JESSICA Judd has completed her last major ambition of the year by making the Great Britain team for the European Cross-Country Championships.
The 17-year-old produced a superb run to finish third at the trial race in Liverpool to book her spot in GB’s junior women’s team for the trip to Budapest next week.
It caps another remarkable 12 months for the Canvey teenager who won a silver medal in the 800m and finished fifth in the 1,500m at the World Junior Championships in the summer.
But this will be the first time the King John School sixth-former has represented Britain in a major cross-country championships – and she is delighted.
“I can’t quite believe it,” said Judd. “I’ve been away with Great Britain before, but it’s been on the track, this is something completely different. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Judd finished third in the trials behind the reigning European Junior cross-country champion Emelia Gorecka and Jenny Walsh – both team-mates of the Chelmsford AC athlete at the summer’s World Junior Championships and both more endurance specialists.
And given the course resembled something of a bog and not a harder surface more suited to Judd’s track speed, the teenager was thrilled to finish just ten seconds behind the winner in what was her first big test under the tutelage of new coach Rob Denmark.
“Leading up to the race, I was feeling really good,” Judd said. “ I had trained solidly with Rob for eight weeks, but when we turned up and saw the course I was like ‘oh no’. It was just awful.
“I was hoping for it to have been like last year when it was hard and fast (Judd qualified for the British team for last year’s European Championships but opted not to run), so it was a bit of a worry. And I could see Rob was a bit worried too.
“Plus it was only my second cross-country race of the season, which is really unusual for me. I kept asking for re-assurance from Rob and he said it would be OK – which it was!”
Judd’s tactics was to sit in with the leaders and cover the moves.
“I was quite relaxed,” she said. “And when Emelia and Jenny put in the kick I was able to go with them. “The last time I raced them and went with them I really tied up and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. My main aim was to get into the team, so I decided to let them go because I didn’t want to risk losing that spot.
“I was a bit disappointed because I always go out to win, but really I was just so happy to make the team.”
And as a reward for not making the team, Judd made Denmark keep a promise to give her a week off from running the “horrible” hill loops around Gloucester Park which have been a fixture of her training since the two teamed up.
“I told him straight after the race that he has to keep his word now,” Judd laughed.
“But I’m really pleased with how the training is going. I don’t like the mud but I do enjoy the cross-country training. I know I’m putting the effort in when I do sessions, but the bigger picture for me is still the track season. That’s what I’m doing the cross-country training for.”
The European Cross-Country Championships take place on Sunday, December 9. For a full preview, see next week’s Echo.
*Jessica’s younger sister Jodie, who also represents Chelmsford AC, was 23rd in the under-15 girls race in Liverpool.