ADAM Hickey will be back racing at a major championships for the first time in nearly six years after sealing his spot at the European Cross-Country Championships.

The 25-year-old ran strongly to finish fifth at the trials for the championships in Liverpool last weekend to book his spot in the Great Britain team.

And the Southend AC athlete, who ran two European Cross-Country Championships and three World Cross Country Championships as a junior, says his qualification is proof his running career is on an upward trajectory once again.

Hickey spent several years juggling running with triathlon and his transition into senior athletics was not as smooth as some of his rivals.

But after deciding to concentrate wholly on running and linking up with coach Eamonn Martin nearly two years ago, he has began making his mark at the sharp end of the sport once again.

He smashed his 5,000m personal best on the track in the summer, running an impressive 13m 41.66s in Belgium and has now carried on that form into the winter.

“I’m really happy,” said Hickey. “It’s nice to know you are hitting your targets and that all the training is working, especially when you are out on cold winter days like we are having now!

“The winter target was to make the team for the Europeans and the summer target was to get a 5,000, PB, so things are going really well at the moment.

“I still don’t like finishing fifth and would have liked to have been further up but I can’t complain too much. In the last three years I have finished 20th, eighth and then fifth, so the progression is there.”

Coach Martin, no stranger to international cross-country competition himself, is also delighted at how Hickey is developing.

He said: “Qualifying for the European Cross has been a winter target and it will instil even more confidence in Adam and his own ability.”

Hickey doesn’t have long to prepare for the European Championships which take place in Belgrade next weekend.

The course in the Serbian capital is expected to be relatively flat and fast – not too dissimilar to how the trial race in Liverpool’s Sefton Park turned out.

“My aim going into the race was to sit in around 10th place for the first couple of laps before pushing hard on the last lap,” Hickey said. “But the pace was so quick that people were falling off all the time and I find myself higher up than that. It was crazy how fast it was.”

The pace was set by Andy Vernon, who ended up being a comfortable winner, but Hickey and a select group were battling for the remaining qualifying positions right to the end with the Southend AC athlete digging deep to beat Callum Hawkins in a sprint for fifth place.

“I knew I had to hold on to my position,” said Hickey. “I didn’t want to lose that spot!”

Such was the pace of the race, Hickey suspects he may have set a 10km best time on any surface over the course as he crossed the line in 29m 13s.

“Tom Frith (Hickey’s Southend AC team-mate who finished 47th overall and 24th under-23) had the course as exactly 10km on his Garmin, so my time would be a PB for me. That shows how crazily fast it was.”

Also in the race was Canvey’s Dale Clutterbuck (Basildon AC) who finished in 95th place overall.