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Union track breaks drought at State
May 24, 2018

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One Union's strongest track season in recent memory came to a close on the Blue Oval at Drake this past weekend at the Co-Ed State Track Meet in Des Moines as eight Union qualifying events competed with the best in Class 2A.

"When we found out we were sending eight qualifiers we were very excited and happy for those who qualified," coach Brian Zuck said. "We knew some events were ranked pretty high going into districts but also had an understanding that a few others would have to have their best performance of the season to get in. Koby Alpers in Long Jump and our 4x100 team had their best performances of the year, prior to state, at Districts and both advanced when both were on the outside looking in."

In preparation for State, the qualifers rested the Friday after Districts and then went hard during practice the following Monday. Athletes focuses on hand-offs, starts and worked on stretching to "be ready to peak at State" according to Zuck. It had been six years since an athlete from Union boys track had placed in an event, and this group went in with a goal of ending that drought.

"Our goal was to place as high as possible as a team overall," Zuck said. "I know all the individuals wanted to place in the top 8 and perform their best."

Alpers did just did as he took on Long Jump first for Union on Thursday. The senior made the cut for finals with a jump of 20'-5.75", half an inch of his PR according to Zuck. In the finals, Alpers had several scratches and was unable to add to his jump further, placing seventh overall.

"I was happy with my finish in the Long Jump," Alpers said. "This was my third meet jumping competitively this year, so my main goal was to get into the top eight. Once I figured out I made the finals I just wanted to go on and do my best. I had a couple of scratches because it."

The next event for Union was the 3200 M Run with sophomore Lake LeBahn placing seventh overall with a time of 10:09 for another top eight finish for the Knights. Shortly after, Tate Hookham took to the 200, an event he had not automatically qualified for, unlike the previous two events. The senior took 20th in the preliminaries, unable to qualify for the finals on Saturday.

"I barely made it through Districts in the 200 and I wasn't expecting to do much, but it was a good warmup for the 400 that day," Hookham said.

Hookham had been dominate in the 400 all season long, yet still aimed to beat the school record in the event and end Thursday on a high note for Union. Competing in a strong field, Hookham placed seventh with a time of 50.11, three hundreths of a second off that school record he hoped to beat.

"When I run the 400, I usually dial it down on the third turn, but coach had me sprint the entire thing and I felt like I had more energy and adrenaline throughout. I had a 1.5 second time drop from Districts and I'm very happy about my performance."

Hookham returned on Friday to anchor the 4x100 team with Alpers, Carter Asmussen and Britton Rolison to tie the school record with a time of 44.65, finishing 14th at State and not qualifying for finals. The previous record was already set by Hookham, according to Zuck.

Saturday was the final day at Drake and the last chance for the seniors to make an impact on the track for Union. The Sprint Medley of Alpers, Silver Schmitz, Rolison and Hookham were able to finish in eighth place with a time of 1:36 to start the day strong with the school's last team event.

The rest was down to LeBahn in the 800 and 1600 M Runs. According to Zuck, LeBahn strived to do two things in the 800: go under two minutes and break the school record. While he was a few tenths of a second off his goal with a run of 2:00.48, LeBahn did beat the school record and placed 13th overall. With some room left in the tank, Lebahn closed out Union's run at State in the 1600 M Run with a time of 4:32 to place sixth, the highest placing all weekend for the Knights.

"As a coach, I always want to see us at our best down at the state meet and I feel we did a good job accomplishing that," Zuck said. "These kids have worked hard all season and it was very rewarding to see them have so much success down at Drake."

Overall, the Knights finished 29th in 2A with 10 points, but more importantly ending the aforementioned drought of not having a Union male athlete medal in an event. For seniors like Alpers and Hookham, it was an experience they will remember for years to come.

"This experience has been awesome for me because I haven't done track since my freshman year," Alpers said. "Coming back in my senior year and competing in three events at State is pretty sweet. In the past, we haven't been known for our track team, but I hope we are turning that around with our eight qualifiers this year."

While those two seniors have graduated, Zuck looks forward to using this banner year as a springborard for years to come for Union track.

"We have some experienced underclassmen ready to step up and help replace these very athletic seniors," Zuck said. "It will not be easy to replace the talent we lose but our returning runners next year know what kind of commitment and work ethic it takes to get to State."

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