The gun fired, and every girl around Palm Harbor's Madison McNary lunged ahead. She was last out of the blocks in the 100-meter final at the Class 4A state track meet Saturday.
"I just told myself, 'Good form, good form, you can still catch them,' " McNary said. "I was catching up, catching up, but when we hit the (finish line) I had no idea. It was so close."
And then McNary was ... waiting, waiting ... under a tent in the middle of Winter Park's Showalter Field. It wasn't until 5 minutes later, after examining a photo finish, that it was announced McNary was the champion in 12.10 seconds.
She jumped in the air and shouted: "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Then she gathered her medal and began mentally preparing for the 200-meter final, which she won going away in 24.29 by shooting out of the blocks and churning smoothly through the turn and down the stretch.
"What a feeling!" said McNary, a junior. "I didn't even make it to state last year, so this is extra special. This shows how all that hard work pays off. Man, what a feeling!"
When the night ended, McNary was the only athlete from the Tampa Bay area to win a state title. Her two first-place finishes also made Palm Harbor the highest-placing area girls team, at ninth with 20 points. The next-highest team finisher was Gaither (seven points for 20th).
On the boys' side, the Riverview boys' 4x100-meter relay had the highest event finish among area teams, taking second in 41.58 seconds, 0.03 seconds ahead of Gaither. Mandarin won with a surge in the final 20 meters, crossing in 41.29 seconds.
Riverview's effort made it the Tampa Bay area's highest boys' team finisher, at 12th with 20 points.
Among Pinellas County individuals, Palm Harbor's Matt Brown placed fifth in the 300-meter hurdles in 38.06 seconds and Countryside's Ryan Messmore was seventh in the 400 meters in 49.68 seconds.
Scott Purks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3353.