Sharland sets sights on world stage

ATHLETICS: Rising Ipswich cross country star Tom Sharland is heading for the World Championships. Sharland, a sixth form student at Ipswich School, booked his trip to next month's event in Dublin with a storming run at the UK Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships in Nottingham.

RISING Ipswich cross country star Tom Sharland is heading for the World Championships.

Sharland, a sixth form student at Ipswich School, booked his trip to next month's event in Dublin with a storming run at the UK Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships in Nottingham.

The 18-year-old took silver behind Mohammed Farah (Middlesex) in the Under-20 men's race.

That was enough to seal Sharland's place in the World Championships and kick-started a stunning display by Suffolk.

The county had never previously collected an individual medal in the UK competition.

Sharland was one of three Suffolk athletes to gain a top three finish as fellow Ipswich athlete Sam Jacobs – a training partner at Northgate Stadium – sprinted to a bronze medal in the Under-17 men's event.

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And Laura Dowsing (Bury St Edmunds) exceeded all expectations to take third place in the Under-13 girls' race,

Sharland ran for Great Britain at the European Championships in Thun, Switzerland, last December, and followed that up with a fourth spot at the Portuguese National Champion-ships a fortnight ago. He was first Briton and a member of the second-placed team at Loures, near Lisbon.

But he is now eagerly preparing for the Dublin event after producing the performance of his life to scoop second spot at Nottingham.

"I've got to be happy with that, especially as I'll now get the chance to run in the World Championships in Dublin," he said.

"I knew I had a reasonable chance of finishing in the first three. It was just a case of how I felt on the day.

"Mohammed Farah has run in the World Championships before, and it was too much of a risk for me to try and chase him. Yet he was tiring at the end.

"Bit by bit I began to drop the other contenders. I was able to pull away, and it was good to beat someone like Steve Ablitt, who was also in the Worlds last year.

"The course suited me. It was very fast, but hard work into the wind.

"It ended up being a great day for Suffolk, with three medals. Now I can look forward to Dublin."

Suffolk, thanks to a glittering U-17 and U-20 women's squad, had scooped team medals in 1999, 2000 and again last year, but they had never managed to record an individual medal place.

That drought has now ended, and in impressive style against the cream of athletes from each county.

Jacobs had struck gold in his U-17 men's age group at the South of England event, and he was to the fore again at Nottingham.

There was no stopping Tom Humphreys (Staffordshire) who was an emphatic winner, but Jacobs picked his way through the field to contest the other medal positions in a ding-dong battle for the line.

Middlesex's Michael Smart snatched silver, but Jacobs, a student at Northgate School, hung on for a superb third.

"I got swallowed up a bit at the start. We were drawn on the far side, which made it more difficult getting round the first corner on top of the hill," said Jacobs.

"I didn't mean to have a slow start, but I picked my way through the field. I was in about 15th place on lap one, but I had a strong second half of the race and I'm delighted to get a medal."

There was a runaway winner in the U-13 girls' event, thanks to a blistering run from Emily Pidgeon, of Gloucestershire.

But Dowsing, a member of West Suffolk AC, was always in contention for a medal, and stepped up a gear during a frantic sprint finish to take a deserved bronze.

Jacobs and Sharland are just two members of a strong squad of runners coached by Steve Benson.

Matt Barnes-Smith, another promising athlete from this group, finished tenth in the U-17 race.

Barnes-Smith, who still has another year to compete in this age group, looked very strong during the first half of the race. He is likely to be an even more prominent figure next season.

Coach Benson summed up the achievements of Suffolk's medallists at these championships, and gave reasons for the county's dramatic progress in recent years.

"I've always believed that the best runners do not necessarily have to come from outside the county. We have them in Suffolk as well," said Benson.

"Our performance has picked up 100 per cent over the last six years or so. We don't go to meetings expecting to fail.

"People don't know how hard we train. It's a case of training with one another and off one another and we share each other's success.

"I don't think there's any other training group in the country that can match us for motivation or determination. We all muck in together.

"Success breeds success and hopefully others will come through the school system to get involved in this sort of training."

In addition to the three medallists, and a solid run from Barnes-Smith, there were several other eye-catching performances from Suffolk athletes.

Sara Bird enjoyed a swift start and consolidated her position to finish 29th in the U-15 girls' race, while Claire Holme underlined her recent improvement with a fine 38th in the U-17 women's age group.

Holme's Ipswich Harrier club-mate Laura O'Dell was 62nd in the same section, and Lee Cocks was an outstanding 17th in the U-13 boys' event.


Under-13 girls: 1 E Pidgeon (Gloucs) 11.52; 2 S Preston (Hants) 12.15; 3 L Dowsing (Suffolk) 12.21.

Other Suffolk: 82 M O'Hare 13.24; 164 S Knox 14.03; 216 T Coles 14.27; 236 S Ensten 14.47; 272 C Coles 15.24; 281 A Beamish 15.41; 284 O Greenwell 15.49.

Under-13 boys: 1 M Clark (Dorset) 11.16. Suffolk: 17 L Cocks 11.37; 100 G Braham; 150 C Moulton; 157 D Stafford 12.39; 191 T King 12.52; 198 W Barnes-Smith 12.55; 275 L White 14.12.

Under-15 girls: 1 C Browning (Sussex) 15.28. Suffolk: 29 S Bird 16.23; 104 N Barnes-Smith 17.11; 156 H Arbon 17.43; 216 A Thorrington 18.21; 250 C Morris 19.19.

Under-15 boys: 1 A Livingstone (Essex) 15.15. Suffolk: 221 R Chenery 18.03; 248 A Wold 18.26; 269 R Harrington 18.49; 270 T Samuels 18.49.

Under-17 women: 1 C Moore (Dorset) 18.32. Suffolk: 38 C Holme 20.27; 62 L O'Dell 20.57; 205 H Stafford 24.51; 206 A Faulkner 24.57.

Under-17 men: 1 T Humphries (Staffs) 20.12; 2 M Smart (Middlesex) 20.32; 3 S Jacobs (Suffolk) 20.33.

Other Suffolk: 10 M Barnes-Smith 20.59; 97 J McNally 22.33; 130 C Jones 22.55; 149 O Barrett 23.09; 201 P Graham 23.50; 217 A White 24.09.

Under-20 men: 1 M Farah (Middlesex) 25.13; 2 T Sharland (Suffolk) 25.33. Other Suffolk: S Palmer 33.11.

Senior women: 1 L Yelling (Beds) 27.44. Suffolk: 86 S Eastall 31.41; 148 G Leathers 33.14; 170 K Waterson 33.39; 233 A McNally 35.41; 236 L Anderson 35.52; 249 P Partridge 36.14; 256 E Gobbitt 36.37.

Senior men: 1 S Haughian (Middlesex) 37.04. Suffolk: 198 R Coll 42.39; 201 J Calvert 42.43; 242 G Irving 43.39; 303 T Powell 47.39; 306 V Calver 48.09, 310 G White 49.04.

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