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Knights XC back with big numbers

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

Head Coach: Justin Parson

The 2018 cross country season saw Union compete in its first meet late in the season almost halfway through September due to weather and cancellation. When the Knights finally competed, much of their expectations and PRs were met before Lake LeBahn finished 12th at the State Cross Country meet on October 27.

"Last season, I feel we knew where we were with everything," Parson said. "We set a lot of PRs, hit goals, but most importantly the girls gave me 100 percent effort. We weren't always at the top of our standings at meets, but I wanted to instill that competitiveness within themselves. They got the message to be competitive with other runners and making their own goals."

Article Photos

Front row left to right: Nolan Miehe, Kendall Putz, Tyson Fleshner, Lane Hennings, Lincoln Mehlert, Jack Thomsen, Ty Lorenzen, Samuel Klein. Back row (L-R): Altankhishig Gagaa, TJ Freeland, Pierangelo Nocentini, Garrett Rottinghaus, Ryan Bowers, Jon Bronner, Keegan Block, Devin Reel, Jacob Hill, Trevor Davis, Xander Axline, Lake LeBahn, Cayden Thiele. Not pictured: Caleb Reel, Gavin Moore, Conner Prestemon, Tobias Hopkins.

This season, both teams have grown significantly to give them 46 runners overall and each a chance to take a step further in 2019.

Starting with the girls team, 21 girls will compete for the Knights this season, including 12 seniors. Three of those seniors will be new to the program while the remaining nine competed in 2018.

"We have a lot more seniors together this year and that makes us a great team," senior Emma Shirk said. "We support each other. We have a lot of new girls who are supportive of each other to be better when we're running."

While underclassmen are few, sophomore Ellie Rathe is expected to be a major contributor in her first season of cross country after a successful spring in track as a freshman.

"Ellie told me she wanted to work on some things to try and better herself for track," Parson said. "We've set her out on a two-mile pace to see where she might fall. She has flirted with the 21 minute mark and has an outside shot of qualifying for State."

Parson will also return a group of girls who have been competing for the better part of six years, including Shirk. Although realistically the seniors have experience, the main goal going forward is to see times continue to drop and their team scores improve from last year.

"We have seniors who have been with me for quite awhile and will give me everything they have," Parson said. "I want to see them make goals, mentally challenge themselves, compete in every meet and enjoy themselves. I maintain this sport is the most mentally grueling, but also the most rewarding in terms of how it pays of with life skills for them. If we can get an individual State qualifier or two this year, that would be outstanding for us."

Meanwhile, the boys team nearly doubled to 25 runners this season and will have 10 seniors out for cross country. According to Parson, four of five of these seniors alone have the potential to run varsity, yet the underclassmen also have some talent to contribute immediately.

"There's going to be a battle for who wants to be in the top seven with us this year," Parson said. "We have some freshmen boys who proved during their middle school years they can be decent runners. Hopefully they can carry their shorter distances into a 5K this year. We're excited about what we have."

Among those seniors is Lane Hennings, who separated himself as the Knight's second-best runner behind LeBahn throughout the season. Hoping to give Union a second runner at State, Hennings pushed himself to several high placings throughout 2018, but fell short of a State berth as he came in 25th overall at Districts in Monticello. Only the top 15 placings and the top three teams move on to State.

"Personally, I didn't meet my goals last season," Hennings said. "I wanted to make State. Not reaching my goal has motivated me to work more in the summer and running a lot more. During the last summer, I didn't really run that much."

The Knights as a team would fall short of qualifying together, yet this season may be another step towards that goal, according to Parson.

"Lake qualifying for State was obviously a big goal, but I was pretty proud of our boys team last year," Parson said. "We improved as a team. Lane Hennings feel just short of State. I know Jon Bronner is hungry to do some things this year. We were seventh in the District last year and could have been a tick better. Looking back at times from 2018, I don't see why we can't be part of that conversation this season."

While the "conversation" is different for the girls compared to the boys this season, seniors such as Shirk are ready to make the most of their final season in a Knights uniform while the experienced runners act as leaders for their newer members.

"As a senior, I have to provide leadership by making sure everyone is trying their best, working their best," Shirk said. "If they aren't, then us seniors help each other. I'm looking to our meets with all these girls and the bus rides home with my friends."

A successful season for the boys will see two runners at the State meet at the least, yet the team as a whole competing in late October is not far from anyone's imagination.

"Lake and Lane are two strong runners," Parson said. "Jon Bronner is a worker we embrace, so I'm excited to see what he does. Our seniors have the potential to step with the young runners giving us a chance to send the team to State. We need to drive to push us that far."

And Hennings plans to do whatever he can as a senior to help his growing team along this season as he chases his own personal goals as well as the team's dream of a State berth together.

"I need to help the underclassmen out with running, continue to push them," Hennings said. "I'm looking forward to running with Lake, to get to State and make it as a team."

Union cross country will open their season at Oelwein on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The Knights will host their own meet at the La Porte City Golf Course on Thursday, Sept. 12.



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