OLYMPIAN Andy Butchart will spearhead Scotland’s team at the Home Countries Cross-Country International at the Run Stirling event next month.

The event is a new one on the calendar and will take place in Kings Park with Stirling Castle as a backdrop on the 11th of January. And as well as the elite events, where Scotland will take on England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there will also be a mass participation 7km race.

Butchart has been in excellent cross-country form this winter, winning the Scottish Short-Course XC title last month before finishing in fifth place at the European XC Championships in Lisbon just over a week ago.

The 5000m specialist is doing a busy cross-country programme this year and he has spoken of his reasons for this, with improvements on the track partially in his mind but he is also serious about succeeding in cross-country events themselves.

The 28-year-old, who grew up in Dunblane, just a few miles from where the Home Countries International will take place, is thrilled to have the opportunity to race so close to where he was raised.

“I am really looking forward to pulling on the Scotland vest and representing the country once again,” he said.

“It will be a little surreal for me racing there because I’ve done many a training run in King’s Park growing up as a kid and as a teenager with Central AC. It’s good to see an event like this being held in Stirling.”

Butchart won his first-ever Scotland vest in a similar event, seven years ago in Cardiff. He was a late call-up for the Celtic International in January 2013 and it ended-up being a successful weekend for Butchart as he won bronze.

And despite the GB internationalist having experienced much in the intervening period, including Olympic selection at Rio 2016 for the 5000m, he remembers that first Scotland cap well, particularly as it kick-started his senior career.

“It’s a while ago now but I do remember a very long bus journey south on the Saturday,’ the Central AC athlete recalled.

“There was snow and ice in Cardiff but I ran well and got on the podium and actually that selection and performance gave me a bit of push at that time to train harder and try and realise my potential.”

The event is due to to be covered extensively by the media and Butchart admits he is thrilled to see such publicity for the sport in Scotland.

“With the British Cross Challenge element and the international competition, as well as a live stream on BBC and Vinco, it should be a great event and a strong advert for athletics in Scotland,” he said.

Selected in the men’s team alongside Butchart is Jamie Crowe, Jonny Glen and Lachlan Oates while the women’s team will be led by Mhairi Maclennan, who is also a GB internationalist. She will be joined by Annabel Simpson, Fiona Brian and Nynke Mulholland.

There are a number of other GB internationals within the ranks of this Scotland selection, too – notably the U20 trio of Hamish Armitt, Cera Gemmell and Megan Keith, who all came home from the Euro Cross in Lisbon last weekend with team gold medals with the British squads.

The Scotland contingent consists of under-23, under-20 and under-17 teams who will compete in the Celtic XC International against Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Meanwhile, British Athletics has confirmed the young athletes who have been included on its Olympic and Paralympic Futures Academy programme. Erin Wallace, the Commonwealth Youth Games 1500m gold medallist from 2017 who is coached by Andy Young, who also coaches Laura Muir, is included on the programme for the second year.

The Giffnock North athlete had, until recently, split her time between athletics and triathlon but she recently announced she is going to focus on athletics for the near future.

Also included on the programme are Ross Paterson, Steven Stone and Owen Millar, who are all on the Paralympic Futures programme.