Union seniors have successful swan song
MONMOUTH — A small school in eastern Oregon made a big splash in the state track and field championships.
And according to Union track coach Jay Blackburn, a small cadre of underclassmen helped make it a successful swan song for a pair of senior Bobcats.
“We had two goals for the team going into state,” Blackburn said.
“One was to medal all the athletes and the second was for the girls to get a team trophy.”
“Our athletes stepped up and all medaled. We placed fourth as a girls team, breaking the 15-year drought without a team trophy,” Blackburn said.
Two underclassmen helped spark the Lady Cats early in the two-day meet.
Sophomore Katriel O’Reilly “had the track meet of her life, setting new school records in the 3,000 and 1,500 and placing first in both events,” Blackburn said.
“McKenzie Evans placed second in the 3,000 and fourth in the 1,500, racing tough. She really looked good and ran very strong.”
They weren’t the only ones who did well, according to the coach.
“Bayly Poor had a great two days placing in all of her events and getting the team a lot of points. She also anchored our 4x400-meter relay team that placed fifth,” he added.
Senior Kathryn Hepler saved her best track performances for her final state meet, according to the coach. “Kathryn has been a stalwart athlete for us for the last four years and she put it all out there at her last meet. “
“Our girls’ 4x400 relay really stepped up,” the coach said. “We wanted to rest our other runners because of other events and both of our alternates Lynn Shoemaker and Stormy Bullard ran in the prelims and ran very well. Lynn also ran in the final because we wanted someone fresh legs and was instrumental in the fifth place finish.”
“We were very pleased with our athletes performances and the way they represented Union High School,” Blackburn added.
“Sara Good ran her best time in the 800 placing eighth, just beating out the next competitor by three-hundredths of a second.
“Michael O’Reilly topped off his great high school running career with his best times and performances in the 3,000 and 1,500 — placing sixth and fifth.
“Our girls 4x400 relay really stepped up. We wanted to rest our other runners because of other events and both of our alternates Lynn Shoemaker and Stormy Bullard ran in the prelims and ran very well.
Lynn also ran in the final because we wanted someone fresh legs and was instrumental in the fifth-place finish.
“We were very pleased with our athletes performances and the way they represented Union High School,” the coach said.
Although the Bobcats will be losing Michael O’Reilly and Hepler to graduation, the underclassmen in the meet showed the team will not be short-handed when the next track season starts.
Assistant coach Steve Sheehy said the seniors ended their prep careers with great perfomances.
“Michael ran a great 3,000 meter on Friday to move up to number three all-time at Union for the event. He ran a 9:20, which is an 11 second PR (personal record).
“It was a great race from a great senior runner,” Sheehy added.
Hepler also shined on the Western Oregon University track, Sheehy said.
“Both (O’Reilly and Hepler) capped off their careers with personal bests and provided us some great leadership.”
But even losing two state finalist may not keep the Bobcats from returning to the state 3A/2A/1A championship meet again next year.
“Katriel O’Reilly broke both of her own school records while having a brilliant state meet, winning both the 1,500 and 3,000-meter runs,” Sheehy said.
“On Friday, she won the 3,000 in 10:39, breaking her own school record by 13 seconds.
“She won the race in dominating fashion, but her teammate McKenzie Evans also did well finishing second. McKenzie also ran a great race running a personal record by 10 seconds to finish in 11:19.
“Katriel’s 10:39 was the fastest time for the day for the girls 3,000.
“It was one of those rare performances where an athlete just gets in that zone where they can go to another level,” Sheehy said.
“Katriel and McKenzie also competed in the 1500 on Saturday, with Katriel winning and McKenzie finishing fourth.
“They scored some major points for us in those two races.”
The sophomore also dominated the meet in the shorter race, according to Sheehy.
“Katriel also ran the fastest girl’s time of the meet with her 4:55 in the 1,500.
“This was a great tactical race where she had to really make it difficult on the kickers by running a very hard second and third laps. She did that very very well.
“Kennedy’s senior star Bridget Donohue was with Katriel with 200 meters to go, but Katriel had run the kick out of Donohue by that time, and Katriel held Donohue off to get the win. McKenzie ran a very gutty race to finish 4th,” Sheehy added.
Sheehy also gave credit to the rest of the team. “The rest of the Bobcats also had a great state meet. Poor, Good, Hepler, Bullard, and Shoemaker put together a great team effort.
“We needed this complete team effort to get that last team trophy.”