Sam Petterson just loves to run.
And he is in with a chance of running into the Australian Paralympics athletics team to compete in London in 2012.
The 17-year-old Xavier Catholic College Year 12 student who has cerebral palsy was last October invited to attend a talent search in Currumbin, Queensland.
That followed a terrific year for the 1500m runner in which he was named Xavier Catholic College Sportsperson of the Year along with 2008 Beijing Paralympian Jacqueline Freney.
He came first in the 1500m at the Pacific School Games Track and Field Championships with Athletes with a Disability (16-17 years) at Canberra with a personal-best time of 5min 37.09; he was Australian Cross Country Champion for Athletes with a Disability (16-19 years) at the Australian Cross Country Championships in Geelong in August; and was NSW State Cross Country Champion at the NSW All Schools meet at Eastern Creek in July.
On February 26, he will be awarded a NSW Combined Catholic Colleges Sport Association Blue for his cross country achievements this year.
Sam is a member of the Ballina Athletic Club and the Ballina Triathlon Club, meeting each week during the respective seasons.
He is now being coached by Jennie Duffield of West Ballina, and is starting to take his running seriously.
He trains three afternoons a week with Jennie for about an hour or so each session.
At the moment he is concentrating on the 1500m, but is considering entering 3km events as well.
He hopes to compete in the Arafura Games in Darwin in May, and at a national mini-Paralympics event at Melbourne later this year where Australian Paralympic selectors will be keeping an eye on the athletes, and comparing their times to world-best times in the disability category.
Sam is T37 cerebral palsy.
Sam began running with Little Athletics as a youngster, coming from a family of keen runners – he runs with his mum Liz each week.
After a break, he was encouraged to take up athletics again in early 2007. But Sam is keeping a clear head, and not thinking about a trip to London.
“I enjoy the sport and train for it, and I just do it,” he said.
He is just concentrating on each event as it comes up, and enjoying the camaraderie among all the athletes he competes with.
He said if he did get selected in the Australian Paralympics team, that would be a great bonus.
Because, after all, he just loves running.
Article and photo from Ballina Shire Advocate