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Knights put best foot forward on Blue Oval

May 23, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

By CJ Eilers


The Union Knights are no stranger to the Blue Oval. Last year, the boys track team sent eight events to State and the girls have placed well in recent years. As six events made the trip to Des Moines for the State Co-ed Track and Field Meet from May 16-18, the mindset was the same across the board: leave the track better than when you walked on.

Article Photos

From left to right: Grace Asmussen, Carlie Hoppe, Aubrey Schmidt and Grace Keegan after their shuttle hurdle relay at State on Wednesday, May 16.

The first relay for Union came on Thursday morning as the shuttle hurdle team of Aubrey Schmidt, Grace Keegan, Carlie Hoppe and Grace Asmussen stepped on the track. After a long 12+ hours of waiting to see if their time qualified after placing seventh in the qualifying meet in Monticello, the four juniors were delighted to see their names listed. The girls found out in a variety of ways. Hoppe was told after a soccer game while Schmidt learned after a 5K.

"We were all in a SnapChat group chat with other relays talking about t-shirts for this year when Allie Driscol posted the shuttle hurdle made it," Asmussen said. "We immediately made our own group chat to talk about it."

The four girls had been involved in track together since seventh grade, yet this was the very first year they had joined together for a shuttle hurdle team. For Asmussen, Hoppe and Keegan, this was their first trip to the Blue Oval, with Schmidt going in 2017 as a freshman in a relay event.

"I love the challenge of the hurdles," Hoppe said. "It's fun racing with these girls together. We all get along so well and I feel like that chemistry has helped us improve our times as nearly every meet this season."

The shuttle hurdle came into State with the 22nd best time in 2A, working to improve their form and speed individually based off observations from coach Justin Parson.

"We all had our own thing to improve on, but we also knew what each other needed and we helped coach one another," Hoppe said. "With our hurdle coach having a baby halfway through the season, we became our own coaches."

When Thursday came and it was time to race, the moment set in for all four girls, especially for the three who stepped on the Blue Oval for the first time. But as the gun went off, the nerves were replaced with focused determination. On the biggest stage of their track careers, the shuttle hurdle team finished with a time of 1:11.82, a PR that placed them 17th overall.

"I was really nervous coming into my first time at State, especially since our lane was right next to the crowd," Keegan said. "The second we started though, the nerves went away and everything went better than I imagined."

Though the placing wasn't high enough to move on to the finals on Saturday, the girls were proud to finish higher than they were seeded and compete at State as juniors. Several of the relays they passed at State had competed against them at Monticello, notably Sumner-Fredericksburg.

"As soon as that race started, everything felt like it was in place and all of our hard work had paid off," Hoppe said. "I felt good about how I did and everyone else felt good about their times. It was a lot of relief and we feel like we had a successful season."

All four girls plan to return for the event next season and one goal is on each of their minds: make the finals.

"We still haven't all run our best times simultaneously and we will have our hurdles coach back next season," Hoppe said. "I'm sad it's over, but we're ready for next season."

Next up for Union was junior Lake LeBahn, the only Knight returning from last year's meet, where he competed in the 800m, 1600m and 3200m runs. Qualifying this year in the latter two, LeBahn opened his third trip to State with the 3200m run. Despite a quad issue nagging him at the end of the season, LeBahn took second at the qualifying meet to return to the Blue Oval with experience under his belt.

"These past two years helped me learn what to expect here at State," LeBahn said. "I've seen people qualify with slower times, so they can run faster times later. 2A was really tough with distance this season."

Coming in with the tenth best time, the 3200m run came as the sun beat down mercilessly upon the athletes and fans. LeBahn found himself in a crowded field and finished just outside of scoring in ninth place with a time of 10:00.59.

"I wanted to get my time further down this season, but I'll take what I can get," LeBahn said. "I feel I got smarter as the season went on with my two-mile race and I feel I finished well."

Watching from the stands, coach Ben Bean felt LeBahn ran a good race but also felt the potential for him to finish higher was there. Bean himself had qualified for State in his senior year of high school in the 110m hurdles and knew the experience itself was invaluable no matter how many times an athlete went.

"Getting to run the Blue Oval should be the goal of every track athlete in the State," Bean said. "It was a fantastic experience for me in high school and helping to coach a girl at Gladbrook-Reinbeck last year. I couldn't be upset with Lake's performance knowing he was less than a second off his personal best in hot conditions."

