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Monterey County track star runs down a bike-riding thief

Monterey County track star runs down a bike-riding thief

SALINAS – Before her dad or any adult could react, 14-year-old track and field star Clara Adams took off in a dead sprint toward an apparent thief who was riding a BMX bike.

Nikki Gillott, a family friend, was attending a recent birthday party for Adams’ father when she screamed realizing her purse had been stolen. That was enough for Adams to go after the man who she had seen lurking earlier.

Gillott “was freaking out, I was scared for her,” Adams said. “I saw this guy with a bunch of stuff. When I looked, I saw (Gillott’s) purse.”

That sent her running toward the man.

Clara Adams 

“I got into my 200-meter mood and ran toward him,” said Adams, who ran the fourth fastest time in Monterey County history in the 200 meters last month at the Junior Olympics. “I just grabbed the purse from him and left.”

No one was more grateful than Gillott, who was at El Dorado Park in Salinas that afternoon.

“She was so brave,” Gillott said. “She is a champion with her heart. It was a huge act of bravery. But I told her ‘Don’t ever do that again.’”

Gillott, who has been putting together a documentary on her recovery from having suffered a stroke eight years ago, had her iPad and camera in her purse.

“I can’t run because of my stroke,” said Gillott, a former North County High and Hartnell College track and field standout. “I just came back from filming part of the documentary at Hartnell.”

Adams’ father David helped de-escalate the situation among friends as the suspect fled after Clara Adams returned the purse.

“Oh, I had my eyes on her once just she took off,” said David Adams, an assistant football coach at Seaside. “I began to approach them. But she came back so fast. At that point, I just tried to minimize the drama. We got lucky.”

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The suspected thief likely had no idea that the individual running him down also holds the fifth-fastest 400-meter time in county history and was a Junior Olympic All-America.

“Clara didn’t think anything of it,” said David Adams, whose daughter is a freshman this year at North Salinas High. “That’s just who she is.”

Clara Adams, who is also playing volleyball in the fall at North Salinas, hasn’t really thought much about her heroics.

“It happened so fast,” the younger Adams said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. Nikki was so happy and excited. She gave me a big hug.”

Running this past summer for the Central Coast Cheetahs Track Club, the 5-foot-7 Adams ran 56.45 seconds in the 400 and 24.79 in the 200 – the fastest times ever run in the county by a 14-year-old.

“This girl needs to be praised,” said Gillott, a state meet qualifier in the triple jump in 1997. “All my work for the documentary was on that iPad. What she did was so heroic.”