MICHAEL Vennard, of Vale Royal Athletics Club, ran a personal best to win his first national track title last weekend.

But the 18-year-old needs to go faster again to make certain he will represent Great Britain at next month’s World Junior Championships in America.

He will be on track on at Birmingham on Saturday afternoon, during the Sainsbury’s British Championships, aiming to do exactly that.

Vennard was five seconds clear of closest rival Tom Hook by the finish of the under 20s men’s 3,000m steeplechase final at Bedford, crossing the line in 9:05.15.

And that after badly bruising a foot while landing awkwardly at the water jump.

“I couldn’t walk afterwards,” he said.

“Strangely I didn’t feel it at all during the race, so adrenaline must have helped me make it to the finish.”

Next Vennard, ranked number one in the UK for the discipline among under 20s, takes on the best of the rest in the senior ranks.

He said: “I’ve still got to find a few seconds to reach the standard expected by the British selectors.

“I think I can achieve that, particularly as I seem to be improving every time I race at the moment.

“I was so focused on the race last weekend that I didn’t look at the clock at all – it was all about finishing ahead of everybody else.”

He managed that with something to spare.

Hook, from City of Norwich Athletics Club, trained with Vennard during a warm weather camp in Portugal earlier this year.

Vennard timed a break from his rival and friend perfectly last Saturday, bringing home a gold medal as a reward.

Not bad for a runner that still classifies himself as rookie at the discipline.

“I’ve spent time in Kenya since leaving school as I’m taking a break before going to university,” he said.

“I met a guy from Australia while I was there. He does steeplechase, and said while we trained together that my running style and stride would suit it.

“I listened, and tried it when I got back.

“I feel comfortable, and have really enjoyed getting stuck into it.

“My whole season has been set-up to try and make the British team for the world juniors, so winning on Saturday was a big step towards that.”

He will be joined this weekend by Stevie Stockton, another Vale Royal AC member, who has entered the women’s 5,000m.

The 24-year-old ran a personal best of 15:53.26 for the distance in Manchester last month.

To watch a video of Vennard in action last weekend, click here: http://vsprt.com/TxKjAO