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Union sweeps Conference 40 boys, girls track championships

Pat Kenney • May 18, 2016 at 11:48 PM

BIG STONE GAP — Union’s boys and girls used combined depth and outstanding individual performances to sweep the Conference 40 track and field championships on Wednesday at Bullitt Park.

The Lady Bears piled up 169 points to outdistance second-place Ridgeview (122).  John Battle (71) was third. The Union boys, despite a disqualification in the day’s final event, the 4x400-meter relay, still had enough cushion to edge Ridgeview 128.5-100.5. 

Gate City finished third with 83 points.

Union’s girls were led by sophomore Ashley Chester, who finished with 38 individual points and helped the Lady Bears win the 4x100 relay. She won the long jump and 300 hurdles, finished third in the 100 hurdles and high jump and added a fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the shot put.

“I just come into each meet trying to push myself to get better,” said Chester. “The key for us as a team is that the coaches keep after us to do our best at each meet.”

Brooke Vanover added a win for Union in the 3,200, and Kalea Clark cruised to a win in the 100 hurdles. The Lady Bears also captured the 4x800 relay.

“I sent the girls a text message this morning,” said Union girls coach James Hamilton. “I told them today was their day. They needed to let all their hard work pay off with a conference championship.

“We separated ourselves from the competition in the field events, and that gave us enough cushion to hold off Ridgeview in the running events.”

And they needed all that cushion. The Lady Wolfpack’s Ivvy Gulley had a stellar individual day.

Gulley won the 100, 200 and 400 and the triple jump and finished fourth in the high jump and fifth in the long jump. She ran the 400 for the first time in competition and posted an outstanding time of 62.44.

“That was a tough race,” said Gulley. “I’d only run it twice in practice, and following that with the 200 today made it a long day.”

In spite of battling back issues, two-time defending state shot put champion Jordan Houseright from Gate City won her specialty with a throw of 36-3 1/‚Äč2.

“I’ve not been able to do the things I want to do, but I’m hoping to clear this up prior to the state meet,” said Houseright, who has her sights set on winning a third straight state title. “That’s the pressure I put on myself. I do want that third state championship.”

While the Union boys only won three running events and two field events, they used superior depth to pile up the points and build a substantial lead over the Wolfpack. In the end, the numbers piled up by the Bears proved too much for Ridgeview.

“Our strengths are in the field events and hurdles,” said Union boys coach Tim Thomas. “We focus on those and try to be strong there.

“Two things are key for us,” added Thomas. “First, was a great tradition of track at both Powell Valley and Appalachia, and that has continued here at Union. Second, all we ask is that the kids do their best. We let everything else take care of itself.”

Wise Central’s Daniel England won the shot put and discus, while Lebanon’s John Easton cruised to wins in the 1,600 and 3,200.

The Bears Adrion Jenkins captured the 300 hurdles and the high jump.

The 2A West Region meet will be held next Wednesday at Radford.

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