Matthew Shirling has a big 2014 ahead of him on track and cross country circuit

St Helens Star: Matthew Shirling Matthew Shirling

THE new year promises to be another landmark one on both the track and cross country circuit for Newton’s Matthew Shirling.

The former winner of the Pride of St Helens Young Sportsperson of the year had a steady transitional year moving up to run against older boys in the under 20s, but expects to kick on in 2014 when he will be at the top end of that age range.

With targets of World Juniors on the track in America and the cross country Europeans to aim for, Shirling has plenty to keep his focus all year round – a season which could see him move up to 5,000metres.

Although coach Adrian Webb has by no means written off Shirling as a 1,500m runner, the times he clocked during on the 4, 5 and 6k relay races set bells ringing that the longer distances may favour him.

Webb said: “Matty had an ok year on the track and found it quite tough, particularly coping with the bigger lads. We expected that.

“Next year he is going to try and get to World Juniors in Oregon, in July and the qualifying for that is in May.

“It will be a year early, but he has a strong chance of making that but that is what we are working towards. We are also exploring whether we are going to dip into a 5,000m, but we will know that at the end of the cross country season.

“It is no secret – but he can try out for the 5k and then six week later do likewise for the 1,500m as well.”

The World Junior trials for 5k are in May and to qualify Shirling would have to do 14 minutes. The 1500m trials are in late June, where a time of 3.43 is required to be considered for selection.

But before Shirling can even contemplate sun-baked June and July days on the track in the short term he has mud, rain and cold to navigate with some serious cross country business coming up shortly.

In Edinburgh the Hope Academy student will again be representing Great Britain against a strong American team and the rest of Europe.

“Cross country is a means to an end and we are preparing already for the track, having said that there are some big championships that he would like to win and once he has done Edinburgh on January 11th he goes into the nationals and the English schools, which he won a year under age last year and now wants to win at the top end as well.

“It is a means to an end but also has a serious side to it as well with the Europeans in Bulgaria next December a big one for us.

“He wants a medal next year and it is still a European Championships, wearing a GB vest and he wants to qualify at Sefton in November.

“As soon as he comes out of the track season we will be concentrating purely on Sefton and the Europeans,” said Webb.

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