By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Familiar faces could dominate photo finishes at Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Boys Cross Country Finals at Pictured Rocks Golf Club in Munising.
Two reigning individual champions are back from a year ago, as is the runner-up from the race where the winner has moved on. Reigning Division 2 and 3 team champions Ishpeming and Chassell, respectively, are expected to celebrate again for the fourth straight seasons – but so too is Houghton for the first time since 2011.
Races begin Saturday with the Division 3 girls at 11 a.m. and finish with the Division 1 boys at 1:30 p.m. Check back Saturday evening for coverage of all six Upper Peninsula Finals, and see below for more teams and individuals to watch.
Reigning champion: Negaunee
2016 runner-up: Houghton
2017 top-ranked: 1. Houghton, 2. Marquette, 3. Negaunee.
Negaunee has won the last two UPD1 championships and finished 16 points ahead of Houghton last season. The Miners have three of their top seven back for this weekend, led by reigning champion Colton Yesney; he won last year’s race by 36 seconds. But Houghton brings back five of its top six including third-place Clayton Sayen and fifth-place Seth Helman, who like Yesney have continued to dominate this fall as seniors. Marquette is in the mix with its top three and four of its top seven back from last season’s third-place team, paced by reigning Finals runner-up and current senior Garrett Rudden.
Individuals: While Yesney, Rudden, Sayen and Helman give the field four of last season’s top-five finishers, none of the rest of the top 10 returns – although Negaunee sophomore Eric Anderson and senior Elliott Prusi were 10th and 11th last year, respectively. Marquette senior Luke Rambo, who won the Great Northern Conference meet title last week, also likely will be among the leaders. Gladstone junior Adam Bruce won the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet championship (although Yesney was unable to finish) and should find the frontrunners as well.
Reigning champion: Ishpeming
2016 runner-up: Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer
2017 top-ranked: 1. Ishpeming, 2. Ironwood, 3. Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer.
The Hematites have won three straight UPD2 championships and did so last year on the strength of five top-10 finishers, with all seven racers coming in 21st or better. Although reigning champion Grady Kerst graduated, runner-up and now-junior Spencer Giroux, ninth-place sophomore Jonah Broberg, 10th-place junior Devin Tasson and 13th-place senior Kyle Pruett fill the top of this season’s lineup. Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer finished 12 points back last year and returns its top six runners who all finished among the top 16 at last year’s Final, led by fourth-place senior Isaiah Aili, fifth-place junior Devon Byers and eighth-place junior Uriah Aili. Ironwood finished a distant fourth last season but also has broken into the picture with an experienced group – junior Nick Niemi was fifth last season as his team brings back its top three and four of the top seven from that race.
Individuals: Total, seven of last season’s individual top 10 will race again this weekend – all seven are mentioned above. Led by Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer senior Tim Rowe, six who finished between 11-20 last season also are back including Newberry juniors Chase Canfield and Evan Griffis.
Reigning champion: Chassell
2016 runner-up: Brimley
2017 top-ranked: 1. Chassell, 2. Munising, 3. Brimley.
Chassell also has won three straight titles and got past Brimley by 23 points to win last season’s championship. The Panthers bring back two of their top four, led by third-place finisher and now-junior Ben Tuomi. Brimley is fresh off a league title but also returns two of last year’s top four – with senior Austin Plotkin the individual favorite again after winning last year’s Final by 34 seconds. Munising was sixth in Division 2 last season but brings five of the top six runners from that race to this weekend’s finale.
Individuals: Cedarville sophomore Thomas Bohn came in fourth last season and only a second behind Tuomi. Stephenson senior Ethan Brown and Pickford senior Michael Satchell came in sixth and seventh, respectively, and only seven seconds back of Tuomi in third – meaning there could be a pretty tight pack chasing Plotkin, who won by 23 seconds.
PHOTOS: Houghton's Clayton Sayen (447) leads the pack during the Harger Invitational on Sept. 26 at Pictured Rocks Golf Club. Negaunee's Colton Yesney (591) is chasing and ended up winning the race. (Middle) Ishepming's Spencer Giroux came in fourth at the Harger. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.
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.
“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.
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/RunMichigan.com.)