Grace races to Euro place

Grace Baker has achieved automatic qualification for the European Junior Championships
Grace Baker has achieved automatic qualification for the European Junior Championships
  • Baker achieves automatic selection for European Juniors
  • Pett runner clocks second fastest 5,000m time by an u20 woman in Europe this year
  • The time is also 20th on the UK all-time list
  • Performance makes her medal contender in Sweden next month
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Athletics prospect Grace Baker has achieved automatic selection to represent Great Britain at the European Junior Championships.

The 19-year-old from Pett clocked the second fastest 5,000m time by an under-20 woman in Europe this season in winning her age group title at the British Milers’ Club Sportcity Grand Prix.

Baker, who is coached by Mick Woods, put behind her two missed track seasons where she was dogged by injury to run a remarkable 35-second personal best of 16.19, which was also the 20th best ever by a UK under-20 woman.

Such a performance now makes her look like a realistic medal prospect for the European Junior Championships, which will take place in Ekilstuna, Sweden, next month.

Baker said: “I didn’t expect to run so quickly and to get the automatic spot. I now have to change my race plan and do lots of high quality 1,500m and 3,000m races to ensure my leg speed is there.”

Speed did not seem to be a problem at the Sportcity Grand Prix in Manchester, where she made an important breakthrough. Baker led for most of the race only to be overtaken by Bronwen Owen.

I didn’t expect to run so quickly and to get the automatic spot.

Grace Baker

She seemed to the crowd to have been beaten, but produced a superb sprint finish to win by more than two seconds with a time which beat the European qualification mark by more than 15 seconds.

Baker will be returning home from Royal Holloway University for a few weeks’ preparation, joining in with her dad Peter’s training group at Hastings Athletic Club, before returning back to her base to train with her Aldershot, Farnham & District AC training group.

It’s been a very good six months for Baker, who represented Great Britain & Northern Ireland at the World Cross-Country Championships in China during March following a fourth place finish at the Inter-Counties Championships.

She was also part of the GB junior women’s squad which contested the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross-Country against USA and a European select team back in January.

What’s more, the ex-Rye and Bexhill College pupil was victorious for England junior women at the Iris Lotto Cross Cup cross-country event in Brussels during December.

In fact, athletics seems to be on a real high locally at present. Elise Lovell won the senior women’s heptathlon at the England Athletics Combined Events Championships last month and Hastings AC has won its first two Southern Athletics League meetings this season.

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