SOUTHEND High School’s head of PE Steve Thomas believes it is a phenomenal achievement for both the boys and girls teams to be heading to the World Schools Athletics Championships.

Thomas has been with the school for the past 20 years.

But he feels making the trip to China will surpass any of the school’s other achievements since his arrival.

“To go to China for a World Schools event with the boys school and the girls school from one small borough is just phenomenal,” said Thomas.

“It’s the first time the International Schools Federation World Championships have been held outside of Europe which adds to the occasion and we’re the only school going that aren’t a sporting college.

“We’ve also beaten some very good schools to get this far and I think this is top of the list of achievements since I came here.”

Both squads, who are in school years 11 to 13, will head to China tomorrow morning and will be taking on a whole host of other nations upon their arrival.

Germany, France, Czech Republic, Australia, Brazil and China will be among those taking part.

And Thomas is keen for the school to make the most of the opportunity.

“We’ve set all of the boys targets for their events and want them to reach them to show what they can do,” said Thomas.

“This will be the fifth time we have been to the World Schools and the third time the girls have gone.

“They have the better record at the moment because they came third a few years ago so there’s a friendly rivalry between us about who can finish higher but hopefully we can both put in a really good display out there.”

For that to happen, all of the athletes will need to be on top form.

But Thomas insisted it had been incredibly difficult to select those who would be going.

“We qualified to take part in this by winning the English Schools Track & Field Cup and the squad for that is bit bigger,” said Thomas.

“The World Schools also enables those in the sixth form to be involved and when we soon realised some of them had really improved.

“However, with so many talented athletes it was obviously very difficult to select just six.”

And the girls’ head of PE Sue Simpson admitted she had endured a similar selection dilemma.

“We’ve got six girls who are extremely happy but we have six who aren’t and it was very hard to decide who to pick,” said Simpson.

“But it’s just absolutely unbelievable that we’ve been selected for the third time and we’re all really excited about it.

“The first time we went we came third and the second time we came fifth, 12 points from third.

“We’re aiming to put in another good performance this time too and all of the girls have been set targets.

“We’re also hoping to do very well in the Swedish relay because we have some really good sprinters.”

The Swedish relay sees each athlete running a different distance, ranging from 100 metres up to 400 metres.

And Simpson believes that having Oliva Sofroniou and Jade Packer in the squad from the previous World Schools event will enable the squad to shine.

“Two of our team went to the World Schools in Prague so I think they will be a stabilising influence on the team and I don’t think they are going to be quite so blown away by the competition,” said Simpson.

“Sometimes they can think they’re not as good as everybody else but they are and they have to believe that as soon as they get onto the track.

“It was special the first time we went to compete in this event but because it’s in China now it’s extra special again this time too.”