Nine-year-old back in Manchester to claim gold days after escaping arena attack

Gold standard: Annie Geoghegan (left) and Olivia Metcalfe.

Gold standard: Annie Geoghegan (left) and Olivia Metcalfe.

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A nine-year-old Burnley student who was at the Manchester Arena during last week's terror attack has refused to be cowed after bravely travelling back to Manchester to win gold at an Independent School's Association athletics event.

St Joseph's Park Hill Primary school pupil, Olivia Metcalfe, was at the Ariana Grande concert with her father, William, when the attack which killed 22 people was carried out, with the pair "scrambling" to get out of the arena and eventually making it home in the early hours of the morning.

And despite being shaken by the horrific events, the keen runner refused to be deterred as she once again travelled into Manchester to claim gold in the Under-10s 600m at the ISA event on Wednesday, May 24th and book her place in the national finals just days after the bombing.

"It's amazing," said Annette Robinson, head at Park Hill Primary. "To think that she went to a big event again in Manchester, bless her, she was so brave. She was at the Ariana Grande concert with her dad [and] they were both very shaken, but she came into school the following day."

With concerns over a potential secondary attack, many parents were wary of pressing on with the annual event, which welcomed representatives from schools across the North to Sportcity, but Annette said Park Hill were steadfast in believing that going was the right decision.

"Of course, some parents were nervous, but we decided to go," she said. "Staff and parents were obviously nervous, but we thought 'no, we've got to go for the children's sake and take part,' and I'm so glad that we did go. We teach the children about hope and optimism and reconciliation, and these are the messages we want to get across."

For Olivia, the victory in the face of everything was even more poignant.

"The fact that she even went to a big event with lots of people there in Manchester is just incredible," Annette added. "To then go and win is amazing."

Hoping to cap off her heartwarming achievement by succeeding at the nationals in Birmingham in June, where she will represent the North, Olivia will have the whole school and the entire region cheering her on.

"She's known around school as a keen athlete, she's a great runner," Annette explained. "She's represented us and done really well in the cross country; she's very sweet, quite quiet but she's great fun."

Despite the close-knit school having less than 100 students, incredibly, Olivia will not be the only Park Hill alumni heading to Birmingham, after year five pupil, Annie Geoghegan (10), also claimed gold in the Under-11s 600m and silver in the 75m relay to book her place at the nationals as well.

"It's such an achievement," said Annette of her school's success.