MURFREESBORO -- The Signal Mountain Lady Eagles won their first state cross country championship last fall and now they can add their first Class A-AA state track title to the trophy case as well.
It was the day for all the young ladies across the state to shine as they competed in the state track meet here at MTSU's Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium.
The Lady Eagles were the only Chattanooga team to win a team title, but there were a host of young ladies who won individual championships.
Tyner freshman Alexis Wilson was the only one to win two events as she took first in the 100 and 200 dashes. Baylor's Victora Wicks was successful in her defense of the 300 low hurdle title while Chattanooga Christian's Nicolette Gordon and Baylor's Kate Kaufman both won pole vault titles.
Other individual winners included Signal Mountain's Mallory Young in the 1600 and Tyner's Vivian Smith in the 300 hurdles.
Signal Mountain's McKenzie Ethridge, who was the defending champ in the 100 and 200 dashes, got hurt near the end of the 100 but still managed to take fourth. She hobbled to an eighth-place finish in the 200, but she scored one team point as she was willing to do whatever it took for her teammates to win a team title.
"I was able to finish the race, but I heard something in my foot pop and I knew I was finished for the day," Ethridge said after accepting her eighth-place medal in the 200 on crutches.
"I ran the 200 slowly and very careful, but I can honestly say that I had the slowest 200 ever and still score a point," she explained.
Signal Mountain coach Beverly Blackwell had it figured with all her team's possible points, they had a good chance to win. It became an even bigger challenge when her best sprinter went down.
"We're so excited," the fifth-year coach said after Young had finished third in the 3200 to clinch the victory with the 1600 relay remaining.
"After McKenzie went down, the rest of these girls all dug down deep and did what they had to do for us to win. We had it calculated that we could win, but it was touch and go after McKenzie got hurt as it became very uncertain if we could still pull it out. But Mallory had a great day and so did Madison Drennan and we're thrilled to finish first," she added.
Young, a talented 16-year-old junior who'll take college visits to Vanderbilt and Belmont on Friday, was focused on winning the 1600, which she did with ease in 5:14.83. She came back just a short time later and finished second in the 800 with a 2:23.34 before claiming third in the 3200 with an 11:40.17.
"I would have liked a faster time as I was hoping to run a sub-five, but Madison and I got first and second and that's all I wanted. Winning the 1600 was my main goal, but I was told that I had to finish fifth or better in the 3200 for our team to win. I got third for the second straight year," she smiled.
While the Signal Mountain girls were the Chattanooga standouts in the running finals, it was a Red-Letter Day for local pole vaulters Gordon and Kaufman.
Gordon cleared 12 feet to win the A-AA title while Kaufman was victorious in the D-II competition with a best of 11-6. It was the end of a long road for Kaufman, who has been vaulting for six years, while Gordon's victory came in her first year of participating in probably the most challenging event in the sport.
"It was pretty awesome as it's what I've been working for these last six years," Kaufman said before the running events began.
"It's the most incredible feeling I've ever had, but I had a really good day vaulting. I've always gotten little rewards along the way, but it all came together today. 10-6 was my only miss, but I got it on my second attempt. I knew what I had to do to win and would have loved to clear 12, but I'm really happy with 11-6," the oldest granddaughter of Ray and Betty Fox expressed.
Gordon is a 16-year-old junior who'll have another year to improve on her winning effort, but she's done incredibly well in her first year and has a state title to prove it.
"I'm definitely happy, especially this being my first year, but all of those years of gymnastics paid off today. Getting 12 feet has been my goal all year and it's hard to believe I got it, but it was nice to focus on getting a PR after clinching the win.
"I'll be back next year and hope to get 13 feet and possibly 13-6 or 14 feet by the state meet," she added.
Baylor's Wicks was able to defend her title in the 300 hurdles, despite missing most of the season with a severely sprained ankle.
"Oh, it still hurts, but I'm not thinking about it right now," the Baylor senior who'll compete at Samford next year explained.
"I just wanted to go out with a bang and I did, but I had fun and gave it all I had. That's really all I wanted," Wicks smiled.
Tyner's Wilson won two sprint races and was really pleased in her first year of track competition.
"I just tried to focus on the finish line, but my goal was to beat McKenzie as she's been my toughest competition all year and had beaten me twice before today," the Lady Ram freshman said after her second win.
Signal Mountain's Camryn Bowman was another freshman who did really well as she finished second in the discus with a best toss of 113 feet, one inch.
"I'm really happy to get second. I was seeded fifth coming in, so I did better than expected. We're hoping to win a team title, so my points really helped. I just tried to relax and do what I've been taught, but I let it all out on my third attempt. I was still hoping to break my personal best of 121-11," she grinned.
Cleveland's Qeturah Abdullah-Muhammad finished second in the long jump and third in the triple jump after finishing fourth in the Pentathlon earlier in the week.
Chattanooga Christian's Sydney Ibach was second in the A-AA pole vault behind teammate Gordon while Baylor's Selena Popp was second in the D-II high jump at 5-4.
Popp was one of the favorites both hurdle events, but fell after clearing the first one in the 100 highs. She finished the race and got seventh, but did not compete in the 300 lows. She also was fourth in the triple jump after finishing third in the Pentathlon on Monday.
For complete results and team scores, go to www.TSSAA.org.
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)