Danville trailed throughout the relay, but third-leg runner Jordan Guest closed the gap for Payne. Payne took over and stayed close to the Raceland runner until the final turn. Then he turned on the jets.
"The whole race, I felt if I could stay close to him and push him and make him want to keep the lead, when I got to the last 100 I had my mind made up I was going to take off," Payne said.
"Basically, most all meets come down to the 4-by-4," said junior Kelvin Turner, who ran the second leg of the relay. "Coach (Chris Verhoven) tells us we have to beat a certain team to win and we just get it built up in our head that we have to beat that team and everyone comes out and runs hard and we eventually pull it off."
Hempel comes through
However, the final race wouldn't have mattered had it not been for a second-place showing by eighth-grader Ross Hempel in the 3,200. Danville trailed Raceland by seven points going into the race, and Verhoven knew he needed at least a third-place finish from Hempel for the Ads to win the title.
"I said, 'Ross, do you run well under pressure?' and he said yes, so I said 'Well, the fate of the Danville High School track team has now come down to an eighth-grader,'" Verhoven said. "I explained to him if he got third or better, assuming our mile relay would win, that what he would do would dictate the entire meet.
"He welcomed the pressure. His dad said, 'He's going to throw up now,' but I think they were a little more nervous than Ross was."
Hempel took advantage of the opportunity to turn in a time of 10 minutes, 47.39 seconds, a full 15 seconds better than his personal best.
He said a poor finish in the 1,600, in which he finished fifth after stopping to put his shoe back on after another runner stepped on it, spurred him to do well in the 3,200.
"I just pushed that out. I tried to, at least," Hempel said. "I used a little bit of it to try to push myself. I just tried to get it over with."
Danville also overcame a dropped baton in the 400 relay to finish second to Harrodsburg, which won with its team of Mark Dunn, Brandon Brown, Cory Jackson and Travis White. The Ads got a win from their 800 relay team, but got seconds from Turner in the 100 and Djuan Frye in the 300 hurdles to help them to the team title.
"I knew it would be real close, but it's closer than I thought it would be," Payne said. "Raceland gave us a good run for it."
"It feels good," Turner said. "Last year, we fell short to Raceland. This year, we come back and beat them, so it feels real good."
A familiar feeling for the Lady Ads
It was a familiar feeling for the Lady Ads, who celebrated - again - on the Eastern Kentucky University track. It's become old hat for Shatoniah Miller, who has been around for all five of the titles.
"It's awesome," Miller said. "I was always the youngest on the team the first two or three years. Now I'm the oldest and it's kind of weird because everybody looks up to me. I have to be a good example and I learned that from the older girls before me."
"My first year of coaching I had her, and now she goes out with a fifth title," coach Sadie Gambrel said. "We've been there together, so it's just like mama and daughter, almost."
Gambrel said she felt confident in her team after the first day, when the 3,200 relay team finished second, because she knew her other three relay teams were solid. But it wasn't so much the points she was counting on as the ones she wasn't that made her feel more settled.
Fourth-graders Diamond Pace and Kaitlin Snapp scored points in four events for the Lady Ads.
"It's just some upsets, like in the 800 with Diamond and Kaitlin in the mile and Diamond in the triple, just the little things that you weren't prepared for, but the younger ones are stepping up and doing it," Gambrel said.
Junior Krystal Napier won three events and finished second in another, and she said the Ads know what to do when they get to the regional.
"We stay focused and we put our minds to what we want and work hard, then come out here and do it," Napier said.
Now, their attention turns to a Class A state meet they have a real chance to win. Gambrel said the main competition will be St. Henry and Bishop Brossart, but that the Ads are ready for the triple crown.
"I just hope and pray that they can go out there with the frame of mind that they had today of wanting to be champions," Gambrel said. "We've al-ready talked about it. The CKC was the Kentucky Derby, today was the Preakness and next week is the Belmont. Smarty Jones ain't got nothing on us."