TOM Richardson has set his sights on a place in the Great Britain squad for the European Cross-Country Championships.

The 18-year-old Basildon AC athlete has been boosted by a fantastic run at the UK’s first big cross-country meeting of the season in Bristol last weekend.

Richardson finished runner-up in the under-20 men’s race against several of his rivals for a place in the GB team for the European Cross in Belgrade, Serbia.

The result was a big breakthrough for Richardson as he continues his upward trend since hooking up with coach Nick Wetheridge at Basildon.

“I was confident beforehand but this has given me another boost,” said Richardson, from East Tilbury.

“I’m always aiming for the best and I want to be in the top six at the trials for the European Cross and get in the team. That’s what I told Nick at the start of the season and that’s what I am going for.

“I’ve been training well. I’ve been keeping up with (GB cross-country international) Adam (Hickey) in some of his training sessions, and if you are keeping up with someone like Adam then you know you must be in good shape.”

That good shape was in evidence in Bristol as Richardson outsprinted Sam Eglen of Aldershot for second place, with only European Junior 5,000m bronze medallist Jon Davies finishing ahead of him.

“I had confidence going into the race,” said Richardson. “I looked at who British Athletics were tipping to be up there in the race and all the names they were coming up with I had beaten last year, so I knew I could beat them again.

“I would have liked to have got a bit closer to Davies but he is one of the best in Europe.”

Richardson’s strong form wasn’t quite as evident seven days earlier at the first round of the Essex Cross-Country League, when he finished down the field.

But there was a reason for that which won’t happen again if his coach has anything to do with it.

“Nick went mental at me,” said Richardson. “I had track spikes on and one of them didn’t have any spikes in at all. So I was slipping everywhere. Then, 2km in I got a stitch and Nick thinks that was because of my core stretching to compensate for me slipping. He made me go out and buy some cross-country spikes and 15mm spikes before Bristol.”

The odd telling-off aside, Richardson’s link up with Wetheridge – a former Great Britain international himself – has been a real success.

Last year, his first winter under the new coach, ended up with a 16th place as a bottom year athlete in the under-20 age group at the UK Intercounties Cross-Country Championships, and he backed that up with 13th spot at the English Schools Championships a week later.

His track season was indifferent. “But Nick said it would take time to adapt to the increase in mileage so I wasn’t too disappointed,” Richardson said.

“I’ve got natural speed but my endurance was awful. Where other guys have been working on it for years, I have had no base. Last year I didn’t run well until March. This year, with a winter and with Nick behind me, hopefully I’ve got that base.”

Richardson is one of a handful of young runners who Basildon AC hope will put them back on the map in senior competitions.

“When I first joined up with Nick he spoke about getting a good group back together at Basildon,” he said.

“A few people had left and he wanted to get a good training group and raise the quality up.

“Now there’s me, Grant Webb, Jack Fitsall and Dennis Cross and we also train with Adam (Hickey) and Gemma (Kersey), so it’s becoming a good group.”