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Union girls look to bounce back with younger roster

March 29, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Head Coach: Justin Parson

The 2018 track season did not end the way coach Justin Parson and the team wanted it to at the State Qualifying Meet at Dike-New Hartford. The Knights qualified Hailee Brown and Audrey Powers for State in long jump and high jump respectively, but several events on the oval came up just short of joining the two seniors at Drake and the girls finished eighth overall.

"We certainly have a couple of injuries we didn't plan on to end the season and we tried to piece some events together for Districts," Parson said. "It didn't go our way, but we worked hard. We didn't have the results we wanted or the number of events qualify for State. Our returning kids are aware of that and maybe were a little frustrated. I'm not going to call anything a disappointment because we did show up for that day and ran our best times."

Article Photos

The 2019 Union girls track team. Front sitting: seniors Emma Alpers and Emily Miehe. Kneeling: Kiana Gloede, Jasmyn Bush, Grace Keegan, Emma Carlson, Emma Shirk, Allie Driscol, Alyssa Hatch, Elle Hookham, Kaylin Davis. Back row: Carlie Hoppe Grace Asmussen, Aubrey Schmidt, Margery Miller, Carlie McNeal, Gracie Rathe, Belle Olson, Bailey Foulk, Ellie Rathe, Laura Rempe, Megan Clapp, Sadie Hennings, Carlie Spore, Jadyn Wiest.

This season looks to be a different story for the Union girls as they return a small core of experienced runners, but more noticeably add a cast of freshmen and sophomores to a mix with seniors Emma Alpers and Emily Miehe leading the team.

"I'd say we had a pretty good season overall last year," Alpers said. "We had a lot of seniors graduate, so we're coming back this year younger after taking a couple of girls to State. This year's team has a lot of freshmen and people back."

Alpers has dealt with injury and surgery in the past couple of seasons, but returns for her senior year with great optimism. An experienced distance runner, the Dysart native will see action in the 4x800, 1500 and 3000 the season and perhaps other events. Miehe also returns for her fourth season to possibly run in the 4x800, sprint medley and lead by example both in practice and on the track.

"We do have a young group this year, but with that comes fresh legs and everyone is super eager to run track this season," Miehe said. "We have a lot of girls pushing themselves hard even with being stuck inside running the hallways. It can be hard being indoors, hitting the weight room and doing the same things over and over again over the past few weeks, yet everyone has pushed through."

The girls have yet to hold a practice outside (as of publication) due to weather, and with the mix of newcomers out this season, Parson is unsure of how this team will shake out quite yet.

"We're a younger team, but we have some good leaders in Emily and Emma as seniors who've stuck it out over the years," Parson said. "The team also has a solid core of juniors that will help us. The sky's the limit for them. We can be decent in the sprint medley. Our shuttle hurdle is pretty much back in place and a strength. Grace Asmussen is back and healthy. I like Ellie Rathe right now in the 3000 and think she will run well. A lot of kids are doing well. There's a few open spots with the 800s and spring medley."

Among those juniors is Emma Carlson, who ran in several relays last season. After watching her events fall short by seconds and seeing the 4x800 come extremely close to having their ticket punched to State, she feels ready to make a bigger impact this year wherever the ends up racing.

"Personally, I've put in a lot more work in the offseason knowing several events were so close last year and it will take more of me to get to State this year," Carlson said. "There's a couple of races between sprint and distance I feel could go. We just have to see how they fall over the season."

Distance will be a strength of this year's team, but the Knights also lost Brown and Powers to graduation after making the State meet all four years of their careers in field events. A new group of athletes will step up this year, though it may take several meets this season to hash out roles.

"Field events will be new with very few people returning and obviously we can't get outside to work on that," Parson said. "There are a few people I'd like to see step up for field events and be successful, but they need to be comfortable with it. We've got young kids who will be throwers this year. Long jump and high jump has been strong for us in recent years, and we will eventually find people to do them to the best of their abilities."

Sprinting will also be a focus of improvement again this year, though Parson reiterated it wasn't because of lack of trying or lack of talent last year.

"We were just a little off the mark and clean up hand-offs, blocks and more importantly the right mix for the sprint relays," Parson said. "As passionate as I am about track, they need to be ones that are motivated to hit the right marks."

Fortunately for Parson, motivation will not be hard to find between seniors Alpers and Miehe as well as Carlson this practice season.

"As a senior, I feel I have to be the leader for the younger girls and have a positive attitude in practice for them to look up to," Alpers said. "It's looking like we'll have a long season practicing indoors with this weather, so you have to keep everyone's mindset good."

"We're definitely going to have some tough practice days to push through because of the weather," Miehe added. "Meets won't always go our way, but we need to realize there's always another meet coming up."

That leadership does not go unnoticed by Parson early in the season as the team finds itself stuck inside and finding their identity. Both will be looked to continue the positive attitudes if Union is to remain competitive this regular season.

"They both want to be part of the State meet and are driven," Parson said. "Emma has been injured over the years, but will bounce back. They are realist for the sake of the team as they know what to expect and will do what's asked for the benefit of the team. The 4x800 is something they are concerned about. Both motivate the girls during the practice season and I have nothing but praises for those two."

After sending two field events to State in 2018, Parson feels the makeup of potential qualifiers looks wholly different from the previous season, despite the Knights having sent distance and sprint events to the Blue Oval in recent years. Though the team is still finding itself, goals are already in mind.

"A great season for Union Knights girls track is five-possibly six-events making it to State, a good conference meet and kids improving their times all season long," Parson said. "Improvement is our main thing and I feel we will see that as we go through the season."

For right now, the team's biggest hurdle is getting past a little bit of cabin fever.

"A successful year means just everyone staying mentally tough," Carlson said. "This weather is terrible, but everyone we compete against is dealing with it too. Running inside will get hard for awhile, so once we're practicing outside we'll have good things happening for us."

The girls are scheduled to open their season with a home meet against Gladbrook-Reinbeck, A-P, Denver, East Marshall, Benton and others on Thursday, March 28. Next will be an invitational at Jesup on Tuesday, April 2.



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