Houghton boys take 1st at XC Challenge

MARQUETTE – After winning the Upper Peninsula Finals title the past three years, the Marquette Senior High School girls cross country team doesn’t look like it will fall off that pace anytime soon.

The Redettes scored 45 points to cruise to an easy win at Thursday’s Marquette Challenge held at Presque Isle Park. They came in a comfortable 52 points ahead of second-place Menominee with MSHS’ Rebecca McNamee placing third, Ericka Asmus fourth and Amber Huebner sixth.

Ishpeming was fourth with 123, Negaunee fifth with 124, Munising eighth with 147 and Westwood 11th with 291.

“Considering that we lose so many senior runners each year, this was a great race,” Redettes head coach Dale Phillips said. “The last three years, we’ve lost 12 to 14 excellent runners, but some of the younger ones just keep coming up and helping us out. That’s what is happening this year.

“The girl who came in fourth (Asmus) is a freshman and that’s her first varsity race, so she did a tremendous job.

“We’re very deep this year, even our JV ran really well. We’ve got a little ways to go, but I tell the kids that we’re going to bring you along so that you peak in October when you should.

“We’re just learning things right now like pacing and where the pecking order is on the team. We’ll get to the speed work toward the end of September. For the number of young kids that we have on this team, I’m very pleased with how they did, both boys and girls.”

The girls’ individual title went to Negaunee’s Clara Johnson, who finished in 19 minutes, 51.2 seconds, a little more than five seconds ahead of teammate and second-place finisher Emily Paupore. Both girls emerged from the pack and competed with each other on their way to the finish line.

“It was her (Paupore’s) first race, but I knew she would be right up there with me because she’s a really good runner,” Johnson said. “Right when we were in the woods at the two-mile mark we started to break away and people started to fall behind. I think we have a lot of potential this year.”

Unlike the girls meet, the boys race was a tight one, both team-wise and individually. Houghton won team honors with 61 points, finishing six ahead of Negaunee’s 67, eight ahead of Marquette’s 69 and 12 ahead of Ishpeming’s 73. Munising was ninth with 241, Westwood 12th with 350, Gwinn 13th with 400 and Manistique 14th with 425.

“I have two guys out that have never run cross country before, but they’re very tight in track season,” Gremlins head coach Tracy Welch said. “They push each other in track all the time and they’re very competitive. I think through the whole season, they’re going to be trading off who will be first for the team.

“That’s good, though. I also have to give credit to my other guys because if they hadn’t pushed when they needed to, we wouldn’t have won it. We’re a strong team, we just have to get them all together. It could be a big year for us and we definitely can be competitive.”

The boys’ individual champion was Ishpeming’s Grady Kerst, who finished in 16:32.1, just 0.8 of a second ahead of Marquette’s Garrett Rudden. Houghton’s Seth Helman took third place in 16:56.1, beating out Hematite Spencer Giroux by 0.3 of a second.

A tired Kerst was happy not only with finishing first, but also setting a personal record.

“I was really hoping to get a PR today,” he said. “My goal was to get into the 16:30s and I just tried to stay behind Marquette because I knew that they had some fast kids.

“I made my move when we were going past the lake and it was neck-and-neck the rest of the race. I’m very happy right now.”

Negaunee’s top finisher was Ethan Wallner, 10th in 17:31.9.