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ATHLETICS: Pettitt's big performance
A MATTER of minutes before she was due to run on Saturday, Clara Pettitt’s challenge changed.
The teenager, named in Vale Royal Athletic Club’s under 17s girls B team for the Northern Cross Country Relays at Sheffield, was switched swiftly to the A line-up with Amy Hinchly’s arrival delayed by traffic.
Not only that, Pettitt would have to run the anchor leg in a trio completed by England schools’ internationals Jessica Parsons and Katie Gerrard.
“She was a bag of nerves stood holding two numbers – hers and Amy’s – before the race started,” said coach Shaun McGrath.
“When it became clear Amy wasn’t going to make it, I ran over to Clara to tell her she would have to stand in.”
Even he did not expect what happened next.
Pettitt started the last leg in first place after Gerrard and Parsons timed the second and fourth fastest splits of the day.
Chased by Stockport’s Ellen Downs, she held on to secure a maiden gold medal at regional level.
“She’s not run harder, or more impressively,” said McGrath afterwards.
“Amy arrived at the venue as Clara was heading towards the finish, though our change had been so late that the race commentator thought it was Amy crossing the line. We laughed, but it was a stunning performance.”
Pettitt reported afterwards that a spectator’s dog distracted her too after following the Vale Royal runner on part of the course at Sheffield’s Graves Park.
The club’s under 17s boys, anchored by Elliot Bowker clocking the fastest leg of the afternoon in the age category, finished first too.
Matthew Sheen and then Sam Whitehead had manoeuvred the threesome into the lead before Bowker took over.
A third medal followed, this time for Vale Royal’s under 13s boys’ team of John Humphries, Alex Doyle and Ben Lee.
The latter ran the final leg in 5:32, the fourth quickest time in class.
Meanwhile Vale Royal’s senior men, with Mike Vennard, Pat Stradling, Steve Caldwell and George Thompson on duty, placed 10th overall.
McGrath added: “It was another great day for the club.”
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