FORMER Gala rugby player James Parker has run his way towards favouritism for the 150th New Year Sprint.

The former youth champion from Hawick impressed in the final heat at Meadowmill on Sunday – beating pre-race fancy Marcus Archer by over a metre at the line with a time of 11.33 seconds.

But Parker will face tough opposition from previous race winners Calum McWilliam and Greg Kelly, both from East Kilbride.

Defending champion McWilliam broke the tape in 11.40, inches ahead of fastest losers West Linton’s Stacey Downie and Ian Horsburgh from Doune.

And Kelly was equally impressive as he clocked the fastest time of the day with 11.25 to win heat six from Carlisle’s Joseph Connelly.

Despite being a 400 metres specialist teenager Billy Doyle showed great speed to win heat 10 with relative comfort in a time of 11.28.

Lasswade’s Murray Blair also had a metre or two to spare as he clocked 11/37 to win heat five.

But with less than three metres separating all 12 winners and eight fastest losers, the 150th New Year Sprint is the most open its been for decades.

Innerleithen’s Rianna Sterricks proved uncatchable in heat nine to win in a time of 11.36 seconds.

And, despite being the slowest winner, Megan Busby-Bell looked comfortable in claiming heat two in 11.52.

Kelso’s Douglas Young could be a dark horse as he won an almighty duel with Giffnock’s Alessandro Schenini to claim heat eight in a time of 11.43.

McWilliam and Kelly’s training partner at East Kilbride, Iain McEwan, did well to hold off Ecclefechan’s Oliver Wagner to claim heat 11.

New Year Sprint cross-ties (run at Musselburgh Racecourse on New Year’s Day)

Cross-tie 1:

Stacey Downie  Edinburgh AC 20.0

Alexander Young Larkhall 9.75

Greg Kelly E Kilbride AC 5.5

Cameron Smith Central AC 15.5

Alessandro Schenini Giffnock N AC 10.0

Cross-tie 2:

Oliver Wagner   Ecclefachan 10.5

Iain McEwan E Kilbride AC 12.0

Billy Doyle Pitreavie AC 10.5

Douglas Young  Kelso 9.25

Euan Urquart VP Glasgow AC 10.5

Cross-tie 3:

Ian Horsburgh   Doune  10.0

Antony Daffrun   Harrow AC   9.0

James Parker Hawick    8.25

Calum McWilliam E Kilbride AC   8.25

Marcus Archer  Aberdeen    9.75

Cross-tie 4:

Max Leslie Edinburgh AC 9.0

Megan Busby-Bell Carlisle Aspatria 20.5

Rianna Sterricks  Lasswade AC 23.0

Murray Blair Lasswade AC 11.0

Joseph Connelly  Carlisle Aspatria 10.0