Chris Hack had never doubted his chances of winning the 800-meter run.
The Lake Norman Charter junior hadn't lost the event in almost two months and six previous tries going into the NCHSAA 1A State Final on May 20. He felt confident as the race began.
Hack positioned himself in second place behind Elkins junior Zach Millsaps as the runners came into the homestretch. As Millsaps began to open up a lead on the final turn, Hack suddenly didn't feel so sure.
"Coming down the straight, I was thinking ... 'I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose,'" Hack said.
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Then Millsaps began to show the tell-tale signs of fatigue.
First his legs became wobbly. Then he stumbled. He tripped. Hack realized he had nobody ahead of him.
"When his legs gave out, I started thinking, "Yes! I'm going to win, I'm going to win,'" said Hack, who finished with a time of 1:59.8.
Track and cross country coach Craig Zamiara described Hack as down to earth and modest. So modest, Zamiara had to convince him he won fair and square.
"The first thing he told me was 'I didn't deserve it,'" Zamiara said. "He said, I wasn't in first place, (Millsaps) was."
Zamiara told Hack he rightfully earned the victory because Millsaps started his closing kick too early and got tired. Millsaps finished sixth after recovering from his fall.
"I had to reassure him of that because he felt kind of bad that this kid was in front of him," he said. "He felt like (Millsaps) ... got cheated out of a state championship and he got it secondhand."
Hack had never run an individual 800-meter in competition before March 14. Lake Norman Charter didn't even have a track team before this season.
Zamiara brought the idea of a track team to the high school when it opened four years ago. The first track team began competition this year, participating in six of 18 events.
Despite that, the Knights' boys went on to place third at the 1A Midwest Regional and 11th at the state meet.
Hack had been a cross country runner for three years and joined the track team to keep in shape. He started as a miler but moved to the 800 by his third meet.
"The 800 people always seemed like they were the faster, better people," Hack said. "It looked like fun."
Hack placed fourth in his first race but improved quickly.
"Every race after that he just slowly got better," Zamiara said. "I know this was where he belonged."
By the end of the season Hack had improved his time from 2:08 to a school-record time of 1:59.41, which he recorded in a win at the Cannon School Home Meet on April 26.
"We've been really proud of him," said his mother, Kathy Hack. "In 10th grade he really decided he wanted to work for this. He set goals for himself."
Hack's new goal includes running at the college level. Zamiara said he's had to slow him down a bit in his quest to get there.
"I have to tell him, 'do not run,' because if I don't tell him that he'll still go out and get a couple of miles in," Zamiara said. "He's very driven right now."
Hack said he's looking forward to the cross country season. After that, a rematch with Millsaps for the 800-meter title could be possible in 2012.
"I definitely want to repeat," Hack said. "But I might try the mile again next year."