Emily Sloan just missed the 300 hurdle state record - twice - this weekend at the Liberty Bell Invitational.
Emily Sloan sat in her starting blocks and eyed the open track in front of her.
Her fingers spread across the red surface while her blonde hair dangled by her shoulders. Eight hurdles sat in her way, separating her from the finish line, where hopefully a state record waited for her arrival.
She dug her bright orange Nike spikes into her blocks and tucked her head down. Black tape stretched back and forth across her right hamstring, and she tried not to think of any forms of weakness, only strength. It would only been 40-plus seconds of pain, and then it'll be over.
When the starter raised the gun the world fell silent and the agony of the anticipation of the start ensued. Let's get on with it.
Sloan shot out of the blocks, just like the gun, firing upwards into the stratosphere where nothing can stop or slow momentum. She fought gravity like the rocket and bound her way onto the track at unrivaled speeds. The first hurdle came in and went in a flash of adrenaline.
Seven to go...
Soon she was passing her competition and flying over each hurdle with appeared ease, but it was anything but. Sloan was in a race of her own, racing herself, and racing history. Each step and each cleared hurdle brought her closer to a coveted state record. She rounded the final bend and into the straight and fought the urge to look at the clock - she had already learned her lesson, the hard way.
Sloan pumped her arms, fists raging in the air like a prize fighter, inching forward towards the white finish line where she would be relieved from this chaos. After clearing the final hurdle she let her eyes gravitate to the scoreboard where the clock loomed above the track in a godly figure, watching down on competitors below. She watched those inevitable strokes move forward in unwanted ticks. She lifted her knees but her eyes never left the clock. When she approached the line of relief she leaned - but still, her eyes did not leave the clock.
When the crescendo had ceased she slowed, and crashed on to the infield. She leaned back on her hands and inhaled sweet air. She didn't look at the clock anymore, that didn't matter. Now, she simply breathed relief.
It was over.
Sloan had run 41.73, a half-second off the state record of 41.18, but it was her second time under 42-seconds in the span of less than 24 hours - a day earlier she had run 41.33 in the preliminary heats, setting the stage for an all-out assault on the state record.
But it would have to wait.
"I came home with a really tight hamstring" Sloan shared. "So I took the morning off, and warmed up well for the 3."
Adding to Sloan's impressive 41.33 in the prelims was her 13.57 in the 100 hurdle prelims.
And while her third race in two days brought another agonizing result, but she was quick to find the silver lining.
"It wasn't the time I wanted," she said. "But I'm happy with my race plan."
While Sloan flirted with a state record this weekend, she wasn't the only one who enjoyed the sunny weather at the Liberty Bell Invitational. There were a laundry list of stellar performances.