Rookie Golden Bear runner Clay Grattidge has returned with gold in his first-ever USports national championship.

The Cochrane athlete together with teammates Josh Li, Nicholas Cook and Justin Rose, won the 4x400m with a time of 3:16.83, crossing the finish line ahead of the Manitoba Bisons team by 0.39 secs. Windsor Lancers came third with a time of 3:19.03.

Grattidge teamThe Golden Bears team on the podium with silver medalists from UManitoba and bronze medalists from the Windsor Lancers. (photo submitted) 

It follows a gold medal performance by the Golden Bear's men's 4x400 team in Canada West championship, Feb. 23-24, where Grattidge also won a bronze as a member of their 4x800 team.

READ: Grattidge wins two medals in first appearance at Canada West

"It feels great," says Grattidge. "I definitely wasn't expecting this, but it's exhilarating, that's for sure."

As the Golden Bears did at the Canada West championship, several athletes warmed up and four ran. He says it's a bit intimidating but understands the rationale.

"We just wanted to make sure that they had the right guys that were feeling good." 

He clocked 49.9 secs in his heat.

"It was it wasn't as quick as I was hoping to run, but it was a little bit tighter with three of us at the start, so a little bit more traffic than we had before, which definitely makes a difference."

He praises the performance of his running mates.

"Everyone ran hard and even the guys that that didn't race were there cheering us on. It could have been any one of us that raced. Honestly, we were all very close and I'm just happy that I was able to run it and help our team get the gold medal."

team cheerGolden Bears team celebrates the win. You can catch a glimpse of Grattidge (#5) in the centre. (photo submitted)

He also competed on the Golden Bears 4x800m finished fifth in a race that used a double waterfall start for 13 teams.

"Which on a track with only six lanes is kind of crazy," he says. "Two guys got pushed over right off the start and they lost their baton and then there was a ton of pushing and shoving, and then around the second curve, another guy wiped out. It was definitely interesting."

The Golden Bears initially placed fourth after two teams were disqualified, but one of them got reinstated, dropping them to fifth. 

With the university indoor season over, he's now preparing for the national club championship as a member of the Cochrane Endurance Project, and he hopes to earn a berth in the U20 Worlds being hosted by Lima, Peru, Aug. 27 to 31.

"We'll just have to take it step by step and hit the qualifying times and go to nationals first. It definitely gives me a lot of confidence going into the summer and the outdoor track."

He'll be returning to Cochrane to train with coach Travis Cummings with some input from his Golden Bears coach Sean Baynton.

The 6 ft., 155 lb. athlete trains and competes with the Cochrane Endurance Project and was a member of the Cochrane High track team, where he medaled in back-to-back provincials. He also ran cross-country.