Competing in the final event of the MSHSAA track and field championships at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Union’s girls earned its fourth and final Class 3 all-state performance.
The Lady ’Cats’ 1,600-meter relay team of Janna Ruether, Amber Tharp, Taylor Lavalle and Anna Houston finished fourth in a time of 4:02.81. Their preliminary time was 4:01.33, a school record.
“This is the event I thought we would finish the highest in at state,” said Union Coach Chris Kelley. “We ran very well in the prelims, winning the heat and shattering the school record. It helps when your anchor leg, Anna, runs a 57.4.”
Heading into the final event, the Lady ’Cats were in position for a top four finish and a team trophy.
“We knew we had a shot at a team trophy, but we’d have to gain five points on Chillicothe, who also was in the finals. I figured we needed to finish second to have a shot at the trophy,” Kelley said. “Anna was wore out by the time this event rolled around. I gathered the other three runners and told them it was their turn to help Anna. We’ve relied on her all season. They needed to step up for her.”
Each of the four participants ran 400 meters, one lap, in the event.
Ruether took the opening leg for Union.
“It went pretty good,” Ruether said. “I was really pushing it and really felt it. My legs were hurting.”
Tharp ran the second leg.
“At the beginning, you have to push really hard,” Tharp said. “At the end, you have to give it whatever is left and make sure your handoff is good.”
Lavalle ran the third leg.
“It was all about pushing through until the end, starting strong and attacking the people at the beginning,” Lavalle said. “Everybody gave what they had. I’m proud of the way we ran.”
Houston ran the anchor leg.
“I came out pretty strong,” Houston said. “I was trying to chase down the girls in front of me. If I had maybe 10 more meters, I probably could have had them.”
While the Lady ’Cats fell short of the team trophy, they still managed to place fourth in the event and fifth in the team standings.
“We’re happy about how it went,” Houston said. “It was a good year for the team.”
Kelley said the Lady ’Cats ran a solid race.
“Janna ran her best split ever, a 59 out of the blocks. Amber and Taylor were just a tad off their marks, but still turned in good times. Anna still ran a 58 as the anchor,” Kelley said. “We ran well, just a little slower than the day before. A fourth-place finish at state is still awesome.”
Kelley was proud of his team’s performance at the state meet.
“I thought we could have a chance to be a top 10 team coming in, but then the girls stepped up their game a lot. It was a great weekend and to even compete for a team trophy was fun,” Kelley said. “These girls gave everything they had and did their absolute best. That’s what makes them and the team a success. The community, school, parents and coaching staff could not be any prouder of this team.”