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But Leith's Glen Chisholm collected the silverware in one of the most competitive Edmond Cup races on the Wingatui course in recent years.
Introduced to the calendar in 1907, the annual cross-country steeplechase race has provided some quality performances.
Saturday's race added another worthy chapter.
Despite finishing runner-up in last year's Dunedin Marathon and winning the Hill Free Half Marathon, Bathgate is not affiliated to any club.
That did not deter the 33-year-old Dunedin web page manager from mixing it up with a leading group of club-registered athletes in the race for the open men's title.
That included Leith runners Chisholm and Andrew Lonie, Caversham's Jonah Smith and Alex Dodds and Alistair Richardson (Hill City-University).
When Smith made a break 2km from the finish, Bathgate went with him and found an extra gear to open a 15m lead.
It proved a successful move.
Despite a fast finish from Chisholm, Bathgate finished the 5km event just one second clear, in 17min 9sec.
Smith was close behind in third, clocking 17min 12sec.
Bathgate, as an unregistered runner, surrendered the prestigious silverware to second-placed Chisholm.
Chisholm's victory set up a six-man team victory for Leith - its first since 2005.
Lonie, the third registered runner to finish, Nathan Hill (fourth), Danny Baillie (seventh), Harjinder Singh Chander (15th) and Simon Leaning (18th) tallied 48 points.
But while Bathgate juggled approaches from various club officials, Chisholm reflected on winning his first Otago title, and the run from Bathgate.
"I felt pretty strong on the jump and halfway down the straight, I saw that line and changed to another gear and knew I could hold it," Chisholm said.
"I almost got Nic, but not quite. It was good fun to compete for a title like this."
Chisholm caught the running bug after surprising himself in the half marathon section of the Dunedin Marathon in 2006.
Chisholm (36), an Alexandra-based accountant, who has remained a feature in local competition over the past decade, went on to win the Dunedin Marathon title in 2014.
He now shifts his focus to the Otago Cross-country in three weeks on the challenging Waikouaiti course, then he hopes to "give it a decent crack" in age-group competition at the national cross-country two weeks later in Wellington.
Laura Bungard (Hill City-University) continues to be one of the finds of the local harrier season, while juggling a successful swimming career.
The 18-year-old multi-talented sportswoman shot to the front from the start of the open women's event.
She won the 5km race comfortably in 20min 52sec from second-placed Lydia Pattillo (Leith), in 21min 42sec. Nadia Beamish (Hill City-University) was third in 21min 52sec.
That set up an open women's title for Hill City-University, as Georgia Pakeho (sixth) and Cilla Dickinson (10th) completed the four scoring runners, with 20 points