“I’ve been racing Gina since I was 8 or 9 years old. It was always me or her who used to win Nationals [Irish Athletics National Championships]. As the years went on, more people started getting more competitive in Ireland and it wasn’t just us two anymore. Then all of a sudden you have an international relay team.”
In July 2018, Molly Scott was part of the historic Irish relay team alongside (friendly) rival Gina Akpe-Moses, Ciara Neville, Patience Jumbo-Gula and Rhasidat Adeleke. As a team, they went onto claim silver at the World U20 Junior Championships. This was the first major outdoor championships relay medal in Irish athletics history. In the process they set a new National Irish U20 record with a time of 43.90.
Carlow’s Molly Scott is an Irish international sprinter and hurdler, who has been running since she was 7-years-old. A motivated, resilient and mentally strong athlete, Scott had been under the watchful eye of her coach and mother, Deirdre, since she was just 12-years-old.
Unlike most athletes, Scott is used to primarily training on her own and the unusual isolation training during lockdown was not something new. The sprinter admits that often people can be sceptical about a parent coaching their child, but continued her choice of being coached by her mother and close friend. With opportunities in Dublin and abroad presenting themselves, Scott opted for Carlow IT to pursue her third level education, in order to remain close to home and continue a structure that had been working.
“I lived at home and she is with me a lot of the time. Some people think it’s too much for a parent to be a coach, that the relationship is too close but for us it’s really worked. She knows what’s going on in my day, she knows if I’ve had a hard or bad day, knows if I have gotten my period and can modify training to whatever has maybe happened that day. I think it’s been really beneficial for me. We have a good relationship out of athletics too; we do have other interests.”
Each year, as a team, they have added on something new, building on the year before.
“I have seen huge improvements in fitness and strength, working into longer distances and harder endurance sessions as I got older. Previously my body broke down.” Scott has seen great changes in the past few years, admitting that teenage years, particularly during Leaving Cert, were difficult on her physically. Her strength and resilience continued to improve as she developed as an athlete and moved into adulthood.
Last September, things changed. Scott was invited to join Shane McCormack’s training group and was immediately welcomed in. It represents a big change for Scott who also moved away from home for the first time – now she’s sharing a house with Phil Healy as one of her housemates.
With that said, it’s been a bizarre twelve months for everyone and Scott is no exception. With races and events postponed, competitions have been few and far between for the St. Laurence O’Toole AC runner. Nevertheless, in what was a season opener and her only opportunity to qualify for the 2021 European Indoor Athletics Championships in Torun this weekend, Scott posted 7.36 in the 60m to take first place at the Irish Life Micro Meet and secure a European Indoor Standard in the process.
This will be Scott’s second time wearing the green Irish vest at senior level. In 2019, the Carlow IT student qualified for the European Indoors in Glasgow after winning the 60m sprint in Abbotstown. She will be looking to go one better this time at the European Indoors. In 2019, Scott finished sixth in her heat, failing to qualify for the final. Scott ran a time of 7.43 and missed out on a fastest qualification place by 0.3 seconds.
Enduring the highs and lows, injuries, plateaus in performance or other aspects of life getting in the way, it can be difficult to always maintain a love of sport. Particularly during teenage years, the comradery and friendships of a team, can be a huge motivating factor to stay in sport. Team mates get you through the tough times and encourage you to keep going.
The Hacketstown native’s path to success has been different, with an impressive mental strength and display of determination. “It’s pretty much always been my mom and I. I’m used to training alone and don’t know any different. I’m used to having to push myself and be my own motivation.”
While enjoying training, she admits it can be tough. “Don’t get me wrong, there are really horrible days but you have to remember it’s not life or death, it’s just sport. Sometimes it can feel like the end of the world, but no matter what happens, it could be the worst session in the world, but the next day we get up and go again.”
Having completed a three-year law degree at IT Carlow, Scott recalls the struggle of managing her Leaving Cert and aspirations of being a professional athlete.
“I found it hugely difficult that year. I studied a lot, I needed to do the study but found it all very very hard. I have always had to travel one or two hours to a track because there isn’t one near me. It takes time. During my Leaving Cert year, I was probably getting 5 hours sleep a night. I’m really lucky that I enjoy my degree. I split my final year, which has made it easier to manage.”
“It’s not being handed to me, I have to put in the effort.”
Scott competes in sprint distances, as well as hurdling, which can all be very technical and require a great understanding of your body.
“I haven’t been as successful in the hurdles as I would like to be. It’s something that I want to be good at and want to be better at. I know it’s in there, I know it will align and I will be the hurdler that I want to be. It’s all about patience and it will come for me. Hurdles takes up a lot of time because it’s so technical. I like the combination of working for both (hurdles and sprinting). I think hurdling helps me to be a better sprinter.”
It’s been long journey since she first started at 7-years-old. Discussing the move up to senior level, Scott says “It has been different, but at the end of the day it’s the same thing, just harder. European U23s was my first international step out of Junior. I really enjoyed it, had such a great time. I competed in the hurdles and the 100m, making the 100m final which was a big deal for me. It was the most I’ve ever enjoyed a competition in my life and it’s great to be at that at 20 and feel you still enjoy it and haven’t burnt out.”
The sprinter has been performing on the international stage for a few years in both an individual and team capacity. “Representing Ireland means an awful lot as you step on the track wearing your country colours. We definitely have some big athletics prospects in the next few years and I’m really happy to be part of it.”
“In the relay, we’re all so used to competing against each other and wanting to beat each other, but then you come together. The team at the U20s had a good dynamic. Over the years we have built up a relationship so that it does work well. The past few years it’s been really really good.”
As with any team sport, there are always going to be challenges. “Sometimes it is difficult. It’s competitive because at the end of the day it’s the fastest four. You are working hard to keep your spot. Technically it can be difficult. Being the sub can really motivate you for the next year and to do better. Someone has to be the sub and it teaches you a lot. Everyone has to do it and to be honest, I think it motivates you more. Anything can change, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Looking to the future, Scott has her eyes on some more international competitions. “I do want to be better. The pressure comes on a bit more as you get older. I look at it like “pressure is a privilege.” You don’t want to go out in the heats. It has happened to me and I felt I don’t want this to happen again. You can’t dwell on it but build on it.”
“Sport has taught me a lot; more of an education than school has been for me. You learn how to communicate with adults and other people from a young age. You learn how to travel. There’s more responsibility of yourself. It teaches you life skills.”
“It’s not possible to always be in a good mental state and sport taught me a lot about myself. In relation to sports psychology, I read a lot of the books. I have seen a sports psychologist a few times, but definitely something I would work on more.”
In sport, you can take for granted the mindset you have as a younger athlete. As an athlete matures and develops, you know what you want, the more you care and can mount more pressure. Younger athletes tend to have a more carefree attitude and whatever happens happens. “You become more self aware as you get older which can take the fun out of it. The older you get, the more fear you get.”