Thursday for Union was capped off with junior Jasmyn Bush competing in the 100m dash, an event she had competed almost all season with fellow Knight Allie Driscol by her side.

"During our first meet of the season, I wasn't even running the 100," Bush said. "My family wanted [Parson] to put me in an individual event with Allie. We both push each other a lot and it was really close between the two of us. I had some great competition at Districts and that pushed me to compete. I was shocked when I placed second and made to State."

Bush had competed at State her freshman year and made it a goal to put her best time at State, placing sixth overall with a time of 12.91 to move onto the finals on Saturday.

"It's super hot out and I had to cool down for awhile afterwards with the other runners," Bush said. "I was very scared about the false start, wondering if it was somehow me. Then I got out and afterwards turned around to see I got under 13 seconds."

The weather reversed course on Friday morning as rain drenched the course and every athlete competing upon it, including the Union girls 4x200 team of Bush, Asmussen, Driscol and Emma Carlson. The event qualified for State with a second place finish at Monticello much to the pleasure of Carlson.

"This has been my favorite relay all season," Carlson said. "I don't think [Parson] knew at the beginning who he wanted to be in it, but we started dropping times and then took off two seconds at Districts to qualify."

Driscol had previously been running the open 200 for the Knights earlier in the season before changing to the open 100. All four members worked on handoffs before State to cut their time, ultimately placing ninth with a time of 1:48.88 and outside of scoring and just missing a school record from 1991 set at 1:48.41.

"We want to try for that record next season and we plan to be back with faster times," Driscol said.

By the time the 4x100 team of Bush, Schmidt, Driscol and Carlson took to the track less than two hours later, the rain had stopped pouring and conditions were far more favorable for a relay Carlson never expected to be at State.

"This relay came out of nowhere because no one thought it would be good enough at the beginning of the year," Carlson said. "Just to be able to put this together and make it to State was exciting. Times were all over the places at first, but as the season went by we got into the groove of things."

Driscol saw the potential for the relay when she noticed her team's time was the second best in their District heading into the qualifying meet. Knowing they were close, the girls improved handoffs to get in. When their ticket was punched at Monticello, the Knights then looked make the finals at State.

"Ultimately, we wanted to get our best time we've ran all year," Driscol said. "Handoffs have been what gets us when we don't win, so we worked on them between qualifying at Districts and State."

The Knights finished with a time of 52.25, placing 14th overall and not moving on to the finals on Saturday. Like with the previous relays for the Union girls, all four return next year with a goal to return in 2020.

"It was super exciting to qualify and just being here was fun with this team," Carlson said.

The final event for the Knights was LeBahn's second race in the 1600m run, coming in with the fifth fastest time in Class 2A. His quad continued to present issues, yet he told Bean he'd compete anyway.

"I was frequently asking Lake how his quad was feeling, and one point he made the point it was his last race of the year and wanted to leave it all out there," Bean said. "That's exactly what he did and it really showed."

LeBahn paced himself much of the race, sitting at fifth place with 100 meters to go. After catch the next runner with 50 meters left, LeBahn pushed himself to pass another runner just before the finish line to record a personal best of 4:26 and a third place finish.

"His drive and want to win was just fantastic, especially in that last 50 meters," Bean said

"That kick at the end was a really exciting moment for me," LeBahn said. "I knew I had to stay positive in this race and keep working despite last year's race finishing seventh messing with me. I'm glad to finish on a good note."

For five Knights, this was their first time on the Blue Oval and experience which had taken years to reach in Carlson's case.

"This experience was emotional because it's taken quite a bit of time to get here for me," Carlson said. "All these years of work in the season and offseason have been worth it."

With the 2019 season at a close, all eight Union athletes already have their sights set on 2020 as each plans to return. The girls will attempt to bring all four events back next year as well as bring along more athletes. The sprint medley team were just outside of qualifying for State this season and will be a relay the Knights concentrate on. Union also will look for events from the current freshman and sophomore classes to compete at State next year.

As for LeBahn, Bean expects an even bigger step for the junior next year, whether it be winning an event or qualifying in more events for his senior year.

"He's already qualified for three events in his career, so maybe next year it should be a goal to make four events or to win State," Bean said. "He's going into his senior year and he deserves to go out the way he wants to, which is on top. Between the boys and girls, we didn't take any seniors down to Des Moines. We'll have them all back, as well as the alternates we want to see qualify next year as well.

Photos from Union track competing at State Track are available on the Dysart Reporter Facebook page through Flickr.



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