Union girls take first following return to La Porte City

Union senior Ellie Rathe runs her home course in La Porte on Sept. 9 during the Union Invitational. Rathe ran a stellar race, winning the Girls 5K and setting a personal record with a time of 18:35. Photo by CJ Eilers/Cedar Valley Times.

Runners returned to the La Porte City Country Club Thursday, September 9 after an extended absence as part of Union’s cross country invitational with both Union and North Tama girls’ teams taking top honors at the event.

“I thought it ran smoothly,” Union Activities Director Michael Bruns said. “[Union cross country coach Justin Parson] did a great job of coordinating volunteers and getting people where they needed to go. We are very thankful that the LPC Golf Course allowed us to have the meet.”

According to Bruns, Union has only been able to host their invitational two of the last nine years due to inclement weather — primarily flooding.

Last year’s event was set to take place on Thursday, September 10 but was canceled due to flooding.

Union was scheduled to host eight teams at this year’s event including Don Bosco Catholic, Dunkerton, Nashua-Plainfield, North Tama, South Hardin, Tripoli, Valley Lutheran and Vinton-Shellsburg.

Union sophomore Lauren Youngblut runs the La Porte City Golf Club course on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, during last year's Union Invitational. NORTH TAMA TELEGRAPH FILE PHOTO

The Knights girls team took first Thursday night thanks to several strong finishes including from senior Ellie Rathe who won the Girls 5K — and set a personal record in the process — with a finish time of 18:35. Rathe came in more than 90 seconds faster than runner-up Grace Lidgett of North Tama who clocked in at 20:16.

Union sophomore Lauren Youngblut also turned in a solid performance to help propel the team to first — coming in fourth with a time of 21:05 and setting a personal record. Youngblut’s freshman teammates Amilia Condon and Lily Lorenzen also set personal records on the La Porte City course, finishing sixth and 10th respectively with times of 21:42 and 22:50.

Just behind Lidgett was fellow North Tama Redhawk Jules Breakenridge who finished third with a time of 20:53.

The North Tama girls’ squad took third overall for the event behind Nashua-Plainfield in 2nd.

Union boys took 5th overall. The Knights top finisher was sophomore Sam Fehl in 12th place who turned in a season record time of 20:13. Freshman Kengo Uchiyama-Hansen came in 14th with a personal record time of 20:30.

North Tama's Jules Breakenridge (left) and Grace Lidgett (right) keep up the pace together during the Union Invitational on Sept. 9. Thanks to strong second and third place finishes respectively from Lidgett and Breakenridge, North Tama took third in the event. Photo by CJ Eilers/Cedar Valley Times.

North Tama fielded just one varsity boys runner — sophomore Christian Dronebarger who came in 35th and set a season PR of 21:57.

Vinton-Shellsburg won the boys event, followed by Dunkerton in second and Nashua-Plainfield in third.

Union Cross Country Coach Justin Parson had nothing but good things to say after the event.

“I thought our kids had a great week of practice and showed a lot of improvement from our meet last week in Oelwein. Both groups are working hard and I enjoy them so much. It was great to run a meet at home after having so many weather issues over the past few years.”

Following their home meet, the Union Knights were scheduled to compete on Tuesday, September 14 in the Starmont Cross Country Invitational, while North Tama was set to run again Monday, September 13 at South Tama’s invite.

The Boys 5K takes off across La Porte City Country Club on Thursday, Sept. 9 as part of Union’s cross country invitational. Union’s home event has been cancelled seven times out of the last nine years due to inclement weather including last year due to flooding. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker.

Union sophomore Sam Fehl runs on home turf during the Knights’ cross country invitational at La Porte City Country Club on Sept. 9. Fehl came in 12th with a time of 20:13. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker.

Union freshman Kengo Uchiyama-Hansen crests a hill at La Porte City Country Club during the Union Invitational on Sept. 9. Uchiyama-Hansen finished with a time of 20:30.

North Tama sophomore Christian Dronebarger (right) finishes strong alongside a runner from Vinton-Shellsburg at the Union Invitational in La Porte City on Sept. 9. Dronebarger came in 35th during the meet, finishing with a time of 22:36. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker.