ROSSENDALE Harriers teenager Joe Johnston is preparing to don the Great Britain vest next month after booking his place at the European Mountain Running Championships for the second year running.
The talented 19-year-old, rightly considered as one of East Lancashire’s best young fell and long-distance runners, has gained his spot after an emphatic trials victory on the hills of Sedbergh.
Last summer, Johnston became only the second Harrier to gain GB representative honours, following in the footsteps of three-time national cross country champion Dave Lewis.
Back then, he competed in the European Mountain Running Champion-ships at Birsa, in Turkey, and finished a respectable 30th overall.
Johnston will return to Turkey again for this year’s event, as it shifts venue to Denizli, which is in the south of the country, on Saturday, July 7.
“We’re highly delighted for Joe,” said Rossendale Harriers chairman Graham Wright.
“He’s very dedicated and has worked hard for a very long time with his coach Phil Bolton.
“He knows the ins and outs of representing his country now, so I’m sure he is really looking forward to this.”
Wright added: “Joe is a local lad that has been with the club for a number of years now. His parents and sister run for the club too. They are a running family.
“He’s come through the ranks since he was a kid.
“Fell running is what he excels at, though he’s a natural athlete who can run well at any distance.”
Johnson clinched his British place after a wonderful U20 two-lap run at Sedbergh, completing the Cumbrian course in 33 minutes and 48 seconds, winning by seven seconds ahead of Border’s Peter Harrison who has also booked an automatic GB place.
In the senior men’s race, the Blackburn Harriers duo of Gary Priestley and Tom Cornthwaite missed out on selection after finishing 10th and 11th respectively.
Chorley’s Priestley, who has been struggling with blisters, ran in 49:47, with Cornthwaite behind on 50:59.
In the junior females, Beckie Taylor of Blackburn came 12th overall.
Johnson wore the British jersey for a second time in September last year when competing in the World Mountain Running Championships in Tirane, Albania, alongside fellow East Lancas-trians Cornthwaite and Karl Billington, both of Blackburn Harriers.
He was the second British counter on that occasion in the junior men’s race.
Also in September, he wore England colours as he finished runner-up at the Fell Running Junior Home International at Llanberis, Snowdonia.
Earlier this year, he triumphed as top Under 20 male at the Trafford 10k in Greater Manchester and, in a slightly low-key event, destroyed a 250-plus strong field in a 5k run at Manchester’s Heaton Park.
He is expected to take part in August’s World Championships Trial, staged in Glenridding, Cumbria, on Sunday, August 5.