CEDAR RAPIDS — When Trai Bunch was in high school seven years ago, he loathed running.
But in an effort to get in shape for the coming boys’ soccer season, Bunch begrudgingly joined the boys’ cross country team at now-defunct Cedar Falls NU High in 2010.
A passion was born.
“(Soccer) is what I wanted to do in college,” said Bunch, who finished 12th overall in the 8K race with a time of 28:11 at the Fifth Season Races on Wednesday in downtown Cedar Rapids. "I decided to go out for cross country senior year and it was like, ‘This is my thing. I like running.’ And it did more for me than basketball and soccer did.”
Bunch, 24, helped NU High win the boys’ cross country state championship in his only season with the team, and was a track state qualifier in the 3,200-meter run the following spring.
In college, Bunch was a national qualifier in the 3,000 meters at Iowa Western Community College in 2012 before exhausting his collegiate eligibility at UNI, where he was the top runner for the Panthers for three years and owns one of the best 8K times in school history.
“It was good to have a coaching staff and athletes that were just as good as me, if not better,” Bunch said. “That was just a fun experience.”
Today, Bunch uses his exceptional fitness skills for an even more noble pursuit. For the past 18 months, he has served as a patrol officer with the Iowa City Police Department.
“I grew up in Waterloo, I grew up in a little rougher neighborhood,” Bunch said. “Police were always a factor in my life whether good or bad. I’ve been a respected person and it was just the job for me.”
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Bunch began considering a career in law enforcement as a UNI sophomore. Upon graduation, he attended the Des Moines Police Academy in December 2016 and was hired by the ICPD the following month.
“It’s such a rewarding position.” Bunch said. “I’m very good with helping people and talking. It is a fit lifestyle, being a cop. It requires me to stay fit and keep up about myself to stay safe.”
Prairie Hawk flavor in 5K
The 5K Run/Walk at the Fifth Season Races features an eclectic group of competitors ranging from senior citizens to babies pushed in strollers.
There was, however, a common theme among the top-three place winners.
Cedar Rapids Prairie boys’ cross country and track and field alumni Tysen VanDraska, Max Laue and Robert Laue each finished within a minute of each other for a 1-2-3 finish in the 5K race on Wednesday in downtown Cedar Rapids.
VanDraska, 20, just completed his sophomore season at the University of Iowa. At Prairie, he was a two-time state runner-up in both the 800-meter run and the 1,600 and helped the Hawks win state championships in track and field (2016) and cross country (2013, 2014).
VanDraska won the 5K in 17:05. Robert led the Laue twins – who graduated from Prairie in May – with a runner-up finish in 17:28, while Max crossed the finish line in 18:05.
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