PEEBLESSHIRE teenager Ryan Houten is making a return to the track next month in an effort to bid farewell to his bridesmaid tag.

The Cardrona sprinter has finished runner-up twice in the world-famous New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse - in 2015 and 2016.

And he’s even coaxed legendary Innerleithen coach Charlie Russell out of retirement in a bid to finally break the tape at the world’s oldest footrace.

But the handicapper, Adam Crawford, hasn’t been too kind to Houten, who will start from 0.75 metres further back than when he finished just behind Jazmine Tomlinson two years ago.

The handicaps for the 149th New Year Sprint were published this week.

And it would appear youth could shine during both the heats at Meadowmill and also at finals day on Musselburgh Racecourse.

Reigning Scottish Schools champion Alexander Young from Larkhall runs from the same 8.25 metres handicap as Houten.

The teenager clocked 11.19 when winning the title at Grangemouth in the summer and looks like one of the picks for the £4,000 prize on offer on January 1.

Edinburgh AC’s Michael Olsen runs from the back mark of 1.5 metres.

The Scottish Under 20s champion has a PB of 10.45 – and has gone even faster with wind assistance this year.

Teenager Olsen will certainly eat up the yards but the 1.5 metre start may be asking too much for a podium place in the final.

Fellow teenager Drew McIntyre from Glasgow is a sub 11-second 100 metre runner – and should also sweep through the fields from 7.75 metres.

Last year’s runner-up hasn’t enjoyed the best preparation, but Jordan Charters from Dolphinton is certainly one to be considered.

The painter and decorator has recently been competing at the World Skills finals in Dubai – and only returned to the track last month.

But, from just 0.25 metres worse off than last year, he could well be in the shake up on finals day.

Hawick’s Dylan Ali, who won the New Year Sprint in 2014, has stepped up in distance over the past few seasons, becoming one of country’s top 400 metres runners.

Starting from just 5 metres will likely prevent Ali repeating the heroics of four years ago.

Another 400 metres specialist who is hoping to adapt to the shorter sprint is Edinburgh teenager Sandy Wilson.

Having clocked times around 11 seconds for the 100 metres in recent years, he may be one to watch from his handicap of 8.25 metres.

Two former winners from Hawick are making a return after an absence from the track.

A serious car crash left Daniel Paxton sidelined for over a year.

But the 2010 winner is capable of making progress from the heats off his 11 metres mark, if he is anywhere close to his best.

The 2009 winner, Leigh Marshall, will also be looking to progress from 9 metres.

Galashiels teenager Cameron Caldwell is starting from 0.5 metres further back than last year when he finished fourth in the final behind East Kilbride’s Greg Kelly.

With a good summer of low 11 second 100 metres runs behind him the TLJT teenager will be hoping to be in the mix yet again from 9 metres.

Kelly, who was an impressive winner last year, has been pulled 3.25 metres to a start off 5 metres but should have enough speed to be in the cross ties draw yet again.

Lasswade’s Kieran Reilly is another who should progress through the heats and cross-ties from his handicap of 10 metres.

And he could be the one to push Young for the title.

Selkirk’s Iain Douglas, who won the youths 800 metres back in 2008, makes a return to the track following a two-year lay-off.

And he will do well to reach the cross-ties from his handicap of 11 metres.

Kelso’s Josh Abbot (11.25), TLJT’s Scott Tindle (11.50) and Gala’s James Park (12.50) all have chances of progressing from the 10 heats on Saturday, December 30.

Leading the ladies’ charge will be West Linton’s Stacey Downie. The 28-year-old schoolteacher, who is a former Scottish and UK Under 23s sprint champion, has found a new lease of life since stepping up to 400 metres.

And she is still capable of going close over 110 metres from her 18 metres start – 0.5 metres better than when she finished fourth in the final three years ago.

Improving TLJT flyer Emily Dagg is 0.5 metres further back than when she finished third last year.

But, having also finished seventh in 2016, she has the pedigree to yet again make the final of Monday, January 1 from her handicap of 20 metres.

Tweedbank-based TLJT will also be hoping Sophie Elder (21), Christie Rout (23.5), and Nina Cessford (26.5) can progress from the heats.

Peebles High school pupil Rianna Sterricks has enjoyed a successful first year in the seniors and she should progress from the heats for her Leithenburn club from 22.5 metres.

Peebles twins Samantha (22.5) and Natasha (24) Turnbull are also capable of making it through to the second day’s cross-ties and finals following encouraging runs on the Highland Games circuit.

Veteran Craig Sowerby will be another to watch from 13 metres, having finished third three years ago from a start 2.5 metres further back than his 2018 handicap of 13 metres.

Former Berwick Rangers footballer Graeme Armstrong is also flying the flag for the veterans – and shouldn’t be too far away from his mark of 21.5 metres.

And Selkirk oldies Colin Bruce (16.5) and Craig Douglas (26.5) will both be hoping to turn back the clock with progress from the heats.

The heats of the 2018 New Year Sprint will take place at Meadowmill in East Lothian on Saturday, December 30, with the cross-ties and final on New Year's Day at Musselburgh Racecourse.