Heading into the final day of competition at the 2017 4A Track and Field State Championships on Saturday, North Marion sophomore Emily Scanlan knew she had secured herself a medal in the girls 100-meter hurdle competition for the second year in a row.
But she certainly didn't expect to be heading back from the University of Oregon's Hayward Field as a state champion.
In an improbable upset, Scanlan shocked the field with the race of her life on Saturday, winning the 4A state title in the short hurdle event by shaving nearly a full second off her previous best time in the event, winning in 15.29.
"I was kind of in awe and I'm so in shock right now," Scanlan said after the race. "I still can't believe it."
Scanlan entered the state championships looking for redemption. The North Marion sophomore had qualified for the state finals in the 100 hurdles the year before, but tripped over the last hurdle in the final, dropping her to eighth place in the event.
This year, Scanlan was gearing herself up for another trip to the state championships and had emerged once again as one of the state's top 4A hurdlers, posting a personal record of 16.26 in the event at the Stayton Twilight meet in April.
It wasn't the best time in the state at the 4A level, but it was good enough to assure Scanlan of another podium finish if she could repeat her performance in Eugene.
Scanlan went on to win the Oregon West district title in the event with a time of 16.45, seeding her sixth overall going into the state meet.
On the first day of competition on Friday, she qualified for the finals by pulling out a PR-time of 16.06 to finish sixth in the preliminary races. It was a great time for Scanlan, but all five runners who finished ahead of her had posted PRs of their own. Phoenix freshman Sienna Bauer had posted the top time of 15.75. Molalla senior Desirae DesRosiers was just behind at 15.77, followed by Ontario senior Logan Davila at 15.82. The North Marion sophomore was a long shot to make the top three on the podium on Saturday, let alone win the state title.
But when the finals rolled around Saturday afternoon, Scanlan ran the perfect race at the perfect time, shooting out of the starting blocks and hitting every hurdle in stride perfectly. As Scanlan neared the halfway point of the race, the announcer boomed her name over the stadium loudspeakers as the leading runner.
With no one in her periphery vision, Scanlan knew as she leapt over the final hurdle that she was 10 meters away from doing the improbable.
"Around probably toward the end of the race, I start to pull away," Scanlan said. "And I haven't done that in very many of my races. I just realize it. 'Oh my gosh!' And all these things are running through my head as I'm finishing the race."
After crossing the finish line, she collapsed to the ground in celebratory shock, looking up to the giant scoreboard looming over the stadium to confirm what had just happened. After a brief hesitation, Scanlan's named popped up with that time — 15.29 — emblazoned next to it.
In an event that measures improvement by tenths of a second or even hundredths, she had erased 0.77 seconds from the day before and 0.97 seconds from her time in Stayton, posting the best 4A time at the state meet since 2013.
"I just channeled my inner desire and strength, I guess," she said, trying to explain where the time had come from. "I'm just really happy that I was able to take first."
The victory was North Marion's first state title since 2014 when another hurdler — Hannah Waite — won the 300 hurdles and coincidentally lost out another title in the 100 hurdles by tripping over the final hurdle, just as Scanlan had in 2016.
The victory gave Scanlan two medals to finish the 2017 state track meet. The North Marion sophomore also competed in the 4A girls high jump on Friday, taking home an eighth-place finish with a height of 4-10.