COLLEGE TRACK AND FIELD: Knox’s Kaune to run at EKU

From left to right, Fort Knox boys’ soccer coach Ryan Limes, Carl Stanley, Kaune’s mother Jetta, Kaune’s sister Paige, Liam Kaune and Fort Knox track and cross country coach Terry Turner during Kaune’s signing ceremony to continue his track career at Eastern Kentucky University.

Liam Kaune got lost, asked a question or two and eventually signed a letter of intent to run track at Eastern Kentucky University.

“When I went to EKU it wasn’t for track originally,” the Fort Knox senior said. “It was to look into the recreation and parks administration, and not many schools have that as a major. I was on a visit to meet with the parks and recreation head in the same building as the athletics department and we got lost. We asked people for directions and we got there and had the meeting. When we got out, my mom said, ‘Hey, I think that guy has a track shirt on. Why don’t you go talk to him.’

“He was impressed with me and said he would keep in contact. It was very fortuitous. Being social is more valuable that you’d expect.”

That coach is Sebek O’Jike Maat, the sprints coach and he kept in contact.

“I was looking at a smaller school in Ohio, Ohio State, because that’s the family alma mater -- my sister (Paige), dad (Patrick) and mother (Jetta) all graduated from there, so I’m the black sheep of the family,” Kaune said with a laugh. “EKU offers a really good merit scholarship for good grades and ACT scores and I was willing to pounce on that. It’s not a giant school, but it’s not super small and it’s Division I, which is great.”

And the fact that Kaune is heading to college to compete in athletics and it’s not soccer and it is Division I still kind of has him in amazement.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I didn’t imagine this could ever happen. My freshman, sophomore and junior year it was all about soccer. I had been looking as smaller D3 schools for three or four years, since maybe the eighth grade. I wanted to try to play soccer in college. I played for a club in Louisville for a year.

“I played lacrosse my freshman and sophomore years and that’s why I didn’t run track. I rolled my ankle in basketball and decided not to play lacrosse that spring. I was able to run the last half of that junior season.”

That was five track meets.

“Those five meets are what happened to me,” Kaune said. “I was talking to one of my future teammates and he said he’s always wanted to run track since he was a little kid for a DI school. Playing DI sports, I hoped it would happen, but I never imagined it would happen.”

Kaune has run six 400s in his short track career and zero 800s.

One reason he said the EKU coaches like him is because of his lack of running, which means he has a lot of tread on the tires.

“A lot of tack athletes burn out,” Kaune said. “One of the reasons they were interested is because I have so few meets. I haven’t developed bad habits and I have room for growth.

“I’ll mainly run the 400 and 800, but will have the flexibility to try other stuff. I’m definitely not running cross country because they have a very competitive cross country team. The 400 is my bread and butter, but I think I’ll be good at the 800 as well. The 800 is the same as the 400, but longer and worse.”

Fort Knox was one day away from its first track meet of the season when everything shut down.

“We were practicing and working really hard,” Kaune said. “The night before our first meet is when they canceled everything. We kept hearing about what might happen, but I thought, ‘We have a meet tomorrow, we’re good.’ I thought, ‘Let us have this one meet and we’re OK.’ But it is what it is.

“I was really excited for the track season. I was hitting my stride with a great cross country season and I did really good in the one winter meet we had. I was looking forward to that really good kind of stress and now all that stress went away. I’m lucky I was recruited last year and didn’t have to rely on this track season to get recruited.

“What happened (with the pandemic) is very disappointing and it is so for a lot of kids. Some of us are fortunate to be able to continue sports in college. But for a lot of kids who aren’t going to continue to play sports in college, what happened is really, really disappointing because they didn’t get a chance to compete.”

Kaune was a four-sport athlete for the Eagles -- soccer, cross country, basketball and track and field.

“I have too much free time now,” he said. “I complain about being busy and that I’m tired all the time, but I miss it.”

Kaune and his mother stayed on base after Patrick Kaune was PCS’d to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado after being the Garrison Commander at Fort Knox.

“We considered moving with dad, but my mom and I stayed on base because we were allowed to for my senior year,” Liam said. “We spent three years here, I have friends here and some great opportunities here. We decided to stay and my dad made that sacrifice for us.”

Kaune continues to train thanks to workouts from his personal trainer and the EKU coach.

“If someone asks me for a workout, I’ll send it to them,” he said. “If I see someone out there (on the Fort Knox track), I’ll ask if they want to run with me. The track is still open for working out. A couple of guys on the team who are running next year, including myself, are working out. There are a couple guys who ran for Fort Knox a couple years ago, who still have parents on the base, come back to train.”

And, yes, social distancing correctly at the same time.

“On base, it’s not too different, but we have to wear masks whenever we go to the PX,” Kaune said. “The people on the post are trying to do stuff for us. They’re doing their best. We had a drive-in last week (and watched Jumanji 2). They wanted to recognize the seniors.”

Kaune was “adopted” Sunday through a Facebook group called Bless-A-Senior 2020.

“I had a family drop a gift off for me today from Nelson County,” he said. “I wanted to give them a hug but I couldn’t. It was so thoughtful.”

There are also things like that on the base.

“One thing really fun is the adopt-a-senior. It’s helping my friends and myself get through this,” Kaune said. “They drop off gifts for seniors. One person on post drops a little gift off to me every day 20 days before graduation, kind of like the 12 days before Christmas.”

The Fort Knox Red Cross received Boy Scouts popcorn and Kaune and his mother went on a condensed road trip.

“We got nine boxes and handed them out to people we knew,” he said. “It was our adventure one Sunday afternoon.

“This is not a perfect time, but what it being done shows the kindness of the community and how we can come together when we have to stay apart.”

Mike Mathison can be reached at 270-505-1758 or mmathison@thenewsenterprise.com.

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