CALUMET — They’re becoming close friends off the trails, but they’re fierce competitors on the cross country course.
Houghton senior Ingrid Seagren and Ishpeming sophomore Lola Korpi have emerged as the Upper Peninsula’s top two runners at this point in the season.
Seagren has won 2-of-3 meetings this year, but it was Korpi’s turn to win Monday at the Calumet Invitational.
Korpi covered the hilly 3.1-mile course in 21 minutes, 18.3 seconds at the Swedetown Trails on a hot, sunny and breezy day. Seagren was clocked at 21:39.3.
“I think it all depends on who’s feeling better on that day and the course,” said Korpi. “Ingrid is a very good downhill runner, and I wanted to make sure I pushed myself on those. I think the uphills worked to my advantage, and I was glad to see that last one before the finish.
“There was a pack of us for a while. It was pretty hot out there and I couldn’t feel the wind in the woods.”
Seagren won the Queen City Invitational (Aug. 27) and Dale Phillips Invite (Sept. 3), both at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. Korpi was runner-up both times.
“She’s definitely good competition, and I enjoy running against her,” said Seagren. “It’s hard to take her on the uphills. I didn’t feel the best today (Monday). I’ve had kind of a cold, but did the best I could. Lola ran a great race. I’m happy for her. It just wasn’t my day. That was a tough course and the heat was a factor for everybody. I didn’t feel the breeze, although I think it helped. There were quite (a few) of us up there (near the front) in the beginning.”
They were followed by Gogebic (Bessemer) junior Natalie Stone (22:08.8), and Negaunee junior Endla Harris (22:12.7) and freshman Marlee Plaxco (22:30.55).
“I was pleased with my time because it’s a harder course,” said Korpi. “Ingrid and I are becoming good friends, and I think I’m getting closer with her and other girls. I’ve been dealing with some calf issues, but it seems to be getting better.”
Korpi and Seagren will meet at least four more times this season, but won’t be running in the same race at the Upper Peninsula Finals.
Ishpeming is entered in Division 2, and Houghton will try to repeat in Division 1.
“I’m expecting a tough race in the D1 Finals,” said Seagren. “I think we just need to keep pushing each other in practice. We would like to do it again. Paige (Sleeman) and I are seniors this year. We’re a real close team.”
The U.P. Finals take place Oct. 23 at Gentz’s Golf Course in Chocolay Township (near Marquette).
Sleeman is reigning U.P. Division 1 champion, and Seagren placed third at Gentz’s a year ago. Sleeman, who was feeling under the weather, didn’t run at Calumet on Monday.
Korpi was Division 2 runner-up to Ironwood’s Aundrea Stengard on a snowy course at the George Young Golf Course at Gaastra (near Crystal Falls) last year.
John 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) Ishpeming's Lola Korpi (823) and Houghton's Ingrid Seagren (785) lead the Queen City Invitational. (Middle) Seagren and Paige Sleeman (787) race through the opening stretch with their teammates at the start of the Queen City race. (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.)