World junior silver medallist admits she almost pulled out of the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix through nerves before going on to record her first sub-2:00 clocking
Teenager Jess Judd should have gone into Sunday’s Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham full of confidence following her gritty 800m win in Gateshead for maximum points at the European Team Championships a week before.
But the world junior silver medallist has admitted she almost didn’t run thanks to fears her dominance at what was her senior international debut in Gateshead was a “one-off”.
Luckily she didn’t let nerves get the better of her, cruising to victory and bettering the ‘A’ qualifying standard for the World Championships in Moscow with her personal best 1:59.85 clocking.
“I was a bit worried because last week (in Gateshead) I thought maybe it was a one-off,” she told AW after the race. “Then I got really nervous today and thought ‘I don’t want to go out and do it’, but afterwards I thought ‘hey, I’m running all right at the moment’, so I just hope it lasts until the trials.”
The 18-year-old again demonstrated her superb judgement and maturity to overhaul fellow Brit Marilyn Okoro who crossed a fraction outside two minutes.
“I was a bit nervous at the start and the first lap was so fast, but then I thought ‘I’m on for it’ (sub-two minutes) and in the home straight the crowd were going nuts. I just carried on and when I crossed the line I couldn’t believe it.
“My coach Rob Denmark told me to get through the first lap using as little energy as possible. It felt really fast, though, so I just sat off it a bit and then I really worked down the back straight.”
Judd has featured in the pages of AW for several years, mainly due to her exploits on the teenage cross-country scene, but her recent achievements will have seen her capture the wider British public, as well as an audience further afield, with LetsRun.com describing Judd as as a ‘teenage phenom’, the tag also given to the USA’s own Mary Cain.
But being a sub-two minute runner is something Judd admits is going to take a bit of getting used to. “It’s really weird!” she smiled. “It’s huge. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.
“My coach has been brilliant, as have all my training partners back at home who have helped me. Through tough times they’ve really helped raise my confidence.”
Fresh from finishing her A-level exams, Judd had missed her school leavers’ ball in order to compete at the European Team Championships and admitted at the time her friends had given her a bit of grief about missing such an occasion. Luckily her performances spoke for themselves and Judd explained she’ll continue the celebrations with her friends in another way soon.
“My friends thought I ran well, which is good!” she said. “They understand why I didn’t go now and we’ll get together and celebrate by going to Nando’s or something.”
With plans just to train during the coming weeks rather than race, Judd admits she’s disappointed to be missing the English Schools Championships this coming weekend, but has her sights set on success at the European Junior Championships in Rieti held from July 18-21.
“I’m gutted I’m going to miss the English Schools Championships, as it’s one of my favourite events, but I’ll probably cheer my sister on the TV,” she explained. “She (Jodie, aged 14) found out she was doing the English Schools at the same time I found out I was in the Euro Team Champs team, so it was quite a good day! We were really happy.”
Looking ahead to Italy, she added: “I hope to win my first-ever title as I was third in the World Youths and second in the World Juniors. It would be good to get the gold there.”
» You can find a full report from Birmingham along with pictures and results in the July 4 issue of AW, which is available here and in most WHSmith, Tesco and other leading stores