MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Although temperatures reached the mid-90s Friday afternoon, it was Simon Holden's pace that wilted the rest of the Division II distance runners.
The Baylor junior claimed a grueling trifecta, winning the 3200-meter run Friday morning and finishing first in the 1600 and the 800 later in the day. He finished with a strong anchor leg in the 4x400 relay, passing two runners to help the Red Raiders finish fourth in that event.
"It was pretty tough, that's for sure," said Holden, who admitted he would check over his shoulder in the first two races to make sure he was far enough ahead to conserve energy for the final run. "I felt strong the whole way and just ran my pace. This is a really special feeling to win all three."
Although no Chattanooga-area teams won state track titles Friday, several individuals had first-place finishes and Hixson's 4x400 foursome of Justin Johnson, Allante Novene, Clarencio Holmes and K.J. Yates won the Class A/AA title with a team-best time of 3:28.86.
When Yates, a sophomore, took the baton for the final leg, the Wildcats were in third place. However, he caught and passed his two competitors on the final turn and pulled away in the final 100 meters.
"As soon as I saw that I was closing in on second coming down the backstretch, I knew I could get both of them," Yates said. "I was just pushing myself harder and harder because I wanted to help give my team something we've been working hard for for a long time."
While they earned all-state honors in other sports earlier this school year, Bradley Central's James Stovall and Baylor's Reggie Upshaw proved just how versatile they are Friday afternoon, winning individual track state championships at Middle Tennessee State University.
Stovall, a football receiver going to the Naval Academy, won the Class AAA triple jump shortly before Upshaw claimed the Division II high jump by clearing 6-foot-4.
"I was really motivated and focused," said Stovall, who set a personal-best distance of 47-6.5 on his second attempt. "It's nice to have school records, but those are meant to be broken by someone else. This state championship can't be taken away. It's something I will cherish forever."
McCallie's Iman Isang won the 110 hurdles and teammate Julian Nunally took first in the discus with a personal-best throw of 161 feet, 4 inches, which was more than 11 feet farther than his previous best. He finished third in the shot put with another personal record of 51-6.
"I guess the adrenaline and knowing the guy throwing ahead of me had qualified with a throw of about 10 feet farther than I had really pushed me," said Nunally, who just two weeks ago had not thrown farther than 133 feet. "I had good solid practices coming in and then tapered off to rest last week and was able to peak today."
McCallie's Matthew Jones was second in the Division II 1600, Red Bank's Keionta Davis finished second in the A/AA shot put and Arts & Sciences' Patrick Taylor was second in the A/AA long jump.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...