Jayne Barnetson, b Dingwall, 21 January 1968. High jumper and heptathlete whose Scottish records have lasted over 30 years. (Photo: John Scott)
Inverness’s Jayne Barnetson’s performances in the high jump and the heptathlon, set in the 1980s, remained as the best performances by a Scottish athlete in the events throughout the 1990s and beyond.
Jayne was an all-round sportswoman, including golf and cricket, and the first indications of all-round athletics talent came as a 14-year-old in 1982 when she topped the junior girls’ (under-15) rankings at long jump and pentathlon and was 2nd ranked in the high jump, having won all three events in the Scottish Schools’ Championships. The standards hold up well with today’s performances where a 1.68 metres high jump and 5.30 long jump would rank in the top three under-15 girls 20 years on. The following year, the attention clearly focused on the high jump where her 1.76 ranked her 2nd in the Scottish senior ranks at age 15. The improvement was rapid – 1.85 in 1984 saw her gain her first British international honour, against Yugoslavia in September. In 1985, she won her first Scottish senior high jump title and was joint second at the WAAA Championships. In fine late season form, she twice reached 1.88 in August for new Scottish record figures, bettering Moira Maguire’s 1.87 set in 1980. She first set the new figures when winning the Under-21 home countries international at Middlesbrough, then when placing 4th at the European Junior Championships in Cottbus. A week later, she cleared 1.85 to win the high jump contest for Scotland in an international against Israel in Tel Aviv.
She was a model of consistency in her high jumping and, in 1986, she again cleared 1.88, backed up by 4 other jumps of 1.85 or better. She gained selection for Great Britain at the World Junior Championships in Athens in July where, like the Europeans the previous year, she frustratingly finished 4th, just out of the medals, with a fine 1.86. She returned to Edinburgh for the Commonwealth Games at the end of the month where she did well to finish 7th (1.83) in a good quality competition where the first four were over 1.90, but an ankle injury sustained at the Games caused her to be carried off on a stretcher from the field and her career was then to take a different direction.
It was a quieter year in 1987, although she did win her second Scottish title. Injury and a wish to test her abilities over the multi-events discipline meant that high jumping took a back seat as she turned her attention to the heptathlon in 1988. She achieved remarkable results – in her first attempt at the event, she won the Scottish title with 5,331 points, before representing Scotland in Prague in her next attempt. There she finished 6th in a multi-nations international against the home nation, Czechoslovakia, France and Hungary. Scotland finished 4th of the four, but Barnetson set new Scottish record figures of 5,606 points. Included within her performance was a 1.86 high jump, a 6.07 long jump, and 14.86 seconds over the hurdles. The multi-event ability extended beyond the heptathlon: she also topped the ranking lists that year at 400 metres hurdles with a 60.79 run for Scotland in Greece.
The peak of her achievements and, sadly, her last year in the sport, was in 1989. Her high jumping was strong as always, although she no longer considered herself a high jumper as her ankle injury prevented her training full time for the event. She cleared 1.87 to win a 6-Nations international for Scotland in Antrim then, at the Miller Lite IAC international at Meadowbank on 7 July, she went head to head with the American Jan Wohlschlag. Jayne cleared 1.70 first time, then Wohlschlag came in and cleared 1.75 with her first jump as did Jayne; both had first-time successes at 1.80, 1.85 and a Scottish record equalling 1.88. Both failed 1.91 on the first attempt, then cleared on the second. They went no higher, but the American won as she had fewer jumps during the contest. One week later, she represented Great Britain in the European Cup for Combined Events, recording 5,548 points. Then in August, she added nearly 200 points to her Scottish record, reaching 5,803 points in Kiev. The score was achieved in adversity, after a horrendous journey to Russia. Initially the flight was delayed due to a cabin crew strike. Upon arrival, luggage went missing. The party had been advised that they would be flying to Kiev, but it became apparent that this was not the case. The German team withdrew when they, too, discovered they were to travel the rest of the journey by train. After a thunderstorm in Red Square, the team travelled on an overnight train (resembling something out of the war) for a 12-hour sleepless journey. Arriving in Kiev at 11.00 a.m. on competition day, the event was held up to allow the team to freshen up. Jayne went out to her first event and recorded a personal best 14.50 in the hurdles. With a 1.85 high jump to follow, another PB in the 200 (25.29) and a 43.14 javelin best, Jayne smashed her Scottish record. These 1989 Scottish records in the high jump (1.91) and heptathlon (5,803) have been unmatched until this day.
In 1990, she never competed and was forced to announce her retirement at the age of 22, her career ended at its peak by a further ankle injury sustained in an indoor 60 metres hurdles in advance of the 1990 Commonwealth Games where she had been selected for both the heptathlon and the high jump. She went on to a career in nursing. Her brother David was a successful high jumper, winning 3 consecutive Scottish titles between 1995 and 1997, and reaching a best of 2.20 metres in 1997.