ADAM Hickey called his fine eighth place finish at the European Cross-Country trials as his best race as a senior.

The 24-year-old surprised even himself with his form, mixing it with the country’s very best cross-country runners and finishing very much in touching distance of those who made the GB team for Budapest.

And it has given the Southend AC athlete a huge confidence boost heading into the rest of the winter season.

“I was aiming for a top 15, top 20 finish going into the race, so I was really happy to finish where I did,” said Hickey.

“To actually be among some of the top names was amazing and has given me a lot of confidence.

“It was my best race as a senior and has given me the belief that I can be up there challenging in the high positions come March (when the World Cross-Country trials take place) when I’ll be in much better shape.”

Hickey’s two previous cross-country races this winter had been a bit of a mixed bag.

He admits to going off a bit too hard in the McCain Bristol Cross and then perhaps not quite hard enough while running for England in Burgos, Spain.

This time he got it right.

“It worked out perfectly,” he said. “I managed to close the gap to the leaders on the second of the three laps which made me feel awesome and going into the last lap I took a few more places.

“I was running around and couldn’t quite believe where I was.

“I could actually see the leaders which is the first time I have been in that position.

“I was seventh going into the final stages and it was only Tom Lancashire who is a 3m 33s 1,500m runner that got past me, so I was pretty pleased with that,” he added.

Hickey’s run was good enough for him to earn another England vest as he will be part of the team travelling to Spain for the high-class Venta de Banos race.

* It wasn’t such a good weekend for Gemma Kersey, who like Hickey is trained by Eamonn Martin.

Kersey, who made the GB junior team for last year’s European Championships, was competing in the senior race for the first time.

The 20-year-old Basildon AC runner was not well leading into the race and finished in 37th place overall, the 12th under-23 athlete.