Fast times at Kingsford High: Jacques blasts off to big day for Calumet

KINGSFORD – Terra Erkkila understands her job well in Calumet’s 400 relay team.

Get the baton to sophomore sprinting sensation Chelsea Jacques as soon as possible – then enjoy the view as Jacques blazes to the finish line.

At the U.P. Track and Field Finals Saturday, the Copper Kings relay squad earned their first sprint-relay U.P. title since at least 1997 Saturday, and came within two-tenths of a second of tying the school record as Lexie Rowe, Caitlin Klobuchar, Erkkila and Jacques put together their best time of the season at the best possible occasion. Jacques also defended her U.P. titles in the 100 and 200 dashes, giving the sophomore five wins at the Kingsford meet in her first two high school years.

Anchoring the relay victory was the sweetest yet, however, as she helped send Erkkila off a champion and fueled the fire of the underclassmen Rowe and Klobuchar to vie for the school record next year.

“She is so fast,” Erkkila said. “That was fantastic.”

“We worked really hard all season,” Rowe added. “It paid off today. That was awesome.”

The Kings accomplished the feat with an atypical handoff strategy.

Rather than try and pass the baton near the end of the zone to build up momentum, Calumet coach Steve Parks instructs his team to hand off as soon as possible to allow more time for the girls – Jacques especially – to be cruising at top-end speed.

It worked beautifully Saturday with Erkkila quick-hitting Jacques and the sophomore overtaking all competition within the first 50 meters.

“We have really quick handoffs,” Erkkila said. “We have to get it to her right at the beginning of the zone because she is so fast. If we get it to her right there we know we are going to win.”

“Some people have asked me why Chelsea doesn’t run the 400?” Parks added. “And that is the reason right there. We want her on that relay team, we need her on that relay team.”

Behind the strength of Jacques’ three wins, Calumet finished fifth in team scoring with a final tally of 48, with Houghton at No. 8 with 28 points. Marquette blew away the field with 145 points to grab the team title.

Jacques started the day with a 12.62 win in the 100 – less than one-tenth off her U.P. record she set last season – that came as a relief after she false-started in the WestPAC conference meet several weeks ago.

“It was on my mind a bit. That was the first time I have ever done it, so I was kind of a little shaky, nervous,” Jacques said. “But I have been working on my starts quite a bit, so I just try not to even think of it as a possibility. That helps a lot.”

She capped the day off with a 26.62 victory in the 200, more than a half-second better than second-place finisher Bree Swan of Sault Ste. Marie.

“She makes all the other girls say, ‘Boy she is fast,'” Parks said. “It just jumps out at you. It’s just fun getting to watch her.”

For Houghton, junior Elisa Jurmu earned multiple points in the field events with a third-place finish in the high jump and fourth place in the discus. Gremlin Annika Wheeler just missed the top spot in the shot put, hitting 31 feet exactly, to trail Marquette’s Kirsten Iwanski by four inches.

For Calumet, Leah Kiilunen placed in both of her distance events, taking third in the 1600 with a 5:36 mile and fifth in the 3200. Erkkila added a fifth place in the 100 hurdles, while Klobuchar placed fourth in the long jump.

For Marquette, freshman distance runner Lindsey Rudden made just as big a splash as Jacques did last season, setting new U.P. records in the 800, 1600 and 3200.