Payton’s Cameron Pettigrew eyes state title

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So you were fed up with the run of unseasonably cold days in March? Cameron Pettigrew feels your pain.

“I am so sick of Chicago’s moody weather,” the Payton senior said. “Especially since outdoor [track] season rolls around and there was snow two years ago.”

Pettigrew has one more season of fickle weather to contend with before she heads off to a place where snow and cold are not an issue.

The Grizzlies’ star sprinter has committed to run for the University of Southern California, a development even she didn’t see coming.

“It’s been a blessing,” Pettigrew said. “I didn’t expect to be in this position two years ago or even a year ago. It’s surreal.”

About as unusual, in fact, as one of the fastest high school girls in the country coming out of a Public League school with hardly any facilities to speak of.

But Pettigrew has a few things on her side, including a legacy of track success. Her late grandfather, George Kerr, ran for Jamaica in the 1960 and ’64 Olympics, winning bronze medals in the 800 meters and the 1,600 relay.

“I wanted to follow that family tradition,” Pettigrew said. “And I ended up here.”

But even though many of her relatives on her mother’s side of the family were runners, it wasn’t till relatively recently that Pettigrew even took the sport seriously.

“It was a hobby, that’s how I would describe it,” she said.

Be that as it may, she owns a couple of IHSA state medals: a fourth in the Class 2A high jump in 2011 and a second in the 3A 400 last spring.

Though she also runs the 200 — ranking fourth in the state and 32nd nationally indoors this year with a 24.85 — It’s the metric quarter mile that looks to be Pettigrew’s meal ticket.

“She was running the shorter sprinting events,” said Payton coach Monica Carmody, who took over the program when Pettigrew was a sophomore. “I wanted to put her in the 400. Once she ran that, I saw she could go really far in this event.”

Pettigrew had an indoor season best of 56.01 seconds this year, ranking second in the state and 13th in the nation. She went 54.41 at the outdoor state finals last year, finishing behind Warren freshman Brittny Ellis (54.08).

At this year’s unofficial indoor state meet last month, Pettigrew won the 3A 400 with a 56.22, establishing herself as a top contender for the 3A outdoor title in Charleston in May. Ellis did not run the 400 at indoor state, doubling up in the 60 and 200 and winning both instead.

“It just feels good to be back for a full indoor season and to run on a phenomenal track in a facility like this,” Pettigrew said after her win at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center.

She’s more used to running on tile floors in school hallways and on city streets.

“It’s not the best conditions,” said Pettigrew, who missed most of the 2012 indoor season because she was playing basketball for Payton. “But you make do with what you have.”

She has no plans to let the Chicago Public Schools’ lack of adequate facilities hold her back.

“A win [at state], that’s all I want,” she said.

Well, maybe a run of sunny, warm weather as well. But that will be coming soon enough.

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