LEXINGTON - When she was in the fifth grade, the year before she started playing varsity tennis, McCracken County freshman Michelle McKamey wrote a set of goals with her mother, Sherry. Some dealt with academics, others - such as winning a state title - were about tennis.
McKamey achieved that goal Saturday afternoon, beating Highlands junior Meredith Laskey 6-4, 6-1 in the girls singles state championship match at the University of Kentucky's Boone/Downing Tennis Complex. She was nearly at a loss for words because of her happiness.
"I'm really pretty good with words," she said, "but I'm so excited right now, I'm about to cry."
McKamey becomes the first area athlete to win a girls singles title since Lone Oak's Sarah Suitor, who won consecutive titles in 2000 and 2001. McKamey's win comes despite her trouble with her serve throughout the tournament.
She trailed Laskey 3-2 in the first set before building a 30-love lead in the sixth game. She then double-faulted three times to allow Laskey to go ahead 4-2.
"That frustrates you," said McKamey, who also foot-faulted three times. "You try not to let that get to you head, but if you're not serving well already, well, what are you going to do?"
Well, she focused harder on her serves to win the next four games. McKamey lost the first game of the second set but won the next six to end the match.
She rebounded from her early struggles to win 10 of the last 11 games.
"We built a game that was ready to win," McCracken County coach Larry Heflin said. "But there's a lot of people that have games. In this particular arena, you have to have mental toughness."
Because McKamey displayed that toughness, she can celebrate with her father, Roy, when she returns home. He doesn't attend her matches after a heart attack eight years ago and five bypass surgeries. He takes medication to keep his blood pressure down.
The excitement of a big match would be too much, so he waited Saturday for updates by text.
"It's tough to realize your child is out there, one on one, doing the best she can for herself and her team and her coaches," Roy said by phone. "It's tough not being there with your daughter."
While he rarely watches her play, he attends her practices. He writes the advice she receives from Heflin and her private coaches and then gives them to her the next morning as a review.
The work helped Michelle achieve one of the goals she set three years ago.
"I'm very happy it happened this year," she said. "But it's a lot to uphold. If I win it freshman year, I'm expected to win the rest (in my career) as well. Hopefully, I'll be able to do that."
Mustangs boys duo
loses in semis
One shot changed the fortune of McCracken's County's Grant Hammons and Mat Townsend.
Hammons was serving for game point in the first game of the first set, which the Mustangs eventually lost. They then lost their match against St. Xavier's Coleman Cox and Nick Quinones 6-0, 7-6 (7-1) in the boys doubles state tournament semifinals Saturday morning.
"We kind of got down after that," Hammons said. "We had chances to win every game in the first set, but we didn't capitalize. In the second set, we brought it and played much better."
Seeded first, the Mustangs couldn't escape elimination. The loss ends the seniors' career.
"We wanted to take it as far as we could," Townsend said. "We had a good run."
One Townsend hopes will spark interest in his college recruitment. He planned to walk on at Western Kentucky, but the Hilltoppers cut their men's program April 29. Townsend said he spoke with Morehead State while at the tournament and will keep looking for a new college.
Garneau, Kauffman lose in state championship
The magic ran out for the Lady Mustangs duo of McKenna Garneau and Madelyn Kauffman.
They lost the girls doubles state championship 6-3, 6-3 to Russell's Maci Ferguson and Kierstin Hensley on Saturday. The loss comes after winning 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in the semifinals against the top-seeded pair and finishing Friday with a 6-3, 6-7, 10-8 quarterfinal win against the No. 3 duo.
"It's difficult to keep it going like that," Heflin said. "They made really, really good runs."
Call Daniel Paulling, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8662, or follow on Twitter @DanielPaulling.