MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Not even the late-evening long shadows of his competitors could catch Simon Holden.
For the second straight year the Baylor senior was dominant in sweeping all three distance events in Division II. He won the 3200-meter run in the morning, then used the shadows cast onto the infield by the setting sun to judge how close the competition was as he raced for the finish line in the evening session's 1600 and 800.
"The easiest way to see how close someone is to you is to just peek over your left shoulder and see if you see their shadow near yours," Holden said. "On the final lap of those last races, that's how I knew whether I could conserve energy or if I needed to push myself.
"It was a tough day, but a great feeling to win all three again. I'm really, really tired right now."
Holden became the first athlete in Baylor's distinguished running history to win the 1600 three years in a row, and the Wake Forest signee finished his prep career with eight individual titles including last fall's cross country championship. He joins former Red Raiders runner Bill Matthews as the only competitors to sweep all three distance events in consecutive years.
"My legs felt kind of noodly at the beginning of the 1600, but about halfway through it they came around," said Holden, who also anchored Baylor's 4x400 relay that finished fourth. "I was trying to conserve as much energy as I could, so I just waited until the final lap and then tried to make my move.
"I had to prioritize what I wanted to accomplish this year. I could either push myself hard and try to set state records in certain events or conserve and be strong for all four of my races."
Also in Division II, McCallie's Julian Nunally won the shot put (55-1.75) and teammate Eric Wolf was third. McCallie junior sprinter C.J. Fritz won the 100-meter dash with a personal-best time of 10.60, helping the Blue Tornado finish second in the team standings with 133 total points, 13 behind state champion Brentwood Academy.
"This was the race I knew I would get pushed harder than I had all season," Fritz said. "I knew I was a step or two behind until about 60 meters to go, and then I pushed ahead and just tried to finish strong."
In Class A/AA, despite having just the fifth-fastest qualifying times, Arts & Sciences' Patrick Taylor won the 100, 200 and long jump, and teammate Garrett Tumlin was second in the discus (139-06). Taylor set personal records in all three wins; his 200 time of 21.927 seconds barely nipped Fulton's Zavier Hawkins' 21.936. CSAS finished third in the team standings.
"I was just happy to qualify in all three, so I didn't see this coming at all," Taylor said. "I knew my times coming in weren't as good as a lot of others, so I just had to make up my mind to fight as hard as I could. It was really just adrenaline that carried me through that last 50 meters of the 200."
Hixson's 4x400 relay team of Tre Herkley, Allante Novene, Anthony Boykin and K.J. Yates won the A/AA title for a second straight year, and Signal Mountain junior Chaz Hawkins won the 110 hurdles in A/AA with a personal-best 14.97. His win was made more impressive when the runner next to him clipped the next-to-last hurdle and fell to the ground.
"I honestly didn't even notice anything around me," said Hawkins, who finished fourth last year. "I was never really nervous at all for this race. There's a lot of good competition, and that's what pushed me to do my best."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
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 ...