Olympians Andy Butchart and Callum Hawkins each had good reason to smile after they left Rio memories behind on the mud and hills of Cumbernauld.
The top Scots swapped the track and roads of Brazil for the Scottish National XC Relays – at the start of the Lindsays Cross Country Season – on a day when they event drew its biggest entry in 24 years of joint championships for men and women.
Butchart led defending champions Central AC home to victory in the Men’s Senior race as coach Derek Easton’s squad made it five-in-a-row in that category.
The ‘consolation’ for Callum was the fastest 4K leg of the day with his 11.01 on the third leg for Kilbarchan AAC some 21 seconds quicker than Butchart’s 11.22, albeit that the Central AC athlete was on the last leg with his team already well clear.
Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds took second, with a couple of GB international hill runners in their quartet, with Aberdeen AAC on the podium as they took bronze. Aberdeen’s team included Rory Muir, young brother of Olympian Laura.
Students were very much to the fore in the Senior Women’s race as Edinburgh Uni took the title thanks to the efforts of Steph Pennycook, Catriona Graves, Louise Mercer and Mhairi Maclennan. Central AC took the silvers with the bronzes claimed by a VP-Glasgow team including GB internationals Josephine Moultrie and Mhairi Hendry.
‘It was good to win it again – that’s five in a row for Central AC and I know it means a lot to the coaches and the club to keep being the dominant force at cross country,’ said Butchart, who was sixth at the Olympics in the 5000m final and has broken two long-standing Scottish Records on the track in 2016.
‘I definitely had the ‘glory leg’ this time with the fourth leg and happily the guys before me had it set up so well for me that I just had to get round safely! Michael Wright really had an excellent run in the second leg which made a big impact on the race and Jamie Crowe and Alastair Hay did well on one and three, as well.
‘I love racing here at Cumbernauld and I love cross country. The bottom line is: the things we did last year worked perfectly for me ahead of Rio so it is a case of trying to do the same again – and then see if I can go even quicker on the track next summer.’
Butchart, Hawkins and Laura Muir, who didn’t race on Saturday but will contest the Scottish 4K Champs in Renfrew in a fortnight, have been big supporters of cross country in Scotland in the past three or four years.
‘Every time I’ve come here in the past five years or so I’ve felt the National XC Relays event is rising in profile and stature,’ added Andy.
‘There are many more club tents than before and many more athletes – and that competition is helping raise standards. If the likes of Callum and myself running here can inspire or motivate people to get out and compete for their club then great. Because we love the sport and we want to see it get bigger and better in Scotland.’
Kilbarchan were 17th in the men’s race when Hawkins set off on his 4K lap and the Great Scottish Run winner took them through to fourth with a scorching run, before they duly finished eighth.
‘I went off pretty fast and it was a shock to the system in many ways after marathons and half marathons,’ grinned Callum
‘I’ve not done any cross country training, at all. But I’ve got my eye on Liverpool and the Euro Cross. It is a couple of years since I was at that and it is something I want to do for this year. Myself and Andy are off to the Pyrenees for a full month of altitude training and we will come back just before the Euro Trials at Liverpool.
‘I always enjoy running for Kilbarchan and wearing that club vest. I was here as an U13 athlete and these events have made me the athlete I am now.’
No fewer than 63 clubs were represented with the field including GB hill runner Andy Douglas – like Hawkins and Butchart short-listed for Scottish Athlete of the Year – who represented Inverclyde AC and club runners from U13 to Masters.
Edinburgh AC won both the Young Females and the Young Males titles, with that a special achievement for the Carcas family as U15 athlete Pippa took gold and then saw her brother, U17 athlete Freddie, replicate that success.
New club PH-Racing won the Women’s Masters race with Cambuslang Harriers making it six-in-a-row with their Men’s Masters win. Cambuslang also won the Men’s V50 race, as Springburn Harriers took the Women’s V50 golds.
Edinburgh AC proved their class in the age groups as they secured double gold in the Young Females and Young Males races.