Did you see that? (9/3-9/9)

September 10, 2012

School is back in session, and MHSAA teams should be hitting their best strides as league competition gets underway in most sports.

Here's a look at some of the highlights from the first full week of September, with links to additional coverage.

Volleyball

Spikes under the sun: Muskegon Mona Shores finished 3-0 in its home invitational Wednesday against a strong field of Grand Haven, Fruitport and Spring Lake. That's reason to celebrate on its own. But the best part of this story is where the Sailors did their damage -- on two portable courts stretched across the school's football field. (Muskegon Chronicle)

St. Philip takes Cereal City: Despite being one of the smallest schools in the state, it's rare that Battle Creek St. Philip doesn't leave a tournament as champion -- especially in its home town. But the Tigers hadn't won the Cereal City Invitational since 2007, until it did so with a two-set win over Class A honorable mention Temperance-Bedford this weekend. (Battle Creek Enquirer)

FHE is No. 1: Ada Forest Hills Eastern more than justified its ranking as best in the state in Class B by besting many of the best from the Grand Rapids area at the East Kentwood Invitational. Among others in the field were Class A No. 8 East Grand Rapids and reigning MHSAA Class A champion Rockford. (Grand Rapids Press)

Put them in the book: Johannesburg-Lewiston swept Gaylord St. Mary on Tuesday, thanks in part to 10 aces by junior Brittany Cherwinski, a total which will qualify for the MHSAA record book once documentation is submitted. In the team's previous match, junior Julia Nieman qualified for most assists in a match. (Gaylord Herald Times)

Cross Country

Harbor Springs rules the mud: Both the Harbor Springs boys and girls teams won their Charlevoix Classic Mud Runs on Saturday on a course that featured standing water and hay bales among other obstacles. It was the 21st year of the race. (Charlevoix Courier)

Running to records: Sault Ste. Marie has a freshman to watch in Parker Scott, who won his school's Bill Lynn Trails race Saturday in a time of 16:36 -- at least 26 seconds faster than any of the three first-place times from last season's MHSAA Upper Peninsula Finals. The time was a school record. (Soo Evening News)

Swimming and Diving

West Ottawa wins West Michigan: Facing many of the biggest and best from that side of the state, Holland West Ottawa won the West Michigan Relays after finishing third in the event each of the last three seasons. Among those also in the field was reigning MHSAA Division 2 champion Holland. (Holland Sentinel)

Tennis

Dow rises again: The Division 2 top-ranked Midland Dow tennis team remained perfect this season by winning its third tournament of the fall, at Grosse Pointe North. Among others in the field were No. 2-ranked Portage Central and No. 3 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (Midland Daily News)

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.)