Danielle Sampley got Blount County off to a flying start at the state track and field championships in Murfreesboro earlier this week.
The William Blount High School senior took out the first event of the 2007 BlueCross Spring Fling championships, powering clear of Ooltewah senior Rachel Robbs by a 3,564-3,394 margin in the final event to win the Class AAA pentathlon at Middle Tennessee State University on Monday. The victory was a satisfying one for the University of Kentucky signee, putting the finishing touches on what was already a sterling resume.
"I wanted to leave high school with a state title," said Sampley, who also began competition in the 100 and 200 meters, high jump and 100-meter hurdles at the state open meet on Wednesday.
Maryville junior Ellen Wortham, the top seed in the open 300 hurdles at the state meet, finished third in Mondays pentathlon with 3,276 points. The Lady Rebel standout will contest the open 100 hurdles and long jump at state, where her region-winning leap of 17 feet, 4 inches in the long jump is the second-best entering mark.
All told, 10 Blount County athletes, excluding relays, will vie for state track and field titles on today and Friday.
Maryvilles Lucas Kelley is the lone area representative in the state tennis tournament, with the Rebel region champion contesting the singles crown beginning this afternoon.
Girls track and field finals are scheduled for this afternoon, with the boys meet following on Friday. The finals for tennis are slated for Friday as well.
A multi county and region champion, a state title had eluded Sampley, in one fashion or another, in each of her four seasons. Its what made Monday that much more special, William Blount coach Chris Frary said.
"Weve got a winner!" he exclaimed Monday evening. "It was good day for Danielle. To be as talented as she is and not have a state championship, we (the coaching staff) are just tickled to death."
Sampley opened the pentathlon by winning the 100 hurdles in 14.39
seconds, following with a tie for first in the high jump
at 5 feet, 6 inches. A second-place showing in the shot put and third in the long jump vaulted the future Lady Wildcat into a 7-second cushion entering the final event.
The advantage meant Robbs would have to overtake Sampley by that margin in the 800 meters to snatch the title. For a sprinter with Sampleys credentials, success in the distance race was anything but a given.
"For a sprinter, thats like a death march," Frary said, "but she did what she needed to do.
"I told Danielle, Youve had a great day. Put the exclamation on it. Run this race to win, not to lose."
To calm her nerves, Sampley said she first sought divine intervention.
"I prayed," she said. "Thats the first thing I did."
When the 800 began, the Lady Governor star fell in with the pack, one that unwittingly set a pace that favored Sampley in decisive fashion.
"We ran the first lap really slow," she said, "which was an advantage because we had more left (at the finish). The last 100 was just a gut check, a full-out sprint."
Sampley would post the sixth-best time for the 800 in 2 minutes, 33.91 seconds, with Robbs coming in seven seconds back in eighth. It proved more than enough for the state title, at the same time sending Sampley into Thursdays state meet with a renewed sense of confidence.
It wasnt finally winning a state crown that took the pressure off.
"The thing that took the pressure off was signing with Kentucky," Sampley said. "I didnt have to worry about impressing anybody (this season)."
For todays open competitions in the sprints, hurdles and high jump, "Im just going to come in and run my race," she said.
William Blounts Shauna Stevens finished fifth in the 800 in 2:33.83, good enough to lift the Lady Governor to 10th in the final standings. Considering Stevens was the last at-large bid statewide to gain entrance into pentathlon, the showing was an unqualified success, Frary said.
"It was a good day for both of them," he said.
Todays girls state meet is expected to see Maryvilles Ally Colvin challenge for a state title in the open 800. William Blount sophomore Madison Borden is a strong threat to medal in the discus. Lady Governor teammate and distance specialist Kristen Tithof contested the 3200 meters on Wednesday, with results unavailable at press time. Heritages Erica Rose enters with one of the best qualifying throws in the discus.
Alcoa senior Chris Shiverdecker represents Blount Countys best hope in Fridays boys meet. The Carson-Newman football signee finished in second in last years A-AA 100 and enters with the second-fastest qualifying for the event in 2007. The Alcoa sprint relay of Randall Cobb, Kyrus Lanxter, Troy Hodge and Shiverdecker enter as favorites in the 4x100 and 4x200 as well.
Maryvilles Jordan Chaney (400 meters), Spenser Tipton (800) and Tyler Clendenen (110 hurdles) will carry the standard for the Rebels on Friday, with pole vaulter Brandon Giebudowski the lone boys entrant for the Governors.