Ishpeming Boys Go Distance Again

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 2, 2019

KINGSFORD – The Ishpeming boys continued their winning ways at Saturday's Upper Peninsula Track & Field Finals, retaining their Division 2 crown with 129 points.

This marked the fifth title in six years for the Hematites, who were followed by Newberry at 84 and Norway with 75 points.

Ishpeming, led by junior Jonah Broberg, scored 56 points in the distances.

Broberg won the 800-meter run in two minutes, 6.57 seconds and 1,600 (4:45.81), helped the winning 3,200 relay (8:44.13) and placed second in the 3,200 run (10:38.7). Senior Spencer Giroux was third in the 800 (2:09.43) and 1,600 (4:47.42).

Senior Coulton Prillwitz added firsts in the 300 hurdles in 44.25 and long jump at 19 feet. Classmate Gavin Sundberg took the 400 (52.22) and was runner-up in the 200 (23.73).

Manistique’s Alex Misniakiewicz earned his first title in the 3,200 (10:35.23) as D-1 and D-2 athletes ran together.

"I felt real good," said Misniakiewicz, who placed second in the 800 (2:07.4) and 1,600 (4:47.36). "I paced off Adam Bruce (D-1 champ) for 2-3 laps, and if it weren't for Jonah Broberg, I would have never been able to do this. With a couple laps to go somebody from the stands yelled out, 'You have to go. That's how champions are made!' I know that wasn't meant for me, but I just picked it up. In the last 200, I felt I had a pretty good chance to win it."

Newberry got its lone first in the 1,600 relay (3:45.25) and was runner-up in the 3,200 relay (8:50.49).

"We're pleased with our time," said senior Evan Griffis, who ran the second leg in the 3,200 relay. "We were close to Ishpeming for half of the race. Our fourth leg (sophomore Ephram Evans) ran exceptionally well and caught them, but he couldn't quite finish them off. We ran one of our better times, and this is the place to do it."

Norway senior Mitch Legrave captured the 100 (11.5) and 200 (23.56) and helped the Knights take the 400 relay (46.25).

St. Ignace junior Joe Kelly won shot put (46-2½) and was runner-up in discus (117-10).

"Our boys are coming along nicely," said Saints' coach Trudy Olsen. "They work hard. It's nice to see them have some success. Joe had already set the school record in shot (49-9) in our season opener. He missed by just a half inch last year. He was motivated."

Hancock sophomore Austin Salani, who was crowned Western Peninsula Athletic Conference pole vault champion with a school-record leap of 13 feet on May 22 in Houghton, took the U.P. title at 12 feet this time.

Click to see full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming’s Gavin Sundberg takes off during the 400 on Saturday. (Middle) Newberry’s Evan Griffis begins his leg of the 3,200 relay. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

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.)