Did you see that?

May 14, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It's league championship time for many MHSAA teams, especially with tennis and track and field Regionals coming up later this week. And the week that was May 7-12 provided for a good share the first of many championship-level opportunities to shine.

Tennis

Streak stopper: The Fenton tennis team ended Holly's 29-season league title run by edging the Bronchos by a point in Tuesday’s Metro League championship tournament. The Flint Journal reported that Madison Ballard became the first Fenton No. 1 singles player to win a league championship in 24 seasons. (Tri-County Times)

Softball

On the rise: Division 1 No. 5 Portage Central swept top-ranked Mattawan -- putting Portage Central ahead by two games at the top of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West standings. (Kalamazoo Gazette)

Strike 75: Fennville’s Selena Beltran-Pena had strikeouts for 25 of 30 outs in two five-inning wins over Martin. Beltran-Pena threw a no-hitter in the opener and a one-hitter in the second game. (Holland Sentinel)

Tuned up: Saginaw Swan Valley beat three ranked Division 3 teams – No. 2 Saginaw Valley Lutheran, No. 4 Tawas and No. 7 Unionville-Sebewaing – as part of a round-robin brought on by a delay at the Hemlock Invitational that forced the tournament to break up into smaller groups of games. Swan Valley is ranked No. 3 in Division 2. (Saginaw News)

Track and Field

Down to the wire: Two of the state’s best boys and girls teams compete in the O-K Red, and Friday’s conference championship meet no doubt provided at least a partial preview of next month’s MHSAA Division 1 Finals. The top-ranked Rockford girls edged No. 2-ranked East Kentwood, while the top-ranked East Kentwood boys ran away from the No. 3 Rockford boys and the rest of the field to win that league title. (Grand Rapids Press)

Record Breaker: Jackson High’s Cierra Pryor won the 100 meters and also the long jump at Friday’s Siena Heights Invitational, with her jump of 19 feet, 1.5 inches breaking a 31-year-old school record. (Jackson Citizen-Patriot)

Just getting started: Richland Gull Lake freshman Kirsten Taylor also broke her school's long jump record, which had stood since 1978, with a leap of 18-5. (Kalamazoo Gazette)

Still undefeated: Norway’s Dani Gagne had won all 24 events in which she’d competed through Friday, including winning the 100, 200, 400 and long jump at the Norway Miners Co-Ed Meet. Her long jump of 17-0.5 broke her school record in that event set a year ago, and her 58.61 in the 400 broke another school record set during the early 1980s. (Iron Mountain Daily News)

Baseball

Best of the Best: Richland Gull Lake, ranked No. 3 in Division 2, beat top-ranked Grand Rapids Christian 10-4 in the championship game of its Best of the Best Invitational. Gull Lake also beat No. 5 St. Clair during the event. (Kalamazoo Gazette)

Editor's note: Did we miss something? Comment below and tell us about it. Is there an event coming up that we should make sure to note? Comment or e-mail [email protected].

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.)