Marquette Boys Win 5th-Straight Finals, Jeffers & Dollar Bay Run Title Streaks to 3

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 21, 2023

FLAT ROCK — The Marquette boys continued their hold on the Upper Peninsula Division 1 cross country title here Saturday, scoring a meet-record 22 points.

Marquette, which placed seven among the top nine runners, was crowned champion for the fifth-straight time. Sault Ste. Marie was next with 64 points and Houghton was third at 74.

“We’re happy with the state record, and the girls tying the state record,” said senior Cullen Papin, who placed 10th, noting Marquette’s girls championship as well. “We had some guys really step up. This is a great day for Marquette. It’s great to see the hard work pay off. There was definitely special motivation with this being my last high school cross country meet. We went 4-for-4 during my high school career, which is special for me.”

Sault sophomore Gabe Litzner retained his individual title by covering the 3.1-mile course in 15 minutes, 56.6 seconds, becoming only the second runner to break 16 minutes in U.P. Finals history. Colton Yesney of Negaunee remains the U.P. recordholder at 15:49.8 from seven years ago.

“I went out a little hard, and the second mile went okay,” he said. “In the third mile, I really felt good. I just wanted to get a gap right away. It seemed like when I got an adrenaline rush, I didn’t feel it.

Jeffers' Landon Larson rounds a corner on his way to a win in Division 2. “We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season. Eli (Hills) came out late, and it really helped the team. I’m very proud of our team today.”

Litzner was followed by Marquette juniors Seppi Camilli (16:29.1) and Evan Balko (16:33.5) and freshman Lucas Ballard (16:37.5), and Sault sophomore Shea Armstrong (16:41.8) on this cloudy, cool and breezy day at the Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast in Flat Rock.

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Division 2

Painesdale Jeffers claimed its third straight Finals championship with 48 points, followed by Rudyard with 66 and Munising with 105.

“Overall, it was a great day,” Jeffers coach Sam Kilpela said. “Our fifth runner was up in the air. We’ve had two freshmen battling for that. We knew it wasn’t a given. Rudyard ran well today. The boys are excited for next year already.”

Jets sophomore Landan Larson earned his first title in 17:10.3. He was followed by Ishpeming freshman Kemper Gearhart (17:20.8), Jeffers sophomore Cameron Anderson (17:28.1), Munising junior Dan Goss (18:03.5) and Gogebic freshman Noah Verbos (18:12.4).

“I just wanted to go out hard and open a gap,” Larson said. “The first mile was real fast. Running with Kalvin (Kytta, of Chassell) helped me a lot.

“It’s a pretty special feeling to win this as a team for the third year in a row. Kemper did real well for a ninth-grader. He’s going to be good next year.”

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Division 3

It was also a three-peat for Dollar Bay, which captured the D3 crown with 54 points, followed by Eben Junction Superior Central with 78 and Stephenson with 104.

Chassell's Kalvin Kytta, right, runs with Pickford's Hayden Hagen during the Division 3 U.P. Final. Kytta won, and Hagen took second. “The Copper Mountain Conference did real well,” Dollar Bay coach Matt Zimmer said. “It’s a tough conference to run in, and we just kept getting better all year long.

“We did the work and told the kids the hay is in the barn. We also told them to ‘do what you can do.’ The parents made sure the kids ate right. Dollar Bay is just one big community.”

Chassell junior Kalvin Kytta won at 16:49.9, followed by Pickford seniors Hayden Hagen (17:18.8) and Quinn Socia (18:29.1), Dollar Bay junior Joshua Gaunt (18:32.6) and Engadine sophomore Duane Krenek (18:36.9).

“I’m happy with that,” Kytta said. “I pretty much knew I’d be running by myself and tried to make each mile a time trial. It’s pretty easy to get sidetracked when you’re running by yourself. This is pretty special. I feel very blessed.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Sault Ste. Marie's Gabe Litzner (119) leads the pack at the start of the Division 1 U.P. Final at Farmhouse B & B in Gladstone on Saturday. (Middle) Jeffers' Landon Larson rounds a corner on his way to a win in Division 2. (Below) Chassell's Kalvin Kytta, right, runs with Pickford's Hayden Hagen during the Division 3 U.P. Final. Kytta won, and Hagen took second. (Photos by Jason Junio. Click for more from

Freeland's Hansen Smashes Longstanding Record, FHE Claims 1st Finals Victory

November 4, 2023

BROOKLYN — On the same day Rockford’s Dathan Ritzenhein set a course record at Michigan International Speedway that has never been approached, Kurtis Marlowe of Richland Gull Lake had a performance that was overshadowed.

But Marlowe’s winning time of 15:02.5 in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in 2000 also stood the test of time.

Until Saturday.

Freeland junior TJ Hansen eclipsed the Division 2 record with his winning time of 14:52.8. Runner-up Solomon Kwartowitz of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood also nearly broke the previous record, finishing in 15:03.3.

Even though it was apparent from earlier races Saturday that perfect conditions made fast times possible, Hansen didn’t set out to break Marlowe’s record.

“No, my goal was to go out and win,” he said. “Play strategy from the front, let others do the work, then just push it. Whatever time I got, I was gonna get. I knew it was going to take a time like that to win it today.

Henry Dixon sets the pace for Forest Hills Eastern's first team championship.“I usually run close to a (personal record) every year at this meet. It’s one of my favorite courses. It’s definitely unique here at the speedway, so I really like the course, I really like to run it.”

Hansen went through the mile mark tied for 11th in 4:54.3, but you could’ve thrown a blanket over the top 12 runners at that point.

It was a three-man race between Hansen, Kwartowitz and 2022 champion Connell Alford of Chelsea when they reached the two-mile mark in 9:46.

Hansen made sure there would be no drama coming down the stretch.

“I was just trying to stay calm, let them do the work, just sit back,” he said. “When I needed to go, I was gonna go. My goal was to stay relaxed.”

Kwartowitz had no complaints with his race.

“It felt really smooth,” he said. “It was great. I didn’t get a chance to race these guys a bunch this year. I did at Spartan (Invitational, in September). I was really hoping to end it with a victory.”

The boys Division 2 team championship was a toss-up between four teams for the second year in a row, with Ada Forest Hills Eastern coming out on top with 134 points. Pinckney was second with 156, East Grand Rapids third with 175 and Allendale fourth with 176.

Last year, 32 points separated the top four teams.

Junior Henry Dixon led Forest Hills Eastern, placing sixth in 15:16.0. Senior Liam Hinman was 29th, senior Brendan Hoving was 30th, senior Cooper Jacobsen was 38th and junior Tyler Endres was 82nd.

It was the first MHSAA championship for Forest Hills Eastern, which had a program-best finish of fourth in 2007.

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PHOTOS (Top) Freeland's TJ Hansen approaches the finish of his record run Saturday at MIS. (Middle) Henry Dixon sets the pace for Forest Hills Eastern's first team championship. (Photos by Dave McCauley/