Senior Night Celebration Of Family for UP Harriers
At Union Pines High School one given is that the word “family” is often associated with the Viking cross country program.
Led by longtime head coach Nat Carter, the Vikings swept both the boys’ and girls’ tri-team league meet Wednesday at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium in Cameron. But in the grand scheme of things the 5K race was not the main event of the evening.
Wednesday was Senior Night for the Vikings and, in what has become custom, the ceremony that followed Union Pines’ strong distance-running performance to honor the Union Pines seniors was among the best highlights of the fall sports season.
In total seven seniors were presented with plaques, framed photos, team-created signs and flowers on the track near the 50-yard line while a large gathering of family, friends and fans congregated to join in the celebration.
Union Pines 2012 cross country seniors included Miriam Hoppman, Laura Haulsee, Tayloranne Kraemer, Brianna Stengele, Storm Jessup, Robert Sivley and Zach Sprouse.
Captains Haulsee, Jessup and Stengele were each overcome with emotion after the seven seniors posed for a group shots as several snaps from cameras clicked as the sun set.
“Everybody on this team is like a brother or sister to me,” said a tearful Stengele when describing the closeness of the team. “We have come together a lot through practices and pasta dinners with coach Carter’s and all the parents’ help. We are a family out here, and that is not going to change.”
Haulsee is the other Lady Vike captain, and she also had teary eyes when reflecting on her cross country career.
“I am really happy at the success of the team this season,” she said. “Everyone has worked tremendously hard and I am so proud of them. At the same time this night is really bittersweet, because I am going to miss all of it, but I am also happy to go out on such a successful note.”
The Union Pines girls won the Senior Night meet with a winning tally of of 28 to top second-place Southern Lee’s 41 in the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference competition. Douglas Byrd placed third in the event with a score of 65. The victory was the fifth straight for the Lady Vikings, who were paced by sophomore Abby Verchick’s second-place time of 20:24.35. Southern Lee’s Vicky Monroy won the meet with a time of 20:19.33. Hoppman placed fifth in the race and was the first of seven straight Union Pines girls’ runners to cross the finish line as the Vikings claimed spots five through12.
In the boys’ race, the Vikings placed five runners in the top seven to score a victorious 22 points. Byrd and Southern Lee tied for the second spot with tallies of 55.
Sophomores Ben White (18:45.65) and Nick Campbell (18.49.83) both broke the 19-minute barrier for Union Pines, to place second and third respectively. Vike freshman Wade Benton nearly broke the mark too, finishing with a time of 19:00.47 to place fourth. Shane Medlin (sixth overall) and Anthony Heinauer (seventh) rounded out the Union Pines top five.
Jessup twisted his ankle during the race and placed 12th with a time of 20:16.99. Although he had hoped for a better effort in the final regular season race of his career, the senior captain was nothing but positive in his post meet comments.
“I really don’t want to leave,” he said. “I just hate to go. Coach Carter has been the best coach I have ever worked with. Today was rough as I have had my ups and downs, but Coach (Carter) normally sticks beside me and sees me through it, and that is just what he did today.
“Coach Carter has given me a great deal of self-confidence and really builds me up. It has been an honor to be a captain of this team. It has felt good to be a captain and has been fun to lead this group. Honestly, though, we have a really good team, so there has not been much for me to do as a captain other than me encouraging and part of the whole.”
Next up for Union Pines is the CFVC championship meet Wednesday in Sanford. Going into the league title race Carter likes the prospects of both his boys’ and girls’ teams.
“On the boys’ side, our top five guys are pretty close,” Carter said, “which is what we need to compete conference-wise and into regionals. Because we don’t have the top one or two runners in the conference. The girls have been on a real role and have won some close races of late. So we are going to the conference meet looking to win both races.”
Carter has strong feelings for each one of his seven seniors.
“The leadership has been solid this year with Storm, Brianna and Laura,” he said. “These kids have a lot of other interests, but when it come to the team they each are jewels.
“This night is always a special one for me, especially when you have kids that have been with you for four years and have stuck with you the whole way — no matter if they were No. 1 in our lineup or No. 19. They all enjoy cross country and they enjoy each other, and that is what makes it all worthwhile.”
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