Panthers win U.P. Track Championship
KINGSFORD - During much of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the Pickford boys had built a tradition of excellence in Class D track.
The Panthers had won an amazing 27 straight Upper Peninsula titles during that span.
Then, came a relative dry spell during which Pickford had won five U.P. crowns in 26 years, including four straight from 1989-92.
The Panthers ended their 12-year drought by winning a Division 3 title Saturday, edging four-time defending champion Rapid River 62-60. Cedarville placed third with 53 points.
"When we first came out, we were kind of wondering," said Pickford coach Gerald Rairigh. "We told the kids the seconds, thirds, fourths and fifths are what would do it. Now, our program can't help but grow."
Pickford, which didn't place first in any event, secured the decision by taking fifth in the 1600-meter relay. Rapid River didn't qualify any relays.
"This is the answer to my prayers," said Pickford senior Andrew Barry. "We finally brought it back. Everything fit together today. It's nice to have the Pickford people come all the way over here and support us. It's a great community."
The Pickford coaching staff also gave special instructions heading into the day's final race. "We told the kids don't move at the start or bump into anybody," said Rairigh. "When they (Rapid River) scored early in the field events, we knew it would be close."
Rapid River, led by senior Justin Gustafson, grabbed the top three places in the discus and top two in shot put.
Senior David Sanderson led Cedarville, winning the 300 hurdles in a school-record 41.91 seconds and placing second in pole vault.
"Before the race, I knew I had to go out fast," said Sanderson, whose foot banged into last hurdle. "I had a lot left and I think that's what saved me. I was just hoping hitting that hurdle wouldn't get between me and the record. This was my last race. I knew I had to do it."
Engadine's Mike Houghton captured the 200 at 23.73 and Brimley's 400 relay won in 47.29.
"Injuries forced some changes in our relay early in the season, but we were able to go back to our original lineup a week before the regionals," said Brimley's Albert Bertram, who anchored the winning 400 relay. "We won that relay in the regional and Eastern U.P. Conference titles and those were a major confidence boost."
In Division 1, Gladstone earned its first title since 1969 by scoring 116 points. Marquette topped Menominee for runner-up honors 76-66.
Sault High's 800 relay set an all-time U.P. record in 1:32.02, topping Menominee's old mark of 1:32.20 from 1981.
"Our handoffs went real well," said Sault's Marc McDonough, who anchored the winning 800 relay and won the long jump at 21 feet, 6 inches. "Our goal was to forget about everybody else and beat Gladstone. We wanted to be all-state."
The Blue Devils accomplished this with a team which was put together Wednesday, according to coach Jim Martin. "We decided to put Mark Bisdorf in there to add a little quickness, and all of a sudden these kids stepped up," he added.
Gladstone set an all-time U.P. record in the 400 relay at 44.35, surpassing Westwood's 44.4 from 1984. Menominee's Jason Hofer added a Division 1 record in the 300 hurdles at 40.01, shaving .21 second off last year's mark by Chris Peterson of Marquette.
Norway captured the Division 2 crown outright for the first time with 116 points. Iron Mountain edged Newberry 73-69 for runner-up honors.
The Knights, who shared the title with Stephenson two years ago, ended with seven firsts. Junior Nick Zweiffel had a hand in four of those, including a meet-record 49.34 in the 400. Gwinn's Greg Londo previously held that record at 49.62, which he set in 1998.
Newberry sophomore Andrew Schultz copped the 800 (2:02.22) and 1600 (4:38.53). "I was able to get into a rhythm right away in both races," he said. "We did a lot of sprints in practice, especially 300s and those helped me today. This gives me tons of confidence heading into next season."
St. Ignace's Aaron Gutchess took the pole vault at 12 feet, but then suffered an ankle injury while warming up for the high jump and was forced Piout of the competition. Teammate Zane Johnson took long jump (20-3).
Cedarville girls miss narrowly miss track hardware
KINGSFORD - Eastern Upper Peninsula girls' track teams had a rough going overall at the U.P. Track Finals at Flivver Field Saturday.
Cedarville came the closest to bringing home a trophy, missing the runner-up spot in Division 3 by one point.
Rapid River repeated as champion, overwhelming the field with 144 points. Mid Peninsula collected 45 and the Trojans had 44.
Cedarville's Liz Reno won discus at 104 feet, seven inches. Brimley's Molly McIntyre took high jump (4-11) and Pickford's Caitlin Mortinsen copped the 400-meter dash in one minute, 2.71 seconds.
"I had a bad start, but corrected my form after a few steps," said Mortinsen. "I felt I had a decent chance after looking at the times from other regionals, and today I ran one of my better times. We did a lot of 200s in practice as part of our speedwork, and those helped."
Rapid River's Lauren Marshall matched the two-year-old Division 3 pole vault record at 8-6, which she now shares with Lindsay Thome of Big Bay de Noc.
In Division 2, Iron Mountain earned its first title with 103 points, after taking runner-up honors the past two years. Ishpeming took second this time, edging Hancock 78-72.
St. Ignace's Katie Spencer took discus (112-4) and Rudyard's Brenda Burby took shot put (35-8).
Westwood's Amber Smith, who will run cross country at the University of Colorado this fall, dominated the distances. She covered the 800 in 2:18.59, the 1600 (5:09.9) and 3200 (11:18.87).
"It seemed like the wind started right before the 1600, although I'm not using that as an excuse," said Smith, who fell nearly 8 seconds short of her Division 2 record in the 1600 from a year ago. "There are other factors that go into it. I haven't been having my best season. I'm going to take a little time off, regroup and get ready for college."
Perhaps, St. Ignace's Krista Clement could have made things a little more interesting in the 3200. Clement, who ran that race the first time in her prep career in Tuesday's St. Ignace Meet of Champions, was clocked in school-record 11:39. Her effort topped the old mark of 12:02.05, set by Randi Johnson in 1998.
Clement, who was second in the 800 Saturday, also helped the Saints to runner-up finishes in the 1600 and 3200 relays and placed fourth in the 400.
In Division 1, Escanaba repeated as champions with 96 points. Marquette was second at 87 and Calumet nudged rival Houghton 68-67 for third. Sault High, which placed eighth among 10 teams with 31 points, got its lone first from Emily Browning's leap of 9-6 in pole vault.
Esky's Stephanie Ostrenga set the all-time U.P. record in the 400 in 58.56 seconds, topping the previous mark of 58.8 set by Kara Scherer of Cedarville in 1991. Erica Helmila of Marquette held the previous Division 1 best at 58.93 from four years ago.
This year's meet started under sunny conditions with temperatures in the mid 60s. Clouds began to move in and variable winds kicked up near the midway point and light rain developed during the final two events.