Mitch Mazzuca became the Sault's first athlete to wear a 2011 medal Friday, grabbing a bronze at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) track and field championships in Sudbury.
A Grade 10 student at St. Basil secondary school, Mazzuca finished third in the junior boys 400-metre event.
A year ago, as a Midget Division competitor, he was the Sault's top provincial performer with a fourth-place finish in the 400m.
"I feel relieved," said the 15-year-old, who ran a personal-best time of :51.45.
That was just .02 seconds better than the fourth-place finisher, Chase Konecny, of West Elgin Secondary School in West Lorne, Ont.
"All the pressure is gone," added Mazzuca, who admitted he'd felt some heat to perform well, but "it was pressure I'd placed on myself."
The young runner, who competes in the 200m heats today at 12:30 p.m., said his goal coming to OFSAA was to emerge with a medal. However, it nearly didn't happen.
Mazzuca stumbled at the start and nearly fell.
"I was trying to extend my first step too far," he explained.
Initially, he thought he'd have no chance to catch up to the top runners. But, he said, he quickly decided to "kick it up a notch."
Fourth coming down the backstretch, Mazzuca extended himself at the finish line, barely edging Konecny.
"I wound up falling after the finish line," the Saints runner said. "But when I stood up I had a big smile on my face. It felt amazing."
Meantime, Rachel MacLennan of St. Mary's grabbed a seventh-place finish in the senior girls long jump. MacLennan was also 22nd in the 400m.
In the same division, Liza Ritchie of White Pines was 13th in the discus while Korah's Abi Fogg was 16th in javelin.
St. Basil's Jullien Flynn wound up 21st in the 1,500m, Lynnea Lobert of Superior Heights was 23rd in the Open Division 1,500m steeplechase and Korah's Jaimee Carter was 23rd in triple jump.
Kate Trotter of White Pines and Sara Matthews of Notre-Dame-des-Grands-Lacs also grabbed top-10 finishes. Trotter wound up 10th in the junior girls high jump while Matthews was 10th in the junior girls javelin.
In the same class, Marissa Lobert of Superior Heights finished 15th in the 1,500m, Rachel Voigt of Superior Heights was 20th in the 80m hurdles and teammate Jordyn Schell was 20th in the 100m.
In senior boys, Korah's Corey Conforzi placed 14th in the 100m while Patrick Turcotte of St. Mary's was 16th in the shot put.
Rob Gallinger of Central Algoma Secondary School notched a 19th in high jump, the same finish Barak Bordin of Superior Heights recorded in the 110m hurdles. Jordan Hoover of St. Basil was 21st in that race. Gallinger also secured a 20th-place showing in the triple jump.
In midget girls, Bianca Albidone of Korah finished 19th in the 400m.
In midget boys competition, Brandon Shawana of CASS wound up 19th in the javelin, while Mitch Oliverio of Korah was 22nd in the 100m hurdles and Anthony Stefano of St. Mary's placed 22nd in the 100m. Provincial action concludes today.