MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - There's a new star on the Chattanooga area's track scene, and she's going to be around for a while.
Signal Mountain freshman sprinter McKenzie Ethridge blistered the rest of the Class A/AA field to claim state titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and anchored the state championship 4x200 relay team.
Reminiscent of former Howard sprinter LaQuisha Jackson, who announced her arrival on the state scene by sweeping the individual sprint events and anchoring state championship relay teams as a freshman, Ethridge easily won the 100 with a personal-best time of 12.14 seconds then overtook a runner in front of her on the final leg of the 4x200 before a gutsy 200 win in which she held off Austin-East's Lexus Hall by two one-hundredths of a second.
"That last little bit in the 200 was a struggle," said Ethridge, who ran a 25.51 in her final event. "I could feel the Austin-East girl coming, so I had to find a way to hold her off.
"This feels great. It makes me want to get back to work to improve my times and see how much better I can be."
Two of the other three sprinters on Signal Mountain's 4x200 team also are freshmen -- Aryn Sanders and Katie Lingle -- and Shelby Wright is a sophomore.
Tyner freshman Vivian Smith was second in the 100 and helped Alexis Reviere, Hannah Marshall and Mia Smith win the 4x100 relay. Had Signal Mountain not dropped the baton between the second and third exchange, it could have been the Lady Eagles challenging the Lady Rams at the finish in that event as well.
After Central senior Chancis Jones dominated the morning session of field events, winning her second straight triple jump state title as well as the long jump in A/AA, Ethridge became the talk of the night's running events.
Jones, an Austin Peay signee, needed just one attempt in the triple jump to set a personal best and secure the championship, then followed by winning the long jump.
"After I had such a good jump in the triple, I decided I didn't need to make another attempt, so I just saved my legs for the long jump," Jones said. "I was really motivated for that one because I had finished second last year and wanted to get championships in both.
"It's a great way to end my high school career and now start a new beginning in college."
Baylor swept the Division II hurdles championships as Selena Popp won the 100-meter hurdles and teammate Victoria Wicks won the 300 hurdles. Popp, who earlier in the week had won the pentathlon, also won the high jump title.
"The last 100 meters is definitely all mental," Wicks said. "I knew I just had to stay strong and give it everything I had."
Cleveland's Atara Abdullah-Muhammad finished second in the AAA long jump.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.