Houghton, Calumet face tough track test in D-1

HOUGHTON – The Houghton and Calumet boys’ and girls’ track and field teams are projected to finish in about the middle of the pack overall at today’s Division 1 U.P. Finals in Kingsford, but there are plenty of individuals capable of taking home some hardware.

On the girls’ side, the Gremlins finished second in the regional to Negaunee, with Calumet finishing third. As has been the trend for some time, Houghton figures to get a majority of its points from the field events.

“We have a chance to score some points on the track, but it’s going to be some tough competition, as always,” Gremlins girls’ coach Ross Coltman said. “Usually it’s scratching for points in the running events.

“… On paper Marquette is pretty well out in front. We’ll be fighting for fifth, sixth, middle of the pack somewhere. That’s our goal, but the girls have worked hard.”

Addie Grier-Welch graduated last year, so she won’t be raking up points again, but Elisa Jurmu qualified third in both the discus and high jump, Annika Wheeler second in shot put and freshman Nicole St. Martin fifth in pole vault.

On the track, Kira Fowler and Natalie Datto qualified fourth and fifth, respectively in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, and the Gremlins’ 3,200-meter relay is slotted in third based on regional time.

While Houghton will likely do its damage in the field, Calumet will once again relay on track events to work its way up the scoreboard, headlined by Chelsea Jacques as the favorite to repeat in the 100-meter dash. She’s also second in the 200. Leah Kiilunen qualified fifth in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs for the Copper Kings. Coach Steve Parks believes his girls can also make a run at the 400-meter relay title after qualifying third.

Calumet will only have three girls in field events, but pole vaulter Morgan Peters is the favorite after clearing 8 feet at regionals, and Carissa Pavolich’s 4-foot-10 high jump is second in a tightly contested field.

“We’re well balanced, but we’re just lacking in numbers this year,” said Parks, who only has eight girls who qualified, after taking 13 to Kingsford last year. “… It’s always hard to score points, but I just think we’re going to take it one race at a time and see where we end up. I told the girls to leave it all on the track. Don’t walk away thinking you had more you could do.”

On the boys’ side the Gremlins and Kings figure to be neck and neck to the end after finishing just two points apart at regionals – Houghton with 40 points, Calumet with 38. Kingsford had 57.

The Gremlins figure to scrounge up U.P. Finals points by committee, as Joe Dobbs, who qualified second in pole vault, and Ryan LaBerge, who qualified third in long jump are the only Houghton boys to crack the top three in qualifying. Yet, they have qualifiers in 11 of the 16 events.

“I thought we’d get 10 kids in (to U.P. Finals), 15 would be max and we got 14 to Kingsford,” Houghton boys’ coach Dan Juntilla said in a May 17 Daily Mining Gazette article after regionals. “We’ll be well represented.”

The Calumet boys will also have 14 athletes in the mix at U.P. Finals, but the majority of their points will likely come from the high jump and hurdles. Tyler Roland and Owen Kariniemi both cleared 5-foot-10 at regionals, which won last year’s title, and Daniel Olson is slotted sixth. Chad Sturos and Brendan Jacques qualified second and third in 300-meter hurdles and Jacques and Paul Torola are third and fifth in the 110.

“Last year we qualified 19, and we’re down 10 less athletes,” Calumet boys’ coach Mark Bonenfant said. “Last year we were (fifth) place, so I’d like to get somewhere around there, maybe sixth or seventh.

“… It’s an exciting sporting event. Even if you just place at U.P. Finals, it’s an honor.”