FORMER Hardenhuish School student Loren Bleaken will be packing her bags this weekend for a dream trip to America to compete in the World Junior Championships, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

The 18-year-old, from Marshfield, has been selected for the Great Britain women’s 4x400m relay squad to compete in the event in Eugene, Oregon on July 22-27.

“It is amazing to be selected for a major championships in my first serious year running 400m,” said Bleaken.

“I am just so excited and happy to be in the team and can’t wait for the event.”

Bleaken had to wait until the second wave of selections were revealed on Tuesday to learn she had made the team and admits it was a nervous time.

“I was worried whether they would take a relay team because none of the girls had run the qualifying time for the individual 400m,” she explained.

“But we have a strong group of girls who have run quick times and as a relay squad we ran a time at the Loughborough International in May that put us sixth fastest in the world at the time.

“Since then a lot of us have gone quicker so I think as a group we would definitely be looking to make the final of the relay and if we do that that then anything could happen.”

Only 12 months ago Bleaken was preparing to run the 800m at the European Junior Championships in Italy and has since moved down to the one-lap event and switched coaches from long-time mentor Adrian Clover to Malcolm Arnold.

“I had a bumpy start to the season but then ran a personal best (53.96secs) at the England Championship in Bedford which was very encouraging,” added Bleaken.

“My training has been going well but that just hasn’t been shown in races but I feel I am making progress.”

Meanwhile, the cream of the county’s best young athletes will represent Wiltshire at the two-day English Schools’ Track & Field Championships which start tomorrow in Birmingham.

Sheldon School’s Gemma Shepherd showed last year she can produce her best on the big occasion when finishing fourth in the final of the inter girls 1500m in a personal best of 4:29.22.

Coach Adrian Clover reckons she is getting close to that form again – she recently ran a season’s best of 4:30.42 last week – and while the competition will be tough he believes Shepherd will be in the mix.

“She is getting quicker with every race and is capable of 4mins 25ses,” said Clover.

Dauntsey’s Nikko Hunt is third in the UK rankings in the U17 men’s pole vault so the 16-year-old, who has competed sparingly this summer, must have a good chance of retaining the title he won in Birmingham 12 months ago.

Wiltshire English Schools Championships team

Junior boys: Ulas Akkus (Sheldon) 100m, Rory Clark (St John's School & Community College) 300m, John Howorth 1500m, Robert Howorth (both St Augustines Catholic College) 1500m, Sam Gilbert (Stonehenge) shot.

Inter boys: William Kennedy (Matravers) 100m, Austen Lane (Wyvern College) 200m, Owen Harnett (Lavington) 200m, Nikko Hunt (Dauntseys) pole vault.

Senior boys: Ciaran Cooper (Swindon New College) 800m.

Junior girls: Caitlin Wosika (John of Gaunt) 1500m, Grace Chambers (St Mary’s Calne) high jump, Ottilie Knight (St Edmund’s CoE Girls) javelin.

Inter girls: Gemma Shepherd (Sheldon) 1500m, Yasmin Watling (St Mary’s) 3000m, Zoe Wassell (Malmesbury) 3000m, Grace Davies-Redmond (St Laurence) 300H, Sophie Merritt (Godophin)  discus, Ellie J Webb (Matravers) hammer.

Senior girls: Emma Piatek (Swindon New College) 400m, Amy Jaramazovic (South Wilts Grammar) 400m, Emily Dixon (St Augustine’s) 100H, Elisabeth Clifford (South Wilts Grammar) 400H, Alex Mundell (Godolphin) 1500m steeplechase, Emily Hutchinson (Devizes) shot.