Shaun goes from strength to strength

SHAUN Webb's glittering season of top-class cross country just keeps getting better and better.

Carl Marston

SHAUN Webb's glittering season of top-class cross country just keeps getting better and better.

Webb achieved a burning ambition when representing England Schools last weekend, in a home international against teams from hosts Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

And this trip to Perth came just two days after he learned of his selection to run for England Schools at the World Schools Cross Country Championships, to be staged in Prague later this month.

It has been a breathtaking last few months for 15-year-old Webb, who has taken the cross country world by storm in his first proper season, under the watchful eye of coach Steve Benson.

The highly-rated Ipswich Harrier scooped medals at the three major championships over the winter. He struck gold at the South of England Championships (Hampstead Heath) and National Championships (Alton Towers), in addition to winning a silver medal at the Inter-Counties Championships in Nottingham.

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He also impressed when finishing sixth at the English Schools Championships in Liverpool, while competing as a first year in the intermediate age group. That performance earned him a place in the England Schools squad.

Webb linked up with his England team-mates in London last week, before travelling up to Perth for the home international - each home country had eight runners in a top-class field of 32.

East Bergholt High School pupil Webb, despite running against competitors a year older than him, finished a fine sixth overall.

“It was a great experience for me. The distance (6km) was a bit further than I'm used to, and it was very flat. I prefer a few undulations,” explained Webb.

“I'm really looking forward to the World Schools. The phone call came out of the blue last week. It's a five-day trip, so it should be a good cultural experience as well.

“It's a great opportunity for me, to run against lads two or three years older. I will try to learn from the experience.

“It's a great event to go to. My coach Steve Benson is over the moon. I just don't know where it's going to end!” added Webb.

The World Schools Championships are only held every two years. Ellie Sprake, who is also coached by Benson, competed in the last event two years ago, when it was staged in Italy. The race is on April 24.

Coach Benson said: “The news of Shaun's selection for the World Schools is the cherry on the icing on the cake! It's been a very good season.

“Shaun says that he wants to compete at the very top, and this will be a good stepping stone towards achieving that aim. It all bodes well, and his improvement will come from better training.

“I'm delighted for him. He's only the second ever Suffolk runner to be chosen for the World Schools event, and it's a decision that the selectors won't have taken lightly.

“They have recognised his excellent performances this season. He has been justifiably picked,” added Benson, who was the Great Britain junior men's team manager at last weekend's World Championships in Edinburgh. The team were the first European finishers and ninth overall.

Shaun's Dad, Rod, said: “I must say a big thank you to all the people who have helped us out financially, especially with the recent trip to Perth, and of course a big thanks to Steve Benson for helping Shaun to progress from a good athlete to an international.”

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