The strength in depth of Scottish athletics this year has been clear for everyone to see and it has been highlighted even further with the release of the shortlist for the FSPG Scottish Athlete of the Year title, which will be awarded to Scotland’s top track and field athlete at the scottishathletics awards dinner next month. The five-strong shortlist includes Laura Muir, who has won the title for the last three years, Sammi Kinghorn, Callum Hawkins, Chris O’Hare and Eilish McColgan, with each of the quintet having had a hugely impressive year.

World and European 800m medallist Jenny Meadows, who represented GB and England on the global stage for over a decade, will be a guest of honour at the scottishathletics FPSG Awards Dinner in November and she admits that she is finding it impossible to predict who will be crowned Athlete of the Year such is the quality of the shortlist “I really don’t know who is going to win – every one of those athletes could win the award and they would totally deserve it,” the 36 year-old told Herald Sport. “It shows just where Scottish athletics is at the moment that it’s so competitive – the shortlist could have been twice as long and no one would have complained one bit.”

However, when pressed, Meadows admits if she was forced to put money on a winner, she would pick Muir to complete a hat-trick of wins. The 24 year-old from Milnathort has had a remarkable year, winning her first major championship medals when she took gold in the 1500m and 3000m at the European Indoor Championships in January before finishing just outside of the medals at the World Championships in London. “I’m always going to favour Laura, just because I feel like she’s leading a new generation of Scottish athletes,” she said. “I think that for Laura, winning double gold at the European indoors was huge. Then she had an injury problem and so to come back from that and come fourth in the World Champs, just seven hundredths away from the bronze medal, was amazing because in that women’s 1500m there were about seven athletes fighting for the three medals. It was probably the most challenging and competitive 1500m we’ve ever had. Laura doesn’t have many flaws – she has addressed so many things and she’s improved year on year and so actually, fourth place in the World Championships might actually have been a disappointment for her, which shows what she’s aiming for. So, for me, she probably has the edge but it’s such a tough call because everybody has got so many strengths.”

Meadows admits to also being hugely impressed by McColgan who, after an injury-plagued few years, came into her own this season, setting new personal bests at every distance from 1500m, right up to 10,000m. And with Kinghorn becoming double-world champion, Hawkins finishing fourth in the World Championships marathon and O’Hare posting a raft of impressive 1500m times, Meadows’ assertion that there is little to separate the quintet is indisputable.

What has impressed Meadows even more than any individual performance though, is the collective improvement that Scottish athletes have made in recent years, with world-class performers such as Lynsey Sharp, Eilidh Doyle, Jake Wightman and Zoey Clark, amongst others, failing to even make the shortlist.

When the Englishwoman first broke into the GB team, it was not uncommon for Scotland to have a lone representative in the shape of Lee McConnell whereas at London 2017, the Scottish contingent in the British team numbered 16 and Meadows reveals that, across the globe, people are recognising this recent improvement from the Scots. “I’ve really noticed what’s happened in Scottish athletics but other nations are noticing it as well” she said. “Generally athletes from other countries wouldn’t know who's Scottish, English, Welsh or Northern Irish in the GB team but I was talking to Ryan Gregson, an Australian 1500m runner, at one of the Diamond Leagues this year and he was asking what on earth had happened with all the Scottish athletes because they’re doing so well! In athletics, a big part of being successful is having the belief and the right mindset and to be honest, I don’t know where that’s come from or what the catalyst has been in Scotland but there’s a production line that just keeps improving year on year."

With the 2018 Commonwealth Games just six months away and Scotland only having around 20 places available for track and field athletes, competition for seats on the plane to Gold Coast will be fierce. Rather than that being a hindrance though, Meadows believes that is a huge strength and will only help to push the level of athletics in this country even higher. “It’s really healthy having such strong rivalries – when one person is really dominant in their country in their event and they have selection secured for the big events, I often found that those athletes go to the major events and they just don’t perform as well because they’ve had it a little too easy,” she said. “And what’s so great about Scottish athletics is that a lot of the Scottish athletes are based in Scotland and they’re coached by Scottish coaches. They’re showing where hard work and a good attitude can take you and that’s what I think has been so impressive about Scottish athletics in the last year.”