Eles, McCloud repeat as winners at biggest Canal Run ever

Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton's Stephen Eles closes in on the finish line of the half marathon near the Finlandia campus during the 42nd Annual Hancock Canal Run on Saturday in Hancock.

HANCOCK — Originally ran in 1975, the Hancock Canal Run has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. Developing over time into “the premier running event in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula,” as the website suggests, the Canal Run has become an event on a scale that no one could have imagined when it was first conceived.

On Saturday, a record 852 participants took part in the Canal Run from all walks of life, from children to elderly citizens took part, battling cooler temperatures and high headwinds at the start, but in the end, they all finished strong, with last year’s half marathon winners, Stephen Eles and Kate McCloud, both earning top honors again.

Eles, a Houghton native, who had run the 2016 race sub-1:14:00, found himself way ahead of the pack as he closed on the final two miles to the race. His time of 1 hour, 15 minutes, 13 seconds was over seven seconds stronger than that of Zachary Morgan, who took second with a time of 1:22.29.5.

Eles took control of the race early — something he does not really prefer doing — and in the end, that early lead actually led to a slower overall time than he preferred.

“Sometimes it does get tough when there is no one to chase,” said Eles. “I usually split my watch every mile, so I know what pace I should be running. If I have a slower mile out there, I will try and chase the lead bike and motivate myself.”

The half marathon’s track starts with a steep decline for the first mile followed by two miles of slight incline near McLain’s State Park. With the wind whipping at runners, Eles had to work hard to find a pace he could be satisfied with while battling the elements. He ended up having to track his splits in order to sort things out.

“The first mile is all downhill,” said Eles. “Once you get to the old rendezvous, you are a little over a mile into the race… There was a pretty good headwind through there. It was really hard, especially mile 3-4. That section was really windy. I actually ran the last mile, with all the climbing and stuff, faster than than mile 3-4.”

For the last few miles, Eles was able to feel that his race strategy was working as he built up enough of a cushion that he could focus on finishing the way he wanted to, rather than having to fight for his finish.

Eles, who moved to Houghton three years ago, has now won the Canal Run the last three summers. While the accomplishment is nice right now, Eles admits he is not sure how much longer he can hold on to the winner’s spot on the podium.

“I am actually pretty pleased that I am able to do it,” said Eles. “I am getting older, so I am trying to keep the streak going as long as I can. I know the streak won’t go forever, so I am just trying to keep it going as long as I can.”

Morgan, a Temperance, Mich. native, finished at the top of the 25-29-year-olds with his second-place finish. Stan Sochay of Potterville place third overall and first in the 40-44 age bracket.

Chassell native Ben Tuomi was the highest finisher among teenagers with a time of 1:34:57.3. Dollar Bay’s Kyle LeClaire was the second-fastest prep runner with a time of 1:46:07.1.

On the women’s side, McCloud averaged 6:49 minutes per mile en route to a blistering time of 1:29:19.1. The Hancock native finished over eight seconds faster than Golden Valley, Minn., native, Kaelyn Williams, who placed second overall and first among 20-24-year-olds with a time of 1:37:32.6.

McCloud, like Eles, took control of the race early and also had to rely on her splits to sort out her pacing throughout the race, which helped her relieve pressure.

“I tried to take the pressure off of myself this year and allow myself to run whatever pace felt good,” said McCloud. “I did check my splits, [but I] gave myself permission to run what felt good, and it actually made me faster this year.”

The wind was also a factor for McCloud, who fought her way through the early obstacle before settling in at the bottom of the opening hill and running at a pace that worked for her, actually using the wind to her advantage.

“There was a headwind and we were going into in for a while,” said McCloud. “I just forgot it after a bit and it felt good. It kept you cool.”

Atlantic Mine’s Marika Abbott took third with a time of 1:39:49.1, which was the top time among teenage competitors. She finished less than six seconds ahead of Dollar Bay’s Cami Daavettila, who came in with a time of 1:45:45.0 and just over six seconds ahead of Chassell’s Julia Pietila, who finished the course in 1:45:59.3.

10-MILE RUN NOTABLES

In the 10-mile run, Houghton’s Matthew Pahl took the honors with a time of 55:46.3. Pahl’s time was less than three seconds better than Tempe, Az., native Ryan Normand’s time of 58:01.5.

The Gazette’s own Bryce Derouin placed 26th with a time of 1:30:01.6, which was just over 20 seconds behind Hancock’s Michael Babcock, who finished with a time of 1:29:40.3.

Chassell native Stacy Bussiere won the women’s race with a time of 1:13:16.7. She was chased closely by Hancock’s Shelly Galliah, who finished with a time of 1:16:18.2.

The battle for third came down to less than two seconds difference between Negaunee’s Karen Prusi (1:18:26.6) and Houghton’s Jenn Smith (1:18:28.4).

Shitaye Sam, a Chassell graduate, took 22nd with a time of 1:29:51.8, which was the top time among teenage competitors.

5-MILE RUN NOTABLES

Houghton’s Clayton Sayen won the 5-mile race with a final time of 28:36.3. He was just under three minutes stronger than Muskego, Wisconsin, native, Caleb Besson, who finished with a time of 31:23.5.

Jacob Hunwick of Keller, Texas, finished two spots and 21 seconds better than his brother, Carson, with a time of 32:27.7.

Concord, Mich., native Samantha Saenz won the women’s competition with a time of 32:41.1. Her time was less than five minutes better than Eagle Harbor native Mia Mantei, who placed second with a time of 37:21.1.

Houghton’s Angie Grunert took third with a time of 37:28.6.

Michigan Tech women’s basketball coach Kim Cameron placed 26th with a time of 45:13.3, which was third-best among 30-34-year-olds.

5-MILE WALK WINNERS

Blake Hamar of Buena Park, California won the 5-mile walk competition with a time of 58:34.1, which was just under eight minutes better than Alexander Morrie of St. Joseph, Illinois.

Calumet native Lindsay Anderson won the women’s competition with a time of 57:48.1. She was less than four minutes better than Hancock’s Amy Hughes, who finished the course in 1:01:06.5.

WHEELCHAIR AND BLADE RUN

Dean Juntunen of Mass City finished the wheelchair course in 53:37.3. Bernard Jackovic of Calumet finished the blade run race in 46:21.1.

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