Blount Press Row

Super Senior Surprise

Elmore finds niche with hurdles; Lady Rebel speedster snares first state berth
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Maryville senior Nicole Elmore is all smiles after claiming her first state meet berth with a win in the 100-meter hurdles last week at Hardin Valley. Photos by Wallace Bowden

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

The beauty of track and field lies in its diversity.

Elmore clears a hurdle at the Blount County championships earlier this season.

Elmore clears a hurdle at the Blount County championships earlier this season.

There are a lot of things to try, and, after an injury-plagued first three seasons at Maryville, Nicole Elmore had just about tried them all.

Then she tried one more.

At practice one afternoon, the Lady Rebel senior made a casual pass at the hurdles.

“Somebody said, ‘Hey, go do that again,’” Elmore said.

That somebody was Maryville coach Nick White. Elmore was already one of the school’s fastest athletes, and there was no mistaking the way she’d cleared the hurdles. She didn’t slow and hop them as most novices are prone. She extended and strode the barriers.

Finally, she had her ticket to state.

Closing her final season with the Lady Rebels in a head-spinning flourish, Elmore won the Section 1AAA 100-meter hurdles in a personal-best 15.92 seconds last week at Hardin Valley Academy.

The time was against a headwind. Adjusted, Elmore’s hopes of an All-State finish to her high school track and field career are closer than once seemed. The future Chattanooga Lady Moc needs a top eight finish at next week’s Spring Fling meet at Middle Tennessee State University for that to happen.

Elmore anchors a relay for the Lady Rebels this seaosn.

Elmore anchors a relay for the Lady Rebels this seaosn.

“I cried a little (at the finish line),” Elmore said. “I had a tear in my eye because I was super nervous. If you’d asked me a year ago (about winning), I would’ve told you you’re crazy.”

Maryville Junior High School, where the high school team trains and holds its meets, has one of the county’s top youth programs, and Elmore was one of the best there. Injury never let her get untracked her first three years at the high school, White said.

“We had her on relays last year and she just kept fighting injuries,” he said. “It was never ability. It was confidence.”

“They didn’t know where I fit in since they’d tried me in everything,” Elmore said.

Elmore showed promise in the hurdles in the season’s first meet, raising eyebrows when she got in under 18 seconds. In the week leading up to and including the sectional meet, she just went off.

First posting a time of 16.6 in a meet at Farragut on Tuesday, Elmore slashed the time to 16.3 three days later at a Metro Knoxville all-comers meet. A week later at sectionals, she was even faster.

“Coach (White) told me this is the first time I’ve had something to work for, and it’s really true,” Elmore said. “I was ready. This is the first year I’ve run without something bothering me.”

Elmore is one of only two Blount County female athletes who can claim individual medals at Spring Fling. William Blount junior Lindsey Roddy, the sectional pentathlon champion, is also going to state in the long jump and 300-meter hurdles.

Roddy leaped a personal-record 16 feet, 7 inches to win the long jump at the section meet. Roddy reached state with a fourth-place finish in the 300 hurdles at sectionals.

Lady Rebel senior Dee Fritz, pictured with mom, Carrie Ann Stephens, replaced a heartbreaking miss in the long jump by helping a pair of relay teams reach state.

Lady Rebel junior Dee Fritz, pictured with mom, Carrie Ann Stephens, replaced a heartbreaking miss in the long jump by helping a trio of relay teams reach state.

Maryville junior Dee Fritz, Blount County champion in the long jump, missed making the state field in the event by half an inch at 16-5 ½. Hardin Valley’s Rebekah Hampton secured the fourth and final qualifying spot with a jump of 16-6.

Fritz’s disappointment was quickly reprieved in helping a trio of Lady Rebel relay teams reach state.

Bailey Kim, Lizzie Fry, McCloud Dean and Fritz ran second in the 4×100, the foursome repeating the place finish in the 4×200. Laney Markham replaced Kim in the quartet as the Lady Rebels ran third in the 4×400.

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