Classy Chen has uni debut to remember

Jess Chen
Jess Chen
Ali Watson  and Katy Bradley scan finishing tokens for first time parkrunners Rebecca Howell and Jess Gwynn

Gallery: Lee-on-the-Solent parkrun 149

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Jess Chen produced her ‘best performance’ of the cross country season to record a top-10 finish at the British Universities’ Championships in Cardiff.

The fast-emerging City of Portsmouth ace continued her impressive winter form to cross the finish line in ninth place, with a time of 24min 57 sec.

That was only 49 seconds behind overall winner, Birchfield Harriers and University of Birmingham runner Hannah Walker (24.08), and put Chen well ahead of England under-20 team-mates Iona Lake (25.17) and Poppy Blake (25.36), who finished 13th and 22nd respectively.

Both girls defeated Oxford University student Chen when they teamed up to represent England in the Lotto Cross Cup in Belgium in December.

But Chen showed the enormous progress she has made since then to ensure she remains one to look out for ahead of the National under-20s Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill, London, on February 25.

Catherine Blew, ranked Britain’s number-two 3,000m runner, was another competitor the former Portsmouth Grammar School pupil got the better off around the Cardiff course.

And with other notable entrants failing to match their reputations, City coach Gerry North was delighted with how his young protegee performed on her BUCS debut.

‘Jess did absolutely brilliant,’ he said.

‘It was her best run of the season, beating other runners who are faster on paper.

‘She was absolutely chuffed with the race and phoned me immediately afterwards to tell me the good news.

‘She’s looking really good at the moment.’

The National Cross Country Championships and the Inter-Counties in Birmingham are next on the agenda for a busy Chen.

North believes she’ll be in the reckoning for both as the youngster continues to impress.

‘Jess has got a great attitude,’ added North. ‘She wants to get better every time she races and deserves all the success she gets. She works so hard and is very dedicated.

‘Jess certainly has a very bright future ahead of her.’