This time around the hard work had been done by his team-mates but it was apt that the glory leg at yesterday’s Scottish National Cross Country Relay was run by one of the Olympians who are generating hopes of a new golden age of Scottish athletics as Andrew Butchart led the field home at Cumbernauld.

The Central AC runner who finished sixth in the final of the 5000 metres in Rio - a more impressive Olympic debut than double double champion Mo Farah had made in Beijing eight years earlier - was handed a healthy lead after Jamie Crowe had given them a fine start, Michael Wright had powered them into the lead on the second leg and Alistair Hay had reinforced that advantage, making a fifth successive title for the dominant club in men’s Scottish cross country a formality as Butchart set off on the four kilometre circuit.

However the 25-year-old knows that he is engaged in a much closer contest over the next few days as a judging panel decides from among the largest short-list in recent memory, who will win the Scottish Athlete of the Year prize.

“There are so many names you can list from this year that it’s great,” Butchart observed.

He is in no doubt that success has bred success in terms of the overall domestic environment which is having a broader impact as evidenced by the record entry for yesterday’s competition at a time when participation numbers in many sports are dwindling.

“It definitely has a domino effect in my head,” said Butchart.

“When someone has a good run you just want to emulate it or do better and it keeps going and going and going and before we know it we’re all at Olympic Games and in finals and getting close to medals and hopefully we can keep pushing on and who knows what can happen.”

There is satisfaction, too, that the men are beginning to muscle in on what has been a female dominated contest for several years and he believes the evidence suggests that trend will continue.

“It’s still mostly girls, but Callum and I have come through and Guy Learmonth is running well,” Butchart noted.

“Jake Wightman is another one I think is going to come right through to the top. We’re all still really young too which is great. It’s not as if we’ve been at it for a while. This is just the start of what I think could be a great period in Scottish sport and Scottish athletics especially.”

While Callum Hawkins’ Kilbarchan AC team was always expected to be slightly off the pace when it came to medal contention, the down to earth attitude of Butchart’s fellow Olympian, whose profile has similarly been transformed since he led the Olympic marathon then went on, just a couple of weeks ago, to a historic victory in the Great Scottish Run, underlined just why things are going so well.

“I just get on with it. I’m just here to race,” he said of the increased attention.

“It’s good to turn out for the club. They’ve done a lot for us in the past so it’s nice to be able to pay it back.”

Both he and Butchart are set to head to the Pyrenees in the next few days to undertake altitude work with the British team ahead of next month’s trials for the European Cross Country Championships in Liverpool which are expected to be keenly contested.

In the meantime his assessment of his prospects of lifting that athlete of the year award next weekend underlines that sense that the sport is in better health than for many years.

“A couple of people have come up to me and said ‘Surely you’ll win it.’ Then you name the people I’m up against and they say ‘Ah, maybe not,’ but we’ll see,” he laughed.

Already sold out the Scottish Athletics and Jog Scotland Annual Awards dinner takes place in Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel on October 29.


Athlete of the year award contenders:

Andrew Butchart: In first year as a full-time athlete reached the Olympic 5000 metre final where he improved on his own Scottish best after breaking Nat Muir’s 36 year old record earlier in the summer and also beat John Robson’s 32 year old Scottish 3000m record

Andy Douglas: The 29-year-old hill runner is the only non-Olympian in the mix and won the European Mountain Running trial in May, going on to claim a fourth place finish at the European Mountain Running Championships and 11th place in the World Championships

Eilidh Doyle: The European gold and Commonwealth silver 400 metres hurdles finalist claimed an Olympic bronze medal as part of the GB 4x400m relay team drawing her level with Yvonne Murray as Scotland’s most decorated athlete in Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth competition

Callum Hawkins: Caught the eye of the watching world when he led the Olympic Marathon and proved it was no flash in the pan when running away from Ugandan defending champion Moses Kipsiro at this month’s Great Scottish Run

Eilish McColgan: Typical of her lineage the Dundonian daughter of one of Scotland’s greatest ever athletes went to the Olympics in 2012, contesting the 300m steeplechase, then having switched focus to the 5000m, earned her place in Rio and this time made the final

Laura Muir: Broke Kelly Holmes’ British 1500m record at Diamond League meeting in London in July, setting a world best time for the year at that point and went on to finish seventh in the Olympic final before becoming only the third British woman to win a Diamond League title

Lynsey Sharp: The former European champion and Commonwealth silver medallist who is part of another Scottish athletics dynasty, produced the third fastest 800m time ever by a British woman in finishing sixth in the Olympic final in Rio

Steph Twell: After competing as a teenager at the Beijing Olympics, the former world junior 1500 metre champion made up for the disappointment of missing out on London 2012 due to a foot injury in some style by winning the 5000m at the British Championship to earn place in team for Rio