Final tune-up

LAKE LINDEN – With regionals taking place on Thursday, local schools had to tread the fine line of using Tuesday’s Copper Country Invite as a final tune-up, while also attempting to conserve energy for regionals.

“We tried to lay off a little bit,” Houghton boys head coach Dan Junttila said. “Thursday doesn’t give you much recovery time, so we ran kids in different events and didn’t really want to run people in four events to give them a little more rest.

“Thursday is so big to qualify for U.P. Finals and that’s our goal. We want to qualify as many kids as we can to have a chance against Marquette, Kingsford, Gladstone, and so on, at U.P. Finals.”

The Houghton Gremlins continued their track dominance this season with another sweep, as the boys scored 197 points to take first in the 10-team field, while the girls finished with 143.40 to claim the victory.

The Calumet Copper Kings (88) and the Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes (81) rounded out the top three on the boys side. For the girls, LL-H edged out the Hancock Bulldogs for second, 83.50 to 83.40.

Houghton’s boys won nine of the 12 running events, including: the 3200 relay in 8 minutes, 46.05 seconds (Clayton Sayen, Patrick Donnelly, Nicholas Wilson, Seth Helman); Casey Lentowich swept the 110 (17.01 seconds) and 300 hurdles (43.79); Sayen took first in the 1600 (4:39.42); Hunter Richards was victorious in the 400 (55.16); Nicholas Wilson won the 800 (2:07.17); Justin Jurva (23.61) edged Hancock’s Alex DeWald (23.71) in the 200; and Helman ran the 3200 in 10:24.81 for the win.

“What’s wonderful for us is we’re seeing individual times get better and that’s what we go by,” Junttila said. “When all the guys are getting better, that’s the thing we really want and that’s what’s going to matter in the regionals.”

With temperatures in the 60s and minimal wind on a sunny day, conditions were ideal – for once. The rare, nice weather gave the athletes the opportunity to post their best marks and many took advantage, resulting in five meet records being broken.

Hancock’s Gage Hawthorne continued his strong run in the shot put, throwing 54 feet, 6 inches to best Hancock’s Anders Hill’s record of 51-1/2 from 1997. Hawthorne topped Hill’s Houghton County Invite meet record on Friday, also.

Houghton had the other meet record on the boys side and nearly broke the school record in the 1600; Jurva, Richards, Wilson and Sayen finished in 3:36.22, which was 2.44 better than the previous Houghton meet record from 2007. But despite the record, the squad was disappointed when they heard their time, as a choppy handoff played an integral part in the team missing the school record by 0.35.

“There was a little bit of a poor exchange,” Junttila said. “I said right away that that would kill us and sure enough it was.

“We won’t quite be able to put the same guys on that relay team for regionals, but we might try that foursome at the West-PAC (meet) to see if they can get the school record. They deserve a shot at it.”

Houghton’s Kendra Monette went perfect, recording four wins, two individually – 100 (13.06) and in the shot put (39-3) – while also as a member of the 400 (52.19) and 800 (1:52.66) relay teams.

“It’s been really cold lately and I don’t usually do really good in the cold,” Monette said. “but as the temperature has gone up, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been doing better – my body has been feeling better.”

In addition to the four wins, two of Monette’s victories came as records: Monette’s distance in the shot put set a meet record previously held by Houghton’s Natalie Berryman (37-9, 2010), and the 400 relay team of her, Cara Monette, Carly Ronis and Daryn Dupont set a new school record with their time of 52.19. The previous record was from 1999.

“Our last meet we got 53 seconds and the record was a little over 52,” Monette said. “so we were about half of a second off, so we were excited to come into this meet and break it.”

Houghton’s Sloane Zenner set a new meet record in the 400 (1:01.89), edging the 2012 record of Chassell’s Jamie Dompier by .08.

“I think having people close to my time helps me push through it and give me competition,” Zenner said. “I’ve been trying to get our school record, which is pretty close to my time, so to get this is a step towards that.”

Ontonagon’s Lori Wardynski was the other person to set a meet record, finishing the 300 hurdles in 47.87. Wardysnki’s time eclipsed the 11-year old record of Calumet’s Shannon Helminen (48.12)

“All my hurdles I took were right on stride, really good,” Wardynski said. “On the main stretch I felt really good.

“I didn’t even know what the meet record was going into today, but I knew my time from the meet at Ontonagon was better than it – but I didn’t know the time. My goals are to beat myself, which is the most important thing.”

Regionals are Thursday with Division 1 at Negaunee, Division 2 at West Iron County and Division 3 at Lake Linden-Hubbell – except for the Baraga Vikings, who will head to North Dickinson.