The area's first state champion of the 2013 Spring Fling couldn't have come in more dramatic fashion. It certainly couldn't have been any closer as Baylor's Selena Popp claimed the Division II pentathlon title by a single point at Middle Tennessee State University on Monday.
Popp, a sophomore, finished with 3,100 points, winning the 100-meter hurdles and high jump and finishing fourth in the shot put and 800-meter run. Evangelical Christian School's Kate Jamison finished with 3,099, winning the long jump and 800 events.
Popp had a 97-point lead going into the 800, the final event of the competition. Before the competition, Popp had admitted that that race is her weakest event and she wanted merely to hang in. She tried to measure just how close behind race leader Jamison she needed to stay to retain the overall championship.
"As we rounded the final turn I thought I was right on the edge of where I needed to be to hold on, but I wasn't for sure," said Popp, who ran the 800 in a personal-best 2:31.96, six seconds behind Jamison. "I had no idea what was going to happen after the race. I knew I had pushed myself as hard as I could but it wasn't until a few minutes later, when they called out the points, that I knew I had actually won it.
"It's crazy to think that a half-inch in any jump or a step slower in any race was the difference in first and second place. I'm very excited to win my first championship, but especially for it to be so close."
Baylor teammates Victoria Wicks and Kate Kaufman finished third and sixth, respectively. Tyner's Vivian Smith was sixth in the Class A/AA pentathlon, and Soddy-Daisy's Emily Bryan was seventh in AAA.
Chattanooga Christian's Brandt McGregor is third after five events of the boys' Class A/AA decathlon, which will conclude today.
Popp, whose brother Bryson won the D-II state wrestling championship at 160 pounds for Baylor, had a personal-best performance in the high jump as well, clearing 5 feet, 4 inches.
"I've never heard of winning a state championship in track by just one point," Baylor coach Bill McMahan said. "That was just an unbelievable performance. Selena really gutted it out and I'm proud for her and our other two girls for the way they competed. They really helped us as a team, because now we go into Thursday's state meet ahead of the game."
The Lady Raiders' three top-six finishers give them 19 team points, with Ensworth currently standing second with five.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having 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, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...