Young Scottish athletes went back to training this week cradling no fewer than two dozen England Athletics age group medals at U23 and U20 level – delivering more compelling evidence of a bright future.
GB vests at the forthcoming World Youths even in Cali, Colombia, and the European U23 and European U20 events in Estonia and Sweden respectively are now very much on the cards for 10 or more Scots.
From Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games representatives like Kirsten McAslan to Scotland cross country internationals like Kathryn Gillespie to still-at-school sprinters, Alisha Rees and Cameron Tindle, the podium at Bedford last weekend bore witness to one of the strongest ‘raiding parties’ for a number of years.
No fewer than nine athletes picked up gold at the England Athletics U23/U20s event which are effectively the British Championships – with a further 15 picking up silver and bronze.
It seems clear the National Academy recently extended by governing body scottishathletics is already starting to bear fruit with athletes, coaches and parents offered support and education in a programme deliberately geared to raising representation at GB level.
And, in two endurance events alone, there was a quite remarkable medal haul as young Scottish athletes collected no fewer than eight of the 24 available medals at 800m and 1500m in Bedford, led by U23 Men’s 1500m champion, Neil Gourley, and U20 Men’s 1500m champion, Josh Kerr.
That suggests there’s potential being developed to try and build on the platform set by role models Chris O’Hare, Lynsey Sharp and Laura Muir at those distances – with Sharp and Muir already having eclipsed great names of the past when setting Scottish National Records at 800m and 1500m last summer.
GB cross country international Rhona Auckland set a Championship best winning the 5000m in Bedford to add to the Kerr/Gourley double at 1500m and the other six gold medallists were Glasgow 2014 trio Nick Percy (discus), Kirsten McAslan (400m) and Rachel Hunter (hammer) as well as Nikki Manson (high jump), and 400m hurdlers Katie Purves and Jack Lawrie.
Rodger Harkins, director of coaching with scottishathletics, said: ‘It was a quite remarkable weekend for Scottish athletes in Bedford and really was great to watch.
‘We talk a lot about asking athletes and coaches to ‘Perform When It Counts’ and there was marvellous evidence of that happening at these championships.
‘I think it proves emphatically once again that there is really good coaching going on in Scotland with some very fine, hard-working young athletes who are dedicated to their sport.
‘I believe, too, we are now seeing an impact from our National Academy with the specific help that is giving to athletes, coaches and parents on a range of issues which seek to help athletes develop and improve.’
Harkins was in Bedford with other members of scottishathletics and witnessed a purple patch around 4pm on Sunday afternoon when Scottish medals were coming along more often than Edinburgh trams with 1-2 success in the U23 Men’s 1500m and the U23 Women’s 400m before a 2-3 in the U20 Women’s 800m via Mhairi Hendry and Carys McAulay.
The 24 tally tops the 23 from a couple a years ago which, at the time, was the best for five years. And in 2013 there were half-a-dozen gold medals won whereas this year that figure rose to nine.
*At U23, Scottish athletes collected six golds, four silver and four bronze
*At U20, Scottish athletes collected three golds, two silver and five bronze.
The likes of Kerr, Gourley, Hunter and McAslan have joined Rhona Auckland (10,000m) as automatic selections for the Europeans with a number of other Scots very much in contention for those July events.
Likewise, places at the World Youth Games in Colombia (16 and 17-year-olds) are due to be confirmed soon by British Athletics as well as the Scotland team for the Commonwealth Youth Games (16 and 17-year-olds).
As the drama unfolded in Bedford, Andrew Butchart added to a feelgood factor with a third place finish at the Euro Team Champs in his 3000m race in Russia.
There were six Scots involved in the event with GB and Butchart’s third place was added to a victory for Eilidh Child and a second place for Lennie Waite in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. Guy Learmonth, Jax Thoirs and Kirsty Law also contributed with Scots scoring 43 points in the individual events in a GB team overall tally of 291 points.
Harkins added: ‘We had six athletes in Russia with the Senior GB squad for the Euro Team Champs and, again, that is encouraging as for some of them it was their first experience at that kind of level.
‘I feel the number of ‘contenders’ we have for GB vests at major championships is growing and that’s partly down to the fact we had a number of young athletes at the Commonwealth Games last summer who are now stepping-up their performance levels.’
The Class of 2015 Roll of Honour at England Athletics champs, Bedford.
Gold: Josh Kerr (1500m), Katie Purves (400m Hurdles), Jack Lawrie (400m Hurdles)
Silver: Mhairi Hendry (800m), Lewis McGuire (high jump)
Bronze: Alisha Rees (200m), Cameron Tindle (200m), Ross McLachlan (long jump), Carys McAulay (800m), Kathryn Gillespie (1500m)
Gold: Nick Percy (discus), Rachel Hunter (hammer), Neil Gourley (1500m), Rhona Auckland (5000m), Nikki Manson (high jump), Kirsten McAslan (400m)
Silver: Kirsty Yates (shot), Cameron Boyek (1500m), Zoey Clark (400m), Jack Lochans (high jump)
Bronze: Hazel Ross (100m Hurdles), Maddie Murray (1500m), Emily Dudgeon (800m), Faye Nicholson (long jump)
(Eight medallists out of 24 available at 800m and 1500m)
U20: Kerr, Hendry, McAulay, Gillespie. U23: Gourley, Boyek, Dudgeon, Murray.