Rodger Harkins: Performance director says Scottish athletics hitting new heights

Lynsey Sharp
Lynsey Sharp is among a host of Scots bidding to cement their place at the World Championships

Scottish Athletics performance director Rodger Harkins believes the sport is at an all-time high in Scotland.

Several Scots, including Eilidh Doyle, Lynsey Sharp and Andy Butchart have already met the qualifying standards for the World Championships in August.

They require a top-two finish at this weekend's British trials to qualify automatically for Team GB.

"It's probably moving into an unprecedented era," Harkins said of the Scottish success.

"People talk about the past when athletics was really good in the 1980s, but from last year and this year we can see that many Scottish athletes are stepping up to the mark and performing with distinction.

"It's not an overnight success, in reality this takes an awful lot of time, hard work and dedication by the athletes and their coaches, and of course their families who support them."

Scots in action at the British athletics trials
Men's 1500mJake Wightman, Josh Kerr, Neil Gourley, Chris O'Hare
Men's 5,000mAndrew Butchart
Men's hammerChris Bennett, Mark Dry
Men's high jumplan Smith, David Smith, Lewis McGuire
Women's 400mZoey Clark, Kirsten McAslan
Women's 800mLynsey Sharp
Women's 5,000mSteph Twell, Eilish McColgan
Women's 400m hurdlesEilidh Doyle
Women's high jumpNikki Manson, Emma Nuttall
Women's hammerRachel Hunter, Susan McKelvie, Myra Perkins

In addition to the two automatic qualifiers, a third place in each event is allocated at the discretion of the British team selectors.

Laura Muir, 24, looks set to miss the Birmingham trials after recovering from a foot injury, but will still be selected for the World Championships by virtue of her 1500m Diamond League title in September 2016.

Muir hopes to compete in the 1500m and 5,000m in London.

"The exception is if you have won a Diamond League in 2016," Harkins said. "So that would be [Laura Muir], or if you are a defending world champion - then you get a fourth place.

Laura Muir
Laura Muir won gold in the women's 3,000m at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in March

"I would not expect to see Laura at the trials.

"Her selection for the 1500m should be assured. If she wants to do the 1500m and the 5,000m then that would be up to the selectors, I would guess."

Butchart to double-up

The road to London should be straightforward for defending British champion Butchart, since he has already achieved the time needed for the men's 5,000m.

Andy Butchart
Andy Butchart, centre, may compete in the men's 1500m as well as the 5,000m in Birmingham

The 2016 Rio Olympian also plans to enter the 1500m to aid his preparations for the World Championships.

Butchart's participation would boost the Scottish contingent in that event to five, with fellow Olympian Chris O'Hare, Oslo Diamond League-winner Jake Wightman, NCAA champion Josh Kerr, and Neil Gourley already competing.

"This year the pressure is a little bit off because it's only me that's got the standard apart from Mo Farah," Butchart said.

"But Mo is not going to be competing this weekend, so it'll just be me. It should be fun and a good event, and it's nice to be back in Birmingham for it.

Jake Wightman
Jake Wightman, centre, was triumphant in the men's 1500m at the Diamond League meet in Oslo earlier this month

"We were struggling to find a fast 1500 between now and the World Championships so we thought why not do the double at the British trials and get another race in our legs?

"I'm really looking forward to it, to see how Josh Kerr gets on. He's young and he's ready to go for a good race, but Chris O'Hare and Charlie Grice are going to be hard ones to beat.

"Scots just keep performing year on year - last year was a massive building block for us and this year's going to be even better."

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