The Rising Star: Emelia Gorecka
She's won everything from the English National Cross Country Championships to the ISF World School Games. But Emelia Gorecka, who turned 16 in January, is definitely not one to rest on her laurels.
This April, Gorecka was the youngest runner in the junior women's race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Undaunted by her older, more-experienced competitors, Goreka finished the 6K in 23rd place, with a time of 20:25. Just eight seconds behind fastest Brit Kate Avery, Gorecka helped the GB team to fifth place. Not bad for someone who is doing her GCSEs this year.
"I'm lucky to have found a good balance between studies and running," she says. "I take every season as it comes and keep progressing by small amounts. I'm really happy with the way my season's been developing. The highlight was the World Champs. I can't wait to be up there again."
Gorecka has been running since primary school. She performed so well in the school cross-country event that her teachers advised her to try track work. She excelled at both the 800m and 1500m. But it wasn't until 2007, aged 13, that Gorecka found her niche: when she returned to cross-country.
Her progression was stellar. In 2007, she came either first or second in all of her five cross-country events; by 2008, she was winning every time, recording 15 consecutive victories. At the same time, Gorecka began experimenting with longer track work, cutting her 3,000m PB from 9:58.98 to 9:22.8 in just a year.
She credits her success to the support of coach Mick Woods and her fellow runners at Aldershot, Farnham and District AC. She also ranks her club mates amongst her closest friends. "They help me stay calm and focused," she says. "Running is like my relaxation time; I go out at least three times a week but there's no additional pressure on me. I don't get fazed by the competition - I thrive on it."
Gorecka has the perfect mix of natural ability and natural optimism. Asked about the much-criticised state of British school sports, she is typically upbeat: "You just need to look at the under-13s competitions to see how many children there are who are really enthusiastic about running. The problem is that they tend to drop out of sport during their teenage years. We just need to get them to stay on - and the situation really looks good."