Field Events Push Gladstone Back To No. 1

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 2, 2013

KINGSFORD — The grandstand was nearly full at Kingsford's Flivver Field on Saturday. But probably not many people witnessed the work in the field events by the Gladstone boys during the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Track and Field Finals.

Gladstone, which scored 69 points in the field events, finished with 112 for its seventh U.P. championship in 10 years.

The Braves were followed by Menominee 80, Kingsford 73 and three-time defending champ Marquette 61.

"I couldn't be more proud of these kids," said Gladstone athletic director/assistant coach Matt Houle. "They were prepared, confident and ready to go. All the kids stepped up in the field events. We had to dominate those to win the meet. We took control in the field, and the guys in the running events took care of business."

Houle filled in for head coach Gary Whitmer, who suffered a broken sternum in an automobile accident Friday morning.

Senior Jared Vuksan set the U.P. D-1 shot put record at 55 feet, 11¼ inches, topping the previous best (52-1/2) by Braves' now-volunteer assistant coach Kent King three years ago.

Vuksan, who will play football at Northern Michigan University this fall, also won discus in a school--record toss of 153-2¾, placed fourth in long jump (18-4) and helped the Braves take third in the 400-meter relay.

"My release was a lot better today in disc," Vuksan said. "I evened out my throw, and the disc came out flatter.

"I got the U.P. record in shot on my last throw. I stayed low and my footwork was good. My first throw was 50-5 and I think that set the tone. I really got pumped for the last throw. That was a great way to finish."

Classmate Justin Pederson added firsts in high jump (6-3) and long jump (21-½) and was runner-up in the 100-meter dash in 11.31 seconds.

Kingsford junior Cole Tengesdahl won the 100 (11.26).

"I'm a little disappointed in my 100, although I have to take my hat off to Cole," said Pederson, who plans to run track at Michigan State as a walk-on next year. "In high jump, everyone went out after six feet and I kept going. There was a lot of pressure, but I seem to do better in that situation. After I cleared 6-3, I went up to 6-5 and nicked the bar on my way down.

"My goal in long jump was just to break 21. I just tried to stay consistent."

Junior Chris Sedenquist added a victory in the 400 at 51.39.

Menominee had a triple-winner in senior Bryan Hines, who took the 110 hurdles (15.96) and 300 (41.59) and helped the winning 400 relay.

Sault Ste. Marie freshman Parker Scott, hindered by a foot injury much of this season, won the 800 (2:00.9) and 1,600 (4:31.98). He was the U.P. cross country champion in his division last fall.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Gladstone senior Justin Pederson completes a high jump on the way to finishing first with a leap of 6-3. (Middle) The Braves' Jared Vuksan added a fourth place in long jump to his championships in the discus and shot put. (Photos by Eric Thompson; click to see more Gladstone photos at

Red Devils Impress as Ironwood Honors Record-Setter with Jim LaBlonde Invitational

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 20, 2024

IRONWOOD — The Ironwood track & field teams provided themselves with an opportunity to do a victory lap on a very special Saturday earlier this month.

Upper PeninsulaBoth teams were crowned champions at the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational on May 11 on their 350-meter track during a sunny and mild afternoon.

The Ironwood girls scored 126 points, followed by Hurley, Wis., with 43, Ontonagon 37 and Watersmeet with 13. Ironwood’s boys collected 100 points, followed by Hurley at 84, Ontonagon 32 and Watersmeet with seven in a meet held in honor of the former Luther L. Wright High School star athlete who passed away due to an aneurysm on March 31, 2019.

LaBlonde, who was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, was an all-Upper Peninsula football player and still holds school records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes from his senior year in 1997.

“This is very special to me personally,” Ironwood coach Cecilia Aho said. “Jim was a great person and athlete. I came to Ironwood from Argentina in December 2003 and know the family very well. I had some good conversations with Jim before he passed. This is a great tribute to him. It turned out to be a beautiful day. We had perfect weather and the kids from all four schools were smiling and having fun.

“Jim was well known in the community, not only as a coach, but as a parent. He was a phenomenal runner and football player.”

LaBlonde played football for three years at Wisconsin-LaCrosse and was on the school’s track team for a year while earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2003.

He was a middle school teacher and coach in the Howard-Suamico District near Green Bay, Wis., at the time of his passing.

“He always asked about what was going on in Ironwood and was a good leader,” Aho said. “He would never turn his back on you when you asked him a question. The kids loved him. I wish I would have had a chance to work with him.”

The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. Senior Aubrey Smith topped a field of four Ironwood runners in the 1600-meter run in 5 minutes, 55.69 seconds, followed by freshman Iyla Lagalo (6:54.08) and sophomore Aubrey Balduc (7:21.16).

Smith also won the 300 hurdles at 52.43, more than six seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

“It was nice to have everyone here,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have a home meet, especially on a Saturday. I think it’s a fun meet. It’s nice to know everyone here. I think this gives me a little momentum going into our remaining meets.”

Sophomore Emma Wardon was also a double winner for the Red Devils, taking shot put (32-11) and discus (87-0).

Ironwood sophomore Logan Holm took the 110 hurdles (20.17) and 300s (48.05), and Hurley had a triple-winner in junior Jeremiah Wallis, who captured the 100 (12.0), 200 (24.52) and long jump (17-3).

Watersmeet junior Thomas Carson won the 400 (54.06), five days after setting the school record (52.31) while placing second in the Welker Invitational at Ashland, Wis. (52.31).

“I strained my hamstring in Ashland,” he said. “It was a little windy up by the big lake (Superior) and there were a lot of good runners up there. I’m probably about 80-90 (percent), but everything went okay. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t overdo it. This is a nice little meet, especially for a Saturday.”

Ontonagon sophomore Violet Amos took the 200 (28.26) and 400 (1:02.03) and was runner-up to Hurley senior Jaana Aukee on a lean (13.65) in the 100.

“I’ve been in the 27s in the 200, but I’m very happy with my time in the 400” Amos said. “This being a little smaller track was probably a factor because the curves are a little tighter. I prefer to run a 400-meter track, although I like the running surface and competition.

“It’s always fun to come here. Our track is getting resurfaced. I’m looking forward to running on it the next couple years.”

Ontonagon coach Brian Amos said he also enjoys going to Ironwood.

“Ironwood runs a nice meet, and we get a chance to see Hurley,” he added. “It’s always nice to run against somebody different.”

John VrancicJohn Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS (Top) Ribbons and medals are set out to be awarded during the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational at Ironwood. (Middle) The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. (Photos provided by the Ironwood Red Devil Booster Club.)