After suffering a case of the jitters at the TSSAA girls’ track state championships a year ago, the Happy Valley senior was determined to be more relaxed during the Class A-AA pole vault competition.
The attitude paid off as Simerly finished an unexpected fourth Thursday afternoon at Middle Tennessee State University.
“Last year I was having a rough time with my nerves,” Simerly said after her high finish. “This time, I was a little more prepared. I got the mindset last night this was my last high school meet so it gave me the motivation to do what I can.”
Simerly, who cleared seven feet and six inches, was one of a few local athletes to post top-five finishes.
Others included Elizabethton sophomore Emily Schubert, who placed third in the discus with a throw of 106-01.
Schubert later ran the third leg for the Lady Cyclones 4 x 800 relay team which finished sixth at 10:15.71. Abbi Pierce, Maci Shell and Heather Feuchtenberger ran the other legs. Their Lady Cyclones teammate, Katie May, finished seventh in the triple jump at 33 feet and 5 1/2 inches. May later teamed with Kira McCrary, Feuchtenberger and Kaitlyn Matheson to run the final event of the evening, the 4x400, where they finished seventh.
Simerly looked back at her prep career with the knowledge that the vast majority of athletes never get to experience back-to-back trips to the state championships in any sport.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Simerly said. “I’ve been blessed with what I’ve been able to do with track.”
Happy Valley coach Matt Estep added, “It’s a big thing for our program. We’re really proud of Kaitlyn. Two years in a row, it’s a big accomplishment. She gets to go up on the wall (at school with the other All-State athletes). I think she’s pretty excited about that.”
A trip to Murfreesboro is becoming old hat to Schubert.
In fact, she’s competed at the state championships twice during this school year. The first time was back in March as part of Elizabethton’s state championship girls’ basketball team.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s like a second home for me. This gives me good experience for next year and the year after that.”
She, like everyone else, was competing for second place in the discus after a throw of over 121 feet by West Greene’s Kaci Ray, which Schubert called impressive. After fouling on her first attempt and only recording a 87-feet heave on the second attempt, Schubert’s third throw was good enough for the third-place finish.
She explained that preparing for the state in track and field was a lot different than basketball.
“Basketball is more developing as a team and track you’re trying to develop yourself, to make yourself faster and stronger,” she said. “You still trying to score as a team, but you’re trying to do your best in a single event so it’s different that way.”
Science Hill’s best effort came from Savannah Hirst on Wednesday night with a fourth-place in the Class AAA pole vault. Sarah Fickley topped Thursday’s effort after she clinched the final All-State spot in the 1,600 best just .01 of a second over Alexa Brainard of Collierville.
Fickley’s time of 5:14.52 was a personal best for the senior who has signed to run for Union University in Jackson next season.
“I just came into this race wanting to be All-State and the fact that I got it by point one, it was scary, but it was exciting,” Fickley said. “It’s a nice way to end my season and my whole high school career.”
Annika Burley also competed for the Lady ’Toppers in the triple jump and Cleo Mellish was in the 100, although neither advanced to the finals.
While it wasn’t the season which Science Hill has become accustomed to, head coach Jennifer Brockett was encouraged by the strong showing of Fickley and her underclassmen, which includes the other three state competitors.
“Sarah ran great and finished strong at the end with a p.r. her last race,” Brockett said. “I’m very proud of her. The good thing is we have Annika, Cleo and Savannah back next year. Annika is a freshman and she got some good experience competing at the state level.”
Adriana Watkins of Dobyns-Bennett repeated as state champion in the triple jump with her leap of 38-05.50, just 3/4 of an inch farther than she went the previous year.
Samantha Gudger of Tennessee High placed second in the girls’ high jump, clearing 5-4, and also finished fourth in the long jump. The Dobyns-Bennett 4x100 relay team posted a runner-up finish, while the Lady Indians’ Krystal Derr was third in the 100. Greeneville’s Hannah Rhodes was also third in the 800 with a 2:24 run.
The boys’ state championship meet takes place today. Field events start at 10 a.m. with the running events to begin at 5 p.m.
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