EAMONN Martin says he would not be surprised if his protégée Gemma Kersey again makes the Great Britain squad for the European Cross-Country Championships – but says her number one target is next summer’s track season.

Kersey is one of a handful of south Essex’s top athletes competing in tomorrow’s trials for the championships at Sefton Park, Liverpool.

The 20-year-old won her first Great Britain vest at last year’s European Championships, finishing 16th in the under-20 race and helping her team to a gold medal.

If Kersey were to qualify this time round it would be in the under-23 age group, but Martin insists that, unlike last year, the championships are not her main priority.

“Gemma’s running really well at the moment, better than this time last year,” Martin said. “But we are not specifically targeting the European Championships like we did last year.

“She’s in the middle of a really hard training block with the focus being on the European under-23 championships on the track in Finland next summer.

“So from that point of view I actually think she will run better at the World Cross-Country trials in Birmingham in March, when she’s coming out of that training block.

“In many ways this is an opportunity to get a bit of a marker for Gemma. She’s running with the seniors (the under-23s are mixed in with the senior age group), so we can see where she is at. Selection is not a priority for her, but having said that, I wouldn’t put anything past her.”

Martin is also looking a little further ahead for his other athlete competing in Liverpool tomorrow, Adam Hickey.

Hickey ran well for England in Spain two weeks ago and has been on a programme to build up his mileage.

“His training has been incredibly solid,” said Martin. “He has really improved since I started working with him in February. But I can see he has not had enough endurance work and he needs a whole winter of training behind him.

“Like Gemma, I want him to have a really good run at the weekend and put a marker down. He will definitely be better at the World Trials as he will have more miles in his legs, but again, it’s about looking at the track season next summer for Adam.

“He got his 5,000m time down to 13m 59s and that’s something we can really work on. He’s a little bit inconsistent at the moment but I can see the improvement.

“Both of them, Adam and Gemma, are training really hard and have good training plans and hopefully they will come to fruition next summer.”

Elsewhere, Jessica Judd will be aiming to win a place on the team for her first European Cross-Country Championships.

The 17-year-old, from Canvey, qualified for the under-20 event last year but opted not to run but has decided to try her luck this time around.

Hickey’s Southend AC team-mate Tom Frith is in the senior men’s race, but like Kersey is an under-23 athlete while Jessica’s sister Jodie is in the under-15 girls field.