One way or the other, Gabe Elmore's long quest for a state track championship was finally going to come to an end in Albany on Saturday as the Ringgold senior set up in the starting blocks, waiting for the gun to begin his final 110 hurdles race as a high school athlete.
And Elmore would get the send-off he was hoping for.
Racing against seven other competitors who were all within one second of each other in qualifying, Elmore took the lead for good on the sixth hurdle and pulled away at the end to win the race and set a new Ringgold school record (14.84 seconds) in the process.
Harlem's Diego Santiago finished runner-up at 15.12, while Joseph Williams of Johnson–Savannah (15.21) was third.
"It feels kind of unexpected, to be honest, but going under 15 seconds was great," Elmore said Saturday night. "I really didn't expect that sort of thing to happen. I really didn't think it would.
"At the end of the race, I knew I had won, but I didn't know what my time was. I thought it was probably mid 15-ish until I looked at the scoreboard. I was extremely surprised. I thought (the scoreboard) was messed up at first."
The winning time broke his own school record, which he set at the Region 6-AAA meet in Rockmart last month. Prior to that, the previous Ringgold school record in the event had been 15.42, set back in 1983.
Elmore also became Ringgold's first individual state track champion since Skipper Wilbanks cleared 7-foot-1 to win the Class AAA high jump title in 1982.
More recently, Morgan Allen finished as state runner-up in the girls' Class AAA high jump in 2019. Allen tied for the highest jump in that event at 5-2, but had to settle for the runner-up trophy on a tiebreaker.
For Elmore, who ran hurdles for the first time as a sixth grader before really taking the event seriously by the time he reached seventh grade, it was a fitting end to this chapter of his career.
"I'm happy I can represent the school and the team and know I just did my best," he added.