ATLANTIC MINE - Tara Kiilunen and the Calumet girls cross country team and Jacob Colling and the Houghton boys team did what they have been doing all season long at Kilpela's Farm for the WestPAC Conference finals Thursday.
A sudden storm of hail and snow struck five minutes before girls WestPAC cross country winner Tara Kiilunen crossed the finish line Tuesday in Atlantic Mine. It was Kiilunen’s fourth WestPAC title in a row. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
Colling held off Calumet's Devin Berg in the boys' race by three seconds to capture the boys' WestPAC title and Tara held off her sister Leah amid a sudden hail storm for a seven-second victory. The Gremlin boys took the team title with 26 points - Calumet finished second with 49 - and the Copper King girls were one point away from a perfect score with a 16-point finish, earning the top four and sixth spots. Ashley Laux of Houghton broke up the Calumet group with a fifth-place finish and Houghton took second with 55 points.
Berg and Colling have gone in some combination of one-two in most local races this year - with Houghton runner David Jasczcak often in the mix as well - and Tara and Leah Kiilunen have made a habit of finishing first and second.
"I think it is going to be me and him like that until we graduate," Colling said of Berg. "He is just a heck of a runner, and we are really good for each other, because I push him and he pushes me."
Boys Team Results
1, Houghton 26; 2, Calumet 49; 3, Dollar Bay 83; 4, Hancock 85; 5, Jeffers 120.
Boys Individual Results
1, Jacob Colling, HOU, 17:54; 2, Devin Berg, CAL, 17:57; 3, Brett Houle, DB, 18:50; 4, Isaac Stone, HOU, 18:56; 5, David Jasczcak, HOU, 18:59; 6, Josh Larson, CAL, 19:06; 7, Colin Campbell, HOU, 19:08; 8, Maxx Fredrickson, CAL, 19:14; 9, Dan Wood, HOU, 19:20; 10, Anthony Harris, JEF, 19:21; 11, Jacob Jarvis, HAN, 19:26; 12, Ethan Larson, CAL, 19:37; 13, Tom Antio, DB, 19:40; 14, Ri Chen, HOU, 19:48; 15, Martin Schutte, HAN, 19:59.
Girls Team Results
1, Calumet 16; 2, Houghton 55; 3, Dollar Bay 109; 4, Jeffers 111; 5, Hancock 116; 6, L'Anse 155.
Girls Individual Results
1, Tara Kiilunen, CAL, 20:29; 2, Leah Kiilunen, CAL, 20:36; 3, Rachel Poyhonen, 20:37; 4, Abbey Helppi, CAL, 21:14; 5, Ashley Laux, HOU, 21:23; 6, Evelyn Dulong, CAL, 21:58; 7, Erin MacKenzie, HOU, 21:59; 8, Rebekah Serbinski, WIC, 22:11; 9, Rachel Chard, HOU, 22:21; 10, Meegan Randell, JEF, 22:23; 11, Jessica Schlaff, HOU, 22:25; 12, Anna Meese, HAN, 22:29; 13, Cecilia Burton, JEF, 22:30; 14, Marika Abbott, HOU, 22:33; 15, Alayna Anderson, CAL, 22:37.
While it was certainly chilly temperatures for the boys race, Colling was able to run a somewhat-normal race and pull away from Berg right around the second mile.
For the girls race, however, a burst of hail and snow struck with about five minutes before Kiilunen crossed the finish line, dampening times somewhat but providing potentially good experience depending on the conditions at U.P. Finals in Munising.
"That was crazy," Calumet coach Arnie Kinnunen said. "Wow, did that just come down."
Both teams will travel to Munising Oct. 20 for what should be much stiffer competition.
Calumet is looking to reclaim its title from Marquette last year, after the Copper Kings had won the two seasons prior.
Though senior runner Julie Lean was never able to recover from a stress fracture this season to join the varsity squad, Kinnunen has made her an assistant coach and Lean will be traveling with the team to Munising.
And Kinnunen couldn't be more pleased with the impact Lean has had on his girls.
"She can't run right now, so she is my coach," Kinnunen said. "It's not just a title. She fires them up, motivates them.
"We are pretty close to right where we need to be right now."
With a week to prepare for Finals, Kinnunen is emphasizing, well, nothing really.
Besides tapering the work load a little bit, he has found that treating Finals like any other race is the best way to find success.
"We will do a few things this week to sharpen the pencil, but we don't want to put too much emphasis on U.P. Finals, we just want it to be another race," Kinnunen said. "We try to just keep it a relaxed atmosphere between now and the finish."
For the boys, Colling said a runner-up finish for Houghton will be the goal this season.
Realistically, Escanaba likely has too much talent to be overcome, but the battle for two through four, with Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie will be fierce.
"Man, I am looking forward to Finals," Colling, who mentioned he wanted a top-5 finish, said. "I think mentally, everyone is prepared for it right now. We are in a good place.
"Now just have to run until we throw up."