Jemma Reekie’s start to the year has been typical of her recent progression. She has won the Scottish Senior Indoor title over 1500m and been a role-model for others, presenting medals at the Schools Schools Championships just four years on from competing in the event herself. Here’s why we think the Kilbarchan athlete will be ‘One to Watch in 2018’…
Whether it was as a small nine-year-old kid “running round the field at lunchtime” or as now, as European under-20 1500m champion, athletics has always been the only thing Jemma Reekie ever wanted to do.
After a year that proved to be by far and away her “best ever in athletics”, the 19-year-old Scot has gone from running around a rugby pitch to running around the world, regularly training alongside the likes of Great Britain stars Laura Muir, Laura Weightman and Sarah McDonald.
While last year was truly a golden one in more ways than one, this year promises to be on a whole different level, with her recent Nike sponsorship seeing her fulfilling a lifelong ambition of doing the sport she loves full-time.
“It never really hit me until recently that I actually am living my dream”, says Jemma, “if you’d have asked what I wanted to do when I’m older I’d have said ‘I want to be sponsored by Nike, I want to run, I want to travel and just do what I love’ and that’s what I’m doing now.”
Nearly three years of training alongside Laura Muir has seen the Kilbarchan athlete “always learning from her without even knowing” with both pushing each other to the limit in every session on their way to their individual success.
But while Muir has been one of – if not the main – source of recent inspiration for Jemma so far, the teenager has also taken it upon herself to provide motivation to those even younger than her. While many of her peers have headed off to university, Jemma has been visiting primary schools to give regularly talks and workout sessions to hundreds of children throughout Scotland.
“It’s really nice,” says Jemma “I never would have thought I’d be confident enough to do it, but when I went into it, I think nature just pulled me in. I had fun and the kids were really inspired, so it’s great because you don’t think of yourself as someone special, but to these kids you are!”
“I did a half hour assembly and then a session with them and they came back afterwards because they wanted to give me their letters (about how much they enjoyed it) and I’ve kept them and will probably always keep them because if I can inspire just one person then it really is something special.”
As she went from strength to strength on the track last year, on the sidelines Jemma was also completely immersed in working towards a profession that would both earn a living and keep her within the realms of sport.
A less than captivating two years in Sixth Form saw her training course in fitness instructing prove to be the ideal venture and something that she had “always wanted to be”, besides being a professional athlete of course.
“I don’t really enjoy studying,” says Jemma “I know you’re not meant to enjoy it but I’ve never been that interested in it! I’m focused on running for now but when I feel like I’m ready then I’ll carry on my fitness instructing course, because I’ve always wanted to do that, which you don’t have to go to uni for. My parents have been really supportive of that as well, they’ve said ‘if you want to do a job, but don’t have to go to uni than don’t go to uni!’, I’m running really well now…so I’m just happy that I’m doing what I like.”
Despite this being her first full year as a senior, coach Andy Young has big plans for Jemma in 2018, that perhaps not even she anticipated. In 2017, Jemma secured the European under-20 qualifying time for the 800, 1500 and 3000m, eventually choosing to double-up with the two latter events, finishing first and fourth respectively.
With that in mind, along with the World Indoor Championships and European Championships coming up this year, it seems Jemma and Andy want this to be more than just a period trying to settle in amongst the seniors.
“I spoke to my coach Andy around November time last year and he said ‘I think you can get the world indoor qualifying time’ so I was like ‘ok’, but thinking about it now, if Andy believes that I can do it then I’m also sure I can. So we’re trying to get the world indoor qualifying time and also European outdoors as well. I’d never really thought about either, I just thought that since it’s my first year as a senior I’d just try and get experience!”
“But I think part of (having high ambitions this year) is about me being more confident in Andy telling me if what I’m doing is right or if he thinks I can do something. For the worlds, I’m just aiming for the time and if I get picked I get picked, but for the European outdoors now I’ve got my head set on it I really want to go.”
The bar then is certainly set high this season and Jemma certainly seems to have more than enough confidence to achieve her goals. With a platform consisting of training with the best and inspiring young children while she grows within the sport, the next few years could certainly see a few more surprises along on the way.