BATTLING Stevie Stockton needed oxygen after braving scorching temperatures at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kenya on Saturday.
The 17-year-old Vale Royal AC ace was badly affected by the soaring heat in Mombasa, but refused to give up as 20 other athletes collapsed.
She finished a creditable 52nd out of about 90 runners on her Great Britain debut over a 6k course, helping the GB into fifth place overall - by far the best performance by a European squad.
But the former Sir John Deane's College student needed oxygen and assistance from medics after stumbling over the Junior Women's finish line in 33°C.
She said: 'It was horrible - the worst race ever. The heat and everything got to me. I really didn't think I was going to finish, but I got through it.
'I had a bad throat and chest over the last few days but the medical team have done a fantastic job. They were amazing. Now I just want to improve and earn more GB appearances.'
Stockton's coach at Vale Royal AC, Shaun McGrath, said: 'I know Stevie ended up on oxygen, but it is typical of her fighting spirit to make it to the end. It will have been a
good experience for her when she looks back on it and she'll have learnt a lot.'
Ironically, if she had not been struggling in Kenya, Stevie is likely to have romped away with the English Schools Cross-Country Championships title in Leeds on Saturday.
The winner of the senior girls race was Cheshire's Heather Timmins, who has been beaten by Stevie on both occasions they have gone head to head this year.
In Stockton's absence clubmate Charlotte Roach turned in a superb performance for Cheshire and finished 10th.
Other notable runs by Mid Cheshire-based athletes included Megan Huxley, 21st juniors; Kathy String, 165th inters; Andrew Clews, 82nd inters, and Tom Heaword, 66th seniors.
Cheshire's best team result was in the seniors when they finished third.