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Many high school students go the familiar route when organizing their senior project. They usually perform a job shadow, create an event to aid a charity, or even set up a 5K run.

Not Titusville High School daredevil Ashley Pettit.

The 17-year-old risked her life and competed in the Nation-wide Demolition Derby on Saturday at the 67th annual Crawford County Fair.

Performing in the compact car division, Pettit and her 1992 Toyota Camry were among the 11 participants competing for demolition derby glory in front of thousands of cheering fans during the afternoon event.

Pettit’s parents, Joe and April Hollobaugh, own an auto sales business in Titusville. Upon selecting a car which would have been otherwise junked, Petitt and her family spent six to seven hours a day in August to prepare her vehicle for the derby.

Her original senior project was job-shadowing a pharmacist, but once Petitt had her hands on compact car, it was demolition derby or bust.

She was bubbling with anticipation as Saturday’s event drew close. But as she woke up on Saturday morning, the butterflies started to appear.

“This is today,” she said as she woke up in her camper. “I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m kind of scared now.”

Thankfully, the nerves disappeared once the derby began.

Pettit finished in the middle of the pack — the compact division was won by Eric Drda of Dorset, Ohio.

Her championship chances came to an end when her fuel pump came unplugged. But she won’t soon forget taking that first hit or dishing out some payback moments later.

“I didn’t see the first car coming,” she said. “It hit me, I screamed. ... I had the best time of my life out there. I’m excited to go present it (the senior project) to my teachers.”

Unlike Pettit, her mother’s nervousness didn’t subside until the event ended.

“I was hoping she wouldn’t like it” so she wouldn’t want to do it again, April Hollobaugh said afterward.

Pettit has become accustomed to attending the fair. She said she’s come every year of her life and has showed cows for the last 12 years as a member of 4-H.

She’s also quite the success in the classroom. She’s currently No. 1 in her class and expects to be the valedictorian for Titusville High School’s class of 2013. She has brains and brawn, as her mother said it.

The derby was an unforgettable experience for Pettit, who will begin her senior year on Tuesday. And just maybe, she’ll be back next year savoring another opportunity to win the compact division at the 2013 fair.

“Anybody who wants to do it, I’d say at least do it once,” Pettit said. “After you get past the nerves, it’s amazing.”

Nation-wide Demolition Derby

Saturday afternoon’s results

Full-size cars preliminaries: Heat 1: Richard Loper, Conneautville; Jesse Cipra, Williamsfield, Ohio; Jonathan Hoffman, Jefferson, Ohio. Heat 2: Derek Lewis, Andover, Ohio; David Boyle, Saegertown; Ryan Perry, Dunkirk, N.Y.

Full-size finals: 1. Jonathan Hoffman, 2. Jesse Cipra, 3. Ryan Perry

Compact finals: 1. Eric Drda, Dorset, Ohio; 2. Keith Morris, Jefferson, Ohio; Adam Klink, Linesville

Truck finals: 1. Rick Maxium, Reynoldsville; 2. Ted Kiskadden, Shippenville; 3. Mac Dickey, Espyville

Saturday night’s results

Full-size car preliminaries: Heat 1: Nate Wilkinson, Saegertown; Robert McGill, Meadville, Nick Smouse, Niagara Falls, N.Y. Heat 2: Matt Smith, Saegertown; Rich Cipra, Williamsfield, Ohio; Frank Jacklett, Conneautville; Heat 3: Ron McGill, Meadville; Steven Deeter, Saegertown; Derek Lewis, Andover, Ohio; Consolations: Denzel Henry, Saegertown; Mike Dupont, Utica; George Strange Jr., Conneautville

Full-size finals: 1. Rich Cipra, 2. Ron McGill, 3. Denzel Henry

6-cylinder finals: 1. Elyn Wickham, Meadville; 2. Josh Dennis, Linesville; 3. Keith Rerko, Meadville

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