Spar Sprints Stars class of 2012 have one thing in common
THE Spar Sprints Stars class of 2012 was announced this month and there is a reoccurring theme among nearly all of them - July's World Junior Championships.
CLASS OF 2012: The latest athletes on the Spar Sprints Stars programme gather at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham
With Spar once again linking up with athletics governing body UKA, eight up-and-coming sprinters have been chosen to receive support ranging from travel to food to kit this year.
And it is a relatively star-studded line up at that with world youth 200m champion Desiree Henry and European Youth Olympic Festival 100m gold medallist Sophie Papps honoured.
Clovis Asong, a teenager once compared to Usain Bolt who won European Youth Olympic 400m gold, has also been recognised while Emily Diamond is retained from the class of 2011.
And sprint hurdlers Niall Flannery, Abi Fitzpatrick, fifth at last year's European Junior Championships, Yasmin Miller and Hayley McLean complete the eight-strong line up.
Miller and McLean both starred at the World Youth Championships in 2011 and, like Asong, Henry, Papps and Fitzpatrick, they too are targeting July's junior equivalent in Barcelona.
And Henry, who is in the same training paddock as reigning world junior 100m champion Jodie Williams, is adamant her latest recognition couldn't be better timed.
"To be a Spar Sprints Star is an absolutely amazing achievement. It feels great to be acknowledged and get the extra support and help needed to become an amazing athlete," said Henry.
"It will give me motivation just to do well knowing I've got the support of people believing in me and thinking I can do well in the future.
"I'll hopefully qualify for the worlds juniors and go there as a world champion but I will also be one of the youngest - I'll only be 16 and some will be up to 19.
"But I am looking to come in the top three or win. In terms of times I don't want to jinx anything but I think I can come up with something special and surprise everyone."
All bar Diamond gathered at the National Indoor Arena on the eve of the Birmingham Grand Prix to mark their selection onto the Spar Sprints Stars programme for 2012.
There they received an insight into the scheme and the benefits of it by Andrew Pozzi, who won the Spar Outstanding Athlete of the Year Award last year and has been selected for the upcoming World Indoor Championships.
And some of the class of 2012 don't have to look further than their London homes to find an even more successful graduate with Croydon Harrier Martyn Rooney also a benefactor of the programme.
And Papps, who not only won European Youth Olympic 100m gold but the Commonwealth Youth and English Schools' titles too, takes heart from Rooney's story.
He finished sixth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and claimed 400m bronze at the European Championships in 2010, and Papps said: "It's really exciting to be a Spar Sprints Star.
"We meet everyone else and everyone gets to be involved. We get to go places together and it raises the profile of athletics completely so it's really exciting to be a part of it.
"You look at other people who have been helped like Martyn Rooney and think it must have done something for him.
"Hopefully I'll make the World Juniors but I'm just looking to run as fast I can and see where it takes me."
Brought to you by SPAR, Official Sponsors of UK Athletics. For more information visit www.spar.co.uk
© Sportsbeat 2012