Upper Peninsula Division 3 Track and Field Championships
Reported June 2, 2002 by John Vrancic for the Sault Evening News
Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

Panthers take home another track title

KINGSFORD -- Things may have gotten a little scary in the end, but the Pickford girls added another championship trophy to their collection Saturday.

The Panthers, who survived a late surge by Rapid River, hung on for their fourth straight Upper Peninsula Division 3 track title by scoring 105.5 points. The Rockets took second for the fourth consecutive year by collecting 102.5 and Lake Linden placed third at 61.

"We got strong performances from all our kids," said Pickford's John Bennin, who's retiring from coaching after 24 years. "They really rose to the occasion. This is the fourth straight title for our seniors, which is pretty tough to do against a team like Rapid River. This meet could have gone either way."

Pickford led by 17 points with four events remaining, but Rapid River's Dani Holmgren won the 800-meter run in two minutes, 29.75 seconds. Stephanie Boyer followed with a victory in the 200 in a school-record 26.68 seconds and Holmgren then took the 3200 at 13:03.43.

The Panthers managed only a fifth-place finish by Stacy Rye in the 3200 during those races before they secured the decision a victory in the 1600 relay. Rapid River, which pulled within a point heading into the day's final race, took second in that relay.

Pickford's Ashley Bishop won shot put and discus for the third straight time. Her 42-0.5 inch effort in shot was an all-time U.P. record, beating her toss of 39-8 from a year ago. She also took discus at 108-4.

"Gym class at our school was changed to strength training and I think that helped me a lot," said Bishop, who is headed for Saginaw Valley State University this fall. "Somewhere along the line this week I started having problems with my balance in discus. I basically needed to improve my footwork and my form came back to a certain degree.

"I was nervous heading into discus, but felt completely comfortable going into shot. Maybe the discus got me warmed up."

The Panthers also earned firsts in the 800 and 3200 relays and Cedarville's Tara Amarose took the 300 hurdles in 51 seconds.

In Division 1, Gladstone notched its first title with 125 points. Runner-up Marquette finished with 69 and Ironwood, which moved up after winning Division 2 last year, edged defending champion Sault High 62-59 for third.

Sault High's Natalie Cahill won the 1600 (5:25.81) and 3200 (12:01.21) and anchored the winning 3200 relay on this sunny and warm day.

"I think the warm weather made us better," said Cahill, who also placed third behind Ironwood's Ginger Polich and Marquette's Christy Griffen in the 800. "We're not used to this. We're used to cold and windy conditions.

"I saw the Ironwood times and knew they were probably the people to beat. I knew I just had to go out hard and try to keep it up."

Sault High also got a first from Emily Browning's leap of 9-2 in pole vault.

In Division 2, Westwood captured its second title in three years with 96 points. Iron Mountain was runner-up with 85 and Hancock took third at 68.

Westwood's Amber Smith set U.P. records in the 800 (2:20.15) and 1600 (5:04.06). She also took the 3200 (11:49.81). Smith's effort in the 800 topped the previous best of 2:21.17, set by Ann Somerville of Ironwood in 1997. Jessie Green of Westwood held the previous record in the 1600 at 5:05.3, which she set in 1985.

St. Ignace accounted for the area's lone first by taking the 1600 relay.