GEMMA Kersey has set herself some big targets this summer – and she has wasted little time in crossing one of those off her list.
The 22-year-old won the British Universities Championships 1,500m title on Monday after a confident front-running display.
Now, with a gold medal in the bag, she is turning her attention to the rest of the summer and mixing it with the country’s very best middle-distance runners.
Her list of targets include getting her 1,500m personal best (PB) down to 4m 8s, winning the national under-23 title and even having a go at winning a medal at the senior championships in July.
“I feel like it’s the most confident I have ever been,” said the Basildon AC athlete who was competing for Middlesex University at the British Universities Championships.
“I feel like I have nothing to lose this year and I’m just going to go out there and attack every race.”
Kersey had a disappointing year on the track last summer, but has knuckled down over the winter and got herself in top shape for the track season.
She said: “The winter was about endurance really.
“Eamonn (Martin, Kersey’s coach) says people get too caught up with speed work.
“It’s all about endurance. If you’re endurance gets better, you can maintain your speed. Last year I had the speed, but not the endurance.
“I was keeping pace in races, but then falling out the back door with 400m or 300m to go.
“This year I know I can hold the pace. I’ve kept the speed, but have increased the endurance.
“And that was done over the winter by hills, tempo runs and building my mileage up slowly.”
Kersey’s winter training included her first races over 10km and a fine eighth place in the seniors race at the UK Intercounties Cross-Country Championships.
And since lacing up her track spikes for the first time, she has discovered that form has been carried over.
“I know I’m in good shape. I’ve been doing sessions with Adam (Hickey, Kersey’s training partner and GB cross-country runner) where he has been towing me round and it suggests I’m in PB shape.
“But it’s one thing saying that and another going and doing it.”
Kersey, whose 1,500m PB of 4m 13.54s was set in 2012, went into last weekend’s British Universities Championships as the favourite and lived up to the billing, bossing her heat, semi-final and then the final, which she won in 4m 22.34s.
“I was pretty happy with that,” she said.
“To run 4m 22s in my first race, pretty much on my own, into a wind and with two earlier rounds in my legs, I think that was good.
“Last year my first race was 4m 28s so that’s an improvement.
“This year is all about winning races for me. There was a bit of pressure on me because Eamonn and others around me were saying that I should win it.
“I just had to go out there and prove it to myself.
“In the end, it couldn’t have gone any better.”