MURFREESBORO — Abbi Pierce celebrated her sweet 16 birthday nothing like any of her friends did. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Elizabethton sophomore ran to a third-place finish in the 1,600 meters race at Thursday’s BlueCross Spring Fling girls’ track and field championships at Middle Tennessee State University.
“It’s a good birthday present,” Pierce said. “You can’t ask for much more than being third in the state.”
For the icing on the cake, her time of 5:23 was a personal record by four seconds, and just seven seconds off the pace by winner Barbara Ball of Nashville’s David Lipscomb.
“I was just trying to do my best,” Pierce said. “I decided I was going to have some fun out there. It’s pretty hard to compete down here, so it was definitely a learning experience. It was just learning the ropes and doing my best.”
A pair of Johnson City relay teams finished on a strong note as well.
Science Hill’s 4x800 team of Martha McCoy, Katie Lance, Ashley Hamati and Molly Foster ended fifth in the Class AAA competition with a time of 9:44.
Hamati was the team’s only senior along with juniors McCoy and Foster, and Lance a freshman. She nearly lost her shoe in the race, but kept running.
“I’ve run for three years and every year it’s been a war with myself,” Hamati said. “Once I got it in my head that I could actually do it and the girls started believing in themselves, we started nailing it. I’m really, really proud of my team. It’s a great way to end my senior year.”
University High’s quartet of Olivia Augsburger, Sterlin Elliott, Carly Owen and Landry Loving finished sixth (10:38) in the 4x800 for the Class A-AA division.
It was the end of celebrated careers for seniors Elliott and Loving. Elliott made seven state championship appearances overall, four in track and three in cross-country.
“It’s bittersweet,” Elliott said. “It’s been a great season, a great four years at University School. It’s hard to see it go. It’s an honor to be here, amazing to know you’re among the top eight in Tennessee.”
Loving similarly waxed nostaglic. She finished as a 10-time state qualifier, five times in each track and cross country, starting as an eighth-grader.
“It’s through a combined effort and plenty of support from coaches and family,” she said. “It’s great to be here because it shows your hard work has paid off, and you can say you’re one of the best in the state.”
Katie May of Elizabethton joined the All-State list with a seventh-place finish in the 300 hurdles. McCoy added a 10th-place finish in the 1,600, and the Lady Hilltoppers’ 4x400 relay team of Sam Riley, Emanda Reid, Micalya Looney and McCoy was eliminated in the prelims.
Despite a contingent of just three athletes, Tennessee High finished second in the team standings, one point behind Class AAA champion Hardin Valley.
Jennifer Cannon accounted for 44 of the team’s 59 points. She was state champion in three events — the penthatlon, the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles — and finished second in the long jump and third in the 100 meter dash.
She ended her high school career with five state championships.
“I’m pretty happy with how I ended up,” an exhausted Cannon said afterwards. “It was everything I could have imagined for my senior year. Icy-hot has become my best friend.
“I never would have believed I would have been here. My freshman year, I never even made finals. I made it my goal to make finals and get on top of the podium. I impressed myself so much.”
As for the Vikings, Ashlee Mitchell was the surprise winner of the shot put with a throw of 38 feet, 11 3/4 inches. Samantha Gudger added a fourth-place finish in the high jump.