SAM Bennett was overjoyed after being named the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund athlete of the year for the under-18 category.

Bennett has enjoyed an impressive campaign, having also been crowned the 110m hurdles European champion in Hungary.

And the former Southend High School for Boys pupil was delighted to pick up the award to round off a stellar season on the track.

Bennett, who is a Basildon Athletics Club member, said: “Winning the award is really important to me because it is great to receive acknowledgement of achievements and especially from such an established charity like the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund.

“The awards ceremony took place in Coventry, at the Ricoh Arena.

“I was able to go with my mum, who has always been supportive of me and it’s lovely to be able to share special moments like that with her.”

Bennett, who hails from Langdon Hills, picked up the under-18 award and he was joined on the Ricoh Arena stage by Laviai Nielsen and Niamh Emerson, who got the hands on the under-23 and under-20 prizes respectively.

And the teenager was keen to thank his coach, Steve Surety, and his family for helping him to enjoy success.

“I would like to thank my family for being helpful in getting me to where I am today,” added Bennett.

“They are always keeping me ready and healthy for every race and training session.

“Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of my first and only coach Steve Surety.

“He has been with me the whole way and has helped me to develop my technique as I have moved through to the higher hurdles.

“Also, thanks must go to the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund for helping to support me on my journey.”