Exams keep India’s young sprint queen on the run in Pune
Friday, 8.30 am, Balewadi Sports Complex, 100 metre semifinal for girls under-18. 16-year-old Avantika Narale wins.
10am, Narale sprints to, in a manner of speaking, Sadhna School in Hadapsar; sits for her Science 2 SSC board exam.
12.30 pm, paper concludes. Narale sprints, still with the run pun, back to Balewadi.
2.50 pm, Narale runs and wins the final of the under-18 girls 100 metres in a time of 12.2 seconds. Narale’s personal best is 11.97 seconds, which she ran in Hong Kong.
Narale was a tad slow, but too fast for the competitors competing against her. Narale is India’s top youth sprinter having won golds at the Asian Youth Games (100m) and Khelo India (200m). On Friday she was competing at the Pune District Amateur Athletics Association (PDAAA)-organised, Pune District Junior Athletics Championship.
Eight hundred athletes descended on Balewadi as the PDAA championship got underway, but all eyes were on the u-18 100m race featuring Narale.
On a day when the rain was a matter of concern for all athletes, Narale had to worry about an exam too. This is not the first time for Narale.
Due to the Asian Youth Athletics Championship, Narale couldn’t appear for four SSC board exam papers. July 26 was the last of those papers .
Why would an international athlete be running a district championship? Narale says: “I started from this level and went on to the international level. I don’t like to let go of the basics. I want to treat all competitions with equal respect. Competing at this level helps me improve. Despite the fact that I had an exam I managed a time of 12.2. That means I can get faster.”
Earlier this year, at the Asian Youth Athletics Championship in Hong Kong, she appeared for three SSC board exam papers, then flew to Hong Kong, won three medals, including a gold in the final, returned to India, and appeared for two more papers.
Why wasn’t Friday’s exam postponed?
Balasaheb Salunke, principal, Lonkar Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Narale’s college, explains: “It wasn’t an internal exam. It was a board exam and we don’t have a say in that. The schedule is decided by the SSC Board. If it was an internal exam, we would have co-operated with her [Avantika] and postponed it, but unfortunately, we couldn’t do anything.”
“We supported Avantika not just for her international venture, but also for her stint at Khelo India 2019. Because of what she has accomplished for the city, state and country, we have already granted her admission for Class 11 grade. Even if she fails to clear a paper, she can reappear for it, but her admission for Class 11 is confirmed.”