Early England festive cheer for Chen

City of Portsmouth's Jess Chen has been called up to the England junior team
City of Portsmouth's Jess Chen has been called up to the England junior team
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Jess Chen received an early Christmas present after being called up for England.

The City of Portsmouth rising star has been given her international vest, after being selected for the national junior team.

The 18-year-old will travel to Brussels to compete in a highly-regarded international cross-country event on Sunday, December 18.

It’s a massive boost for the City ace, who is making hurtling progress as her commitment to running helps her talent to prosper.

The news of Chen’s call-up arrives after she narrowly missed out on a place in the Great Britain squad at the European Junior Cross Country Championships.

The Oxford University student just lost out on a berth in the team at the trials for the competition, when she finished nine seconds behind the final qualifier.

Chen has been given a big pick-me-up in the wake of that race, however, after being told by the England manager that duty calls for her country.

Her coach Gerry North believes selection is richly deserved for the teenager, with Chen showing an impressive work ethic.

North reckons she will learn from competing in a high-quality race which will massively help her development.

He said: ‘It’s great new for Jess to get her first international vest.

‘It’s a big boost for her and something I know she has been aiming to achieve for some time.

‘The England manager has been in touch with her and given her the good news.

‘The international in Brussels is a good race. It’s the same one I ran in many years ago.

‘There will be a lot of strong foreign opposition for Jess to test herself against.

‘Jess has gone away to university but has stayed focused on her running.

‘The race has arrived at the right time for her because she has now come home from university for a few weeks.

‘There is no doubt she is one of the most dedicated athletes I work with. She deserves her vest because of that.

‘She is coming on nicely as far as I’m concerned and has a lot of potential.

‘For the club, it’s good new to have a young female international like her. It’s our first for a while.

‘It is good news for all concerned.’

North believes the future looks bright for Chen if her current rate of progress continues.

That, he insisted, has to be married with more of the same in terms of the effort she puts into training.

With Chen having another year to go in the junior category, her coach is confident that a GB vest can follow her England call-up.

North said: ‘Jess was so close to GB selection.

‘The top six got chosen for the European Championships and she was just outside that.

‘But there is still another year for her to go in that age category.

‘She needs to keep working hard but she definitely has what it takes to get her GB vest next year.’

Chen will this weekend link up with City club-mate Cassie Thorp as they both compete in the South of England Inter-Counties Championships.

Chen will go in the under-20s race at Lloyds Park in Croydon, with Thorp part of the senior women’s team.