opportunity to compete in the Scottish Championships where he won his first national title, just holding off a strong challenge from one of the next generation of Scottish middle-distance runners, Sol Sweeney.
Neil was selected to represent GB and NI in the first ever staging of the Athletics World Cup, held in London’s magnificent Olympic Stadium. Neil finished a very creditable third, earning a bronze medal and helping the GB team to an overall third place in the competition.
Neil’s performance also saw him selected to compete in his first Diamond League event which was held just a week later in the same venue. In a world class field, Neil finished 8th, improving his PB to 3.35.98.
Having graduated in Mechanical Engineering, Neil moved to Eugene, Oregon or ‘Tracktown USA’ as it’s known to join the Oregon Track Club Elite where he is teammates with the likes of Nijel Amos, Hassan Mead and Francine Nyonsaba.
His first big target for 2019 was to qualify for the British Team to compete in the 2019 European Championships being held in Glasgow. With the same selection rules in place the stakes were high, at the British Championships in Birmingham in early February with a top two finish again required to guarantee a place on the team. Neil timed his run perfectly in the final to overtake Elliot Giles to become British 1500m Champion and book his place on the team.
The article below from the Oregon Track Club Elite’s website gives some further detail on his season to date.
EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon Track Club Elite’s Neil Gourley couldn’t have asked for a better start to his professional career.
In just five indoor races this season, the 24-year-old native of Scotland has lowered his indoor personal best in the 1,500 meters by more than six seconds, claimed his first British Indoor national title in that event, and secured a berth in the European Athletics Indoor Championships, March 1-3, in his hometown of Glasgow.
He can’t wait to compete on the global stage in front of his most ardent supporters.
“It’s difficult to put into words how special it will be to compete in these Championships in Glasgow,” Gourley said. “It will be my first time competing in a senior international championship, and I have the privilege of doing so on a track I have trained at countless times. I’ll also be running in front of many of my friends and family, so I’m determined to defend the house against Europe’s best milers.”
The former standout at Virginia Tech tuned up for the European Championships by posting an indoor 1,500m PR of 3 minutes, 38.32 seconds at the Muller Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix last Saturday (Feb. 16). He set his previous best of 3:44.76 in winning the 1,500m title at the British Indoor Championships.
Still, Gourley was far from satisfied with his eighth-place performance in an epic indoor race that featured a world record of 3:31.04 by Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera; the third-fastest time in history by Ethiopian runner-up Yomif Kejelcha at 3:31.58; an Australian national record; and 10 personal bests among the 14 finishers.
“I’m sure at some point I’ll look back on this race and be glad that I was a part of such a historic occasion,” Gourley said.
“But to be completely honest, my initial reaction was that I couldn’t believe that I’d just lost by 7 seconds. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that far behind over 1,500m! Time trial style races have never been a strength of mine but I am determined to improve on this and being involved in this level of competition will allow me to do so.”
He will get his chance with the opening round of the 1,500m on March 1 at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
Thanks to Ronnie Gourley, Neil’s proud father for this and to various people for the photos