Negaunee senior – Cross Country
After an illness forced Paupore to miss a week of school and training – and threatened the rest of her season – the two-time reigning Upper Peninsula Division 1 champion returned to competition and set a Tracy Strom Invitational record of 19:29.2 at Al Quaal Recreation Area, earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”
Paupore cleared the field by 2:04 and cut seven seconds off her winning time from 2018 at the hilly Ishpeming-area course. She has won all but two races over the last two seasons – her only non-victories were in the “Elite” race at the Spartan Invitational at Michigan State University, where she finished 23rd this fall and 30th a year ago running against many of the Lower Peninsula’s best. Paupore will test herself against downstate competition again this weekend at the prestigious Portage Invitational as she seeks to push toward a personal record in the mid-18s. She has dropped her PR nearly nine seconds already this season, to an 18:48.8 she ran at the Marquette County Meet on Sept. 5. Paupore also dominates on the track – she’s won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals the last two seasons after finishing second in all three races as a freshman, with her 3,200 time in 2018 (11:25.52) the meet record.
Running certainly runs in her family. Paupore’s mother Vickie (Leathers) Paupore ran collegiately at Lawrence University in Wisconsin and is Negaunee’s girls track & field coach, and Emily’s father Mark Paupore has run half and full marathons. Emily Paupore also played basketball her first three years of high school but instead will run indoor track this winter. She’s unsure where she’ll continue after graduation in the spring – but she’ll have options. Paupore also carries a 4.222 grade-point average and is interested in studying elementary education or pediatrics.
Coach Lisa Bigalk said: “She's one in a million, one in a career. I’m very honored to be her coach. She is very dedicated, very enthusiastic and positive, and I think she really loves running and wants to become the best runner she can be. At times, it's pretty amazing, I've had to hold her back. That doesn't happen real often with high school athletics. ... Besides being a great role model and leader for our team, she's really looked up to by other high school and middle school runners in the whole U.P. I’ve heard coaches, parents other athletes say she’s very respected and is a great role model.”
Performance Point: “I was really sick, so I really wasn't sure what was going to happen that day. And it's a really challenging course, so I knew it was going to be a hard day for me,” Paupore said. “So I just went out and did what I could. … We weren't sure what sickness I had. We kinda thought I had mono(nucleosis) for a while, so they didn't want me running on it. It was a challenge, and just having that thought go through my mind that I wasn't going to be able to run the rest of the season and I wasn't going to be able to finish my senior year – I guess I take it for granted sometimes. But it made me realize how lucky I am to be able to run and use my gifts.”
It’s been a great high school run: “I just think every year, (I’ve been) trying to get better and faster, just to improve. And on improving myself instead of focusing on who I'm racing against, my competition – I think every year I've gotten better at that. And I'm a more confident runner, so I think I'm proud of that. … I've had a lot of fun running in the U.P. A lot of times it's a different kind of challenge because you don't always have that constant competition as you would downstate, but just getting to run -- I know everyone I'm racing against, and they're like my family.”
Road trip: “This past summer I met a lot of girls who run downstate and who are really good downstate. So I got to run with them, and just getting to compete against them a little bit … and run against better competition, girls who are going to be in front of me and much faster and having girls all around you all the time, it really pushes you harder. I can get pushed up here, but it's really fun getting to run downstate. I love it. … I think (downstate) they're kinda like, 'Who are you?' And I tell them I'm from the U.P., and they’re like, 'Oh, really?'”
Cheering us on: “I know a bunch of people who have run in the U.P., and we just get so much support from all of our communities. I think that's one cool thing about running in the U.P.: The whole community is always behind you and always supporting you. It's really everywhere we go. It doesn't matter if it’s your rival school or anything; they’re always supporting us, and I think it's a really special thing.”
Those before me, and after: “Obviously a runner in the U.P. like Lindsey Rudden (Marquette grad 2016/now runs at Michigan State), she did a lot of cool things up here. So I definitely respect her, and Colton (Yesney, Negaunee grad 2018/now runs at University of Michigan). Past runners in the U.P. have done well for themselves, I think. I'm hoping I can show (younger runners) that you can still be a good runner in the U.P. and show people what U.P. kids are made of. You can still do it just as well, and we have a little bit of extra fight.”
– Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee's Emily Paupore leads the pack at the Tracy Strom Invitational on Saturday. (Middle) Paupore pushes uphill at the Ishepming-area course. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
BROOKLYN — Emily Tomes of Grand Rapids Catholic Central might be the first MHSAA cross country champion to go all season without winning a meet until it mattered the most.
There are two good reasons for that.
First, she runs in the Grand Rapids area, which is a hotbed for high school cross country. Her biggest league rival, Selma Anderson of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, was the runner-up in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final on Saturday.
Second, she was adjusting all season to a significant change in her training volume.
As a result, she had five second-place finishes in nine races and didn’t run faster than 18:25.5 until her conference and Regional meets.
“I ramped up my miles, so my legs felt tired for a lot of my races,” Tomes said. “So, that’s why I recently started running sub-18. My legs started to get used to the mileage. I was just trying to wait until this meet. This is when I was going to try to run my best.”
Tomes was the Division 2 champion, running a time of 17:31.4 on a Michigan International Speedway course that yielded fast times all day.
She won a kick down the stretch against St. Joseph senior Gail Vaikutis, who took second in 17:33.6.
“I feel like I do rely on my kick quite a bit, but I just knew it could help me pass those girls and it gives me a lot of confidence moving forward, ” Tomes said. “I have a couple postseason meets, so I’m really looking forward to those.”
It was anyone’s race when a pack of five runners reached the two-mile mark within one second of one another. It was a two-runner race coming down the straightaway, with Tomes passing Vaikutis in the final tenth of a mile.
“I don’t normally run in packs,” Tomes said. “This season kind of started off slower for me, so I wasn’t used to racing with these girls. I know they know how to run really fast. If I could just let them carry me along, it would help me out.”
Grand Rapids Christian won the team championship with a score of 112 points. Last season’s champion Otsego was second with 131.
The Eagles won their seventh MHSAA championship and first since 2014.
Senior Natalie VanOtteren, who defeated Tomes by 17 seconds at Regionals, led Grand Rapids Christian by placing fifth in 17:58.2. Sophomore Lilah Poel was 20th, sophomore Ellie Scholma 30th, senior Payton Holtz 31st and senior Naomi Nelson 65th for the Eagles.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Emily Tomes, left, breaks away from St. Joseph's Gail Vaikutis during the closing stretch of the Division 2 Final. (Middle) Natalie VanOtteren leads Grand Rapids Christian's team title run with a fifth-place finish. (Photos by Dave McCauley/RunMichigan.com.)