Learning experience for Houghton, Calumet boys

KINGSFORD – Houghton boys’ coach Dan Junttila took the pragmatic view for U.P. Track and Field Finals Saturday.

His team was lacking a Chelsea Jacques or Jamie Dompier type-athlete capable of scoring multiple wins, so Junttila knew points would not be coming in bunches.

Instead, Junttila was looking for his team to set personal bests Saturday, and the veteran track coach was keeping an eye on 2014.

“We came here realistically hoping to avoid last place and get 10 points. I would be disappointed if we didn’t do that,” Junttila said. “And I would be extremely happy if we got 15 and overjoyed if we got 20. And we ended up with 23 points, so they performed above my expectations and what the times and distances in Regionals said. You have to feel good about that.”

Gladstone won a competitive boys field with 112 points, outlasting second-place Menominee (80), while Calumet (34) and Houghton (23) put up respectable scores without an individual winner between the two Copper Country schools.

Underclassman Ryan LaBerge helped buoy the Gremlins’ team score with a second-place finish in the long jump, reaching 18 feet, 11 inches. Ben Collaer picked up a fifth place in the discus and Joe Dobbs came an inch away from a first place in the pole vault, just missing at the 12-foot height. Sophomore Jacob Colling ran through a nagging injury to take fifth in the 3,200.

For Calumet, Tyler Roland took second in the high jump by clearing 6 feet, while Brendan Jacques finished his impressive career with three places, taking second in the 300 hurdles, third in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the long jump.

“Ben is a great example because just recently did he really get comfortable in the circle,” Junttila said. “So he has a lot of things in place for next year.”

Junttila will be counting on that experience at Finals to pay dividends a year from now for his young team.

“It really helps to get that experience,” Junttila said. “Even if they don’t score, being here helps so much. And we know we have an excellent team, we have proven that in the area. But your third, fourths and fifths that help us win meets locally, they won’t score here. So you have to have some bigger hitters to get points at the U.P. Finals.

“We are really happy though because we have a lot of good kids coming back.”