Junior Leads Marquette Back to Top of UPD1

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 31, 2015

KINGSFORD — Many coaches believe you win with seniors. But junior Lance Rambo has stepped up to the plate for the Marquette boys track team all season. 

Rambo won two individual events Saturday while helping the Redmen earn their first Upper Peninsula Division 1 title in three years with 131 points at the MHSAA Finals. 

Defending champ Kingsford settled for runner-up honors this time at 98. Third-place Houghton had 72.

Rambo set a U.P. record in the 3,200-meter run in nine minutes, 50.03 seconds, topping the previous record (9:53.14) set by Mickey Sanders of Marquette four years ago. He also took the 1,600 (4:28.84).

In the 3,200, which combined the Division 1 and 2 runners, Rambo was followed by Ironwood senior Jared Joki (the D-2 champ) in 9:58.02. 

“I was extremely surprised by my time,” said Rambo. “Jared kept me on my toes the whole race. He’s an excellent runner, and we helped push each other for a long time. That felt great. I wanted to win it for our team.”

Marquette senior Andrew Banitt added firsts in the 400 (51.59) and 800 (2:00.82) and Payton Muljo won shot put at 43 feet, 6½ inches, edging Sault Ste. Marie’s Tim Eiola on his final throw. 

“Payton did a great job,” said Rambo. “When we heard that he won, we were even more pumped up for this meet. I’m just happy with how we ran as a team.”

Marquette also won all four relays. 

“This was a great effort by our guys, and Muljo got us started today,” said Marquette coach Kyle Detmer. “This is a deep team with great senior leadership. Lance and Andrew did a great job for us and (seniors) Matt Millano and Kyle Dickison were excellent leaders.

“The kids in the U.P. across the board are the greatest on the planet. This is a top-notch meet. This was just another fantastic job by the people here in Kingsford.”

Kingsford’s Trevor Roberts was a double-winner, edging Negaunee’s Connor Hetrick on a lean for the 100 title (11.39) and taking long jump (20-10½). Brandon Kowalkowski provided Kingsford with a first in high jump (6-0), with Marquette’s Jedidiah Weber second (5-11).

Dan Harrington and Mike Jamar placed second and third for Kingsford in long jump at 19-9 and 19-8, respectively. 

Hetrick bounced back to win the 200 (23.24) and Negaunee’s Jason Bell repeated by winning the 110 hurdles (15.77) and 300 (41.31) for the second straight season.

Houghton gained firsts from Jack Budd in pole vault (11-0) and Brad Ohtonen in discus (129-6). Ohtonen added a third place in shot put (42-2½). 

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Marquette's Brett Place pushes past the finish line first, just in front of Kingsford's anchor, to give the Redmen a victory in the 400 relay. (Photo courtesy of Cara Kamps.)

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

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)