Houghton Teams Sweep at Invitational to Honor Longtime Coach, Teacher

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 31, 2024

HOUGHTON — Dan Juntilla more than likely would have enjoyed a day like this past Tuesday at Houghton High School.

Upper PeninsulaAlthough the former Houghton boys track & field coach couldn’t be there in person, he was probably enjoying the sunny and seasonably cool afternoon in spirit during the third annual memorial invitational held in his honor.

“He was a special guy,” current Houghton boys head coach Erik Johnson said. “I had the privilege to coach with Dan, and this is something which would have been special to him. He was always there for everybody.”

The Gremlins dominated this year’s version of the Dan Juntila Memorial Invite with 250 points. They were followed by Negaunee with 86 and Dollar Bay with 74.

“Dan was such a nice guy,” Dollar Bay coach Ben Tampas said. “He wanted to see everybody do well. Even if his team won, Dan was quick to point out how well everybody did. During the coaches’ meetings, he always had a quick joke to lighten everything up. He wanted to keep everything from getting too serious. He was always willing to answer your questions. He never turned his back on anyone. He was always willing to help. He would have loved this, too.”

The Houghton girls also won with 118½ points. Calumet was runner-up at 104 and Negaunee, which brought a partial team, placed third with 86.

Juntilla, who died unexpectedly on Jan. 9, 2022, graduated in 1970 from Wakefield High School where he was class president and lettered in football, basketball, tennis and track.

He lettered in football at Michigan Tech and earned a master’s degree in social work, counseling and secondary education at Northern Michigan University.

Juntilla coached track and football for decades at Houghton, where he taught English and local history.

“Dan was my coach when I was a freshman,” Gremlins’ senior Brody Mattila said. “He had a lot of influence on our program. This is a real special day.”

Mattila, who will be attending the University of Michigan on an academic scholarship this fall, won the 110-meter hurdles in a school-record 15.26 seconds, long jump at 19 feet, 8½ inches, and anchored the winning 400 relay (45.74) in his final home meet.

“I was excited when I found out I got the record,” he said. “I’ve been shooting for this all year. We had perfect conditions, and my warm-ups went great. I’m looking forward to the U.P. (Division 1) Finals (Saturday at Kingsford).”

Mattila’s hurdles record was one of at least five set Tuesday.

“This was another good day for us,” Johnson said. “Our 3,200 relay has been strong all year, and Brody setting the record in the 110s helped set the tone. We’ve struggled in shot put and discus for many years, but this year we’ve been doing quite well. The field events have been coming through for us. Everybody was stepping up.”

Chassell junior Kalvin Kytta took the boys 3,200 in a school-record 10:08.69, and West Iron County senior Danica Shamion collected four victories, setting school records in three of her races.

“It has always been my goal to go under 10 minutes in the 3,200,” Kytta said. “This takes some of the pressure off for Saturday. Now I can just go after a sub-10.”

Shamion set records in the 200 (25.79), 400 (56.74) and high jump (5-5) and captured the 100 (12.75).

“Running in the 56s in the 400 was my goal since last year’s U.P. Finals,” she said. “This feels amazing. I had a Hancock girl (senior Brielle Kero) right beside me, and it was close all the way. She really pushed me. Getting the 200 record is also something I wanted to do for some time, and I’ve been working on high jump a lot. This takes a lot of the pressure off, but I still have one more high school meet left and I’m going to give it my all. I’m not done. I’m not stopping now.”

Kero was runner-up in the 200 (26.73) and 400 (58.92).

Juntilla also served as a Little League coach, hockey manager and a mentor to many and was recognized by the MHSAA for 40 years as a registered game official as he refereed basketball at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels.

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.

PHOTO Houghton's Brody Mattila crosses the finish line during a downpour in the 400 relay at the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference championship meet May 22 in Ishpeming. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

With 2nd Place in Final Race, Newberry Clinches 1st in Final Team Standings

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

June 2, 2024

KINGSFORD — The race for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 boys track & field championship came right down to the wire Saturday as Newberry edged St. Ignace 96-92 for top honors.

Third-place team finisher Lake Linden-Hubbell won the day’s final race, the 1,600-meter relay, in 3 minutes, 41.94 seconds, and Newberry hung on to edge St. Ignace by two steps for second place and its first title in eight years.

Newberry, which was runner-up to Munising last year, was clocked at 3:43.07 in the 1,600 relay on this sunny and mild late afternoon. The Saints finished nine hundredths of a second later.

“We knew we had to beat St. Ignace to win,” Newberry senior Kennedy Depew said after finishing the anchor leg. “This was my last race ever. I knew I had to give it my all. That’s also why I knew I had to scratch from the open 400. I would have been in four events. I think scratching from the 400 helped me save some energy. We weren’t satisfied with runner-up last year, which makes this year’s championship all the more satisfying.”

Classmate Gabe Luck provided Newberry with its lone individual first with a heave of 44 feet, 1¾ inches in shot put.

“We had a lot of injuries this year,” Newberry coach Drew Schultz said. “For all the obstacles we had, we wouldn’t have it any other way, having two of the best athletes decide it in the last race. I’m extremely proud of our guys. To win it that way is just insane. I’m proud of all our eastern-end kids.”

Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. Depew also was runner-up in the 100-meter dash in 11.63 seconds.

Senior Jon Ingalls, who ran the last leg for the Saints, won the 110 hurdles (16.39) and 300s (42.89) and helped them place second in the 400 relay (45.94).

“Both hurdles were decent,” Ingalls said. “Those weren’t my best times, but it feels good to grind out a few more wins.”

Senior Owen Lester also provided the Saints with a victory in pole vault (12-6).

LL-H got firsts from senior Gabe Popko in discus at 153 feet, 4¼ inches, and classmate Matt Jokela in the 400 (51.09). Jokela also took third in the 100 (11.65).

“Real good hydration and confidence are keys,” Jokela said. “I think having confidence helps a little. I usually don’t go too hard out of the blocks. Then, I usually try to go as hard as I can in the last 200.”

Chassell junior Kalvin Kytta claimed three firsts, taking the 800 in a personal-best 2:03.62, 1,600 (4:39.58) and 3,200 (10:27.32).

“Three wins, I’m pretty happy with that,” he said. “The 800 went real well. Overall, I’m very happy with my performance today.”

Fourth-place Bessemer set UPD3 Finals records in the 400 relay (45.3) and 800 (1:34.64). Powers North Central previously set the record in the 400 (45.34) two years ago and Rock Mid Peninsula had held the 800 record since 2001 when it ran a 1:35.1.

“We shaved two seconds off in the 800 relay which feels good, and our handoffs in the 400 were good all year,” Bessemer senior Landon Peterson said. “Our school record in the 400 is 44.98, which is something we’ve done three times this year. Running on a rubber track gives you a much better grip, which helped us a lot today.”

Bessemer senior Tom Trudgeon became a four-event winner, also taking the 100 (11.46) and 200 (23.85).

Crystal Falls Forest Park freshman Vic Guiliani won high jump (6-0), and sophomore Michael Rexford went 19-9 in long jump, providing Escanaba Holy Name with its first U.P. Finals title since the school reopened in 2021.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Newberry runners celebrate taking second place in the 1,600 relay, allowing them to finish ahead of St. Ignace for the team title in Upper Peninsula Division 3. (Middle) Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. (Click for more from Cara Kamps/RunMichigan.com.)