While the time wasn’t record-breaking, it was remarkable, considering he accomplished the feat nine days after being struck by a pickup truck.
On Oct. 17, the junior was running along with several teammates on the sidewalk next to Bells Ferry Road, near the Etowah campus. According to an incident report filed by the Cherokee County Sherriff’s Office, a blue Chevy S-10 pickup truck struck him while pulling out of a parking lot near Red Barn Road.
Perona described it as an unfortunate accident. No charges were filed against the driver.
“This truck was pulling out of the gas station, and I was running ahead of the group doing pickups, or sprints in the middle of the run,” Perona said. “The driver of the truck made eye contact with me, so I thought he was going to let me pass, but then he started going. I tried to stop, but that’s when I slipped and went right under the truck.”
Both sets of tires ran over Perona, who remembers every second of the incident.
The front tires ran over Perona’s legs, with the force of contact flipping him over onto his stomach. The back tires then ran over his hips.
“I thought my legs were both broken,” Perona said. “Right when it ran over me, I was devastated. I thought my running was over.”
But that wasn’t the case. In fact, when paramedics arrived, Perona was jogging circles in the parking lot, apparently in shock. He was examined at the scene and then transported to WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, where he underwent a series of X-rays and exams.
Not a broken bone or damaged organ was found.
Aside from some obvious road rash, he managed to escape injury.
“There was nothing broken,” Perona said. “I didn’t even get a stitch. The doctors said they had never seen anything like this. They kept calling me ‘Superman’ at the hospital. I just felt like someone was watching over me.”
Etowah cross country coach Jesse Howard said it isn’t uncommon for the team to run around town. They stick to the sidewalks and are taught at the beginning of each season how to run safely.
Howard said this is the first time anything like this has happened in the decade that he has spent at Etowah. The coach was one of the first people on the scene after the accident. He was running with the team, trailing Perona’s group by about five minutes, but he picked up his pace to reach Perona.
Howard said it’s hard to use the word “miracle” to describe Perona, but he thinks it’s warranted in this case.
“It’s not something you can even fathom,” Howard said. “I don’t like to call things miracles, but sometimes they are what they are. It’s a miracle that he did not get hurt. I don’t know what else to call it. It is the definition of a miracle to me.”
David Perona, Michael’s father, said that he and his wife, Michelle, were both driving home from work when they received the news. Michelle heard about the accident first and the couple met at home before traveling to the hospital together.
“They told us that he was run over by a car, but kept assuring us that he was okay,” David Perona said. “They actually handed the phone to Michael in the ambulance. We were in disbelief. They said that he was run over, but that didn’t make any sense to us. We thought that he must have been hit by the car or went over the hood.
“You just don’t get run over by a car and come out OK.”
Just five days after the accident, Michael Perona was back running. He logged 5 miles that day in preparation for the race in Carrollton. On Saturday, he will compete in the Region 5AAAAAA meet at Canton’s Boling Park for a chance to go to the state meet.
Aside from Perona’s parents banning him from running along Bells Ferry, there doesn’t seem to be any lasting effects.
“He’s ready to run,” Howard said.