Despite dropping out of the Inter-Counties with injury, Jac Hopkins wants a top 50 spot at Saturday’s World Cross Country Championships

After withdrawing from the Inter-Counties, Jac Hopkins’ face said it all. It was one of dejection and disappointment after succumbing to injury 2km into the under-20 race at Cofton Park.

However, fast forward five days and that emotion quickly turned into delight as he was greeted with the news that he had been selected for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in China. With only three automatic places on the team available, the 17-year-old knew there was a possibility he would not be on the plane, but was keen not to jeopardise his outdoor season by swapping a minor niggle for a major injury.

Jac explained: “At the Inter-Counties, I was coming down the hill on the first lap and it was quite slippy and muddy and I felt something twinge in my calf. At the time I thought nothing of it, but as I carried on it seemed to tighten up more. If I’d carried on, I could have torn it. I’ve seen the physio and it was just a small strain but it’s caused me no problems since, especially seeing as I ran three days later and it felt completely fine.

“It was absolutely gutting at the time because I was on course for a series win and a victory at the Inter-Counties too. I was in pretty good shape, so it was annoying for it to happen there.”

Up until the race in the West Midlands, Jac had equipped himself well over the winter finishing 19th at the European Cross Country Championships before going on to win the Cardiff Cross Challenge and the Welsh junior national title.

He believes his form over the last three months was the crucial factor in gaining selection for the GB & NI team heading to the Far East this week.

“I said to myself I’ve proved myself over the season – I was second Brit home in Bulgaria, first Brit in my age group in Edinburgh and I’m delighted that the selectors saw that potential in me to take me to China,” he added.

“I thought if I didn’t make the team, I’ve got European Juniors on the track, so it was important to look at the bigger picture too.”

Jonny Davies was the highest-placed junior male in 35th at the previous edition of the event in Bydgoszcz in 2013 and feels that if he can get near to that, along with a strong performance from the team, it would represent a successful championship for him.

“I’ve always thought top 40-50 would be amazing, saying you’re that high up in the world. When Jonny (Davies) did it two years ago, he was in top form and I would love to finish around there.

“What is also good is that we’ve got a tight-knit team in that we’re quite close together. At the Inter-Counties, there was only six seconds between the top three and that’s nothing over 8km.

“We’ve also got Alex (George) coming over from America, who is also running really well, so I’m hoping we can put in a good team performance as well as individual performances too. It would be great to emulate what the girls did in Poland coming away with a medal, but I think a top five team performance would be pretty special.”

You can find further performance stats on Jac on Power of 10 here.

» Support young athletes via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk

» This is an extract from an interview with Jac Hopkins in the March 26 edition of AW magazine which also includes a three-page World Cross preview and is available to read digitally here