MUNISING — Sault Ste. Marie freshman Parker Scott had been setting school records quite regularly throughout this cross country season.
Although his 16-minute, 50.5-second clocking on the 3.1-mile course at Pictured Rocks Golf & Country Club during Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Cross Country Finals wasn’t a school record, it was good enough to earn the Division 1 title.
“The weather was great, but the course was a little wet” said Scott, this year’s Straits Conference champ who also won the Rudyard Invitational in a school-record 16:12 on Oct. 13. “The slippery footing slowed everyone down. I felt good in the beginning, then I tweaked my hip and it disrupted my rhythm. Although, I think it will be all right. I’m good at adapting to changes. It really didn’t affect me that much.”
The victory enabled Scott to finish this season undefeated.
“Winning any race is awesome,” said Scott, who also won on the Pictured Rocks course in 16:15 on Sept. 25. “The win at Rudyard was definitely a good achievement. That course is flat and fast, similar to this one.”
Scott’s effort also helped the Blue Devils gain their first U.P. title in 11 years with 65 points. Runner-up Escanaba scored 72 and Kingsford took third with 101.
Kingsford senior Dan Kulas took second (16:58.6), edging Houghton sophomore Jacob Colling by a step on this sunny and seasonably cool day.
“I really wanted to at least get runner-up,” said Kulas, who’s considering going out for cross country at Michigan Tech next year. “Parker is a great runner. I’m pleased I could stay that close (within 8.1 seconds) to him. There were lot of potholes and they slowed us up a little. The footing wasn’t the best (due to the recent rainfall).”
Kulas became two-time Great Northern Conference champ on Oct. 11, and Colling was crowned West-Pac Conference champion for the first time on the same day.
“Dan and I were going at it the last quarter-mile,” Colling said. “I was kind of shooting for the top three or top five, somewhere in that range. It was close. This was a real good race for me. I’m very excited about what I did here today. This is a great way to end the season. All the potholes made it a little interesting, but we had beautiful weather. I think running in the first race today may have been a good thing because the course probably got more chewed up as the day went on.”
Stephenson captured its third consecutive Division 2 title with 52 points, followed by Norway with 67 and Hancock’s 76.
The Eagles were led by sophomore Connor Cappaert, who gained his first U.P. championship in 17:25.7. He was followed by Ironwood sophomore Jared Joki (17:43.4) and Manistique senior and Tyler Pomeroy (18:13.2). Joki was crowned Indianhead Conference champion last week and Pomeroy was two-time Mid-Peninsula Conference champ.
“Winning here was definitely a goal,” said Cappaert. “It was a dream come true. I’m also so happy our team came away as U.P. champion. All of our runners gave it their all today. Goals were set for all of us and we met those. We peaked at the best time possible. This has been a fun year for us.”
Munising retained its Division 3 title with 55 points, followed by Cedarville with 72 and St. Ignace with 90.
Freshman Brett Hannah won on his home course in 17:55, followed by Cedarville’s Josh Hester (18:00.3) and Munising’s Izaak Mahoski (18:00.8).
“I’m pretty happy to win it here with all the hometown support,” said Hannah, who also earned the Central U.P./Skyline Conference title on Oct. 10. “We ran this course a couple times this year and were comfortable with it. We knew there were quite a few potholes, and we knew where they were at. I’m glad I could contribute to us keeping the trophy at home. I think this gives us a little confidence going into next year.”
Sophomore Zack Mazurek became the first Bessemer athlete to medal in the U.P. Cross Country Finals, placing fourth in Division 3 (18:09.2).
“It took me a little while to learn the pacing and where I needed to be,” Mazurek said. “I ran against some of these guys in my freshman year (in track) and felt I could be in contention. But I think their experience probably paid off in the end.”
PHOTO: Runners work to lead a pack at the Division 1 race at Saturday's Upper Peninsula Finals at Munising (Photo courtesy of RunMichigan.com/Paul Gerard).