One last dress rehearsal

HANCOCK – Postponed twice in this abbreviated track season, the Copper Country Invite finally found a home Tuesday, nestling in on a 70 degree day at Hancock and giving local teams one last competition to prepare for U.P. Finals this Saturday.

While the meet placement was accidental, the coaches and athletes alike found the timing spot on as they prepare for Finals.

Houghton topped Calumet on the girls side with a 152-122 1/2 total – with Hancock placing third with 74, Ontonagon fourth at 71 and Dollar Bay fifth with 61 points – but it was a meet all school’s could be happy with as it built towards the ultimate goal Saturday.

On the boys side Houghton edged Calumet 154-147. Lake Linden-Hubbell placed third with 107 points, followed by Hancock (63) and Dollar Bay (35).

“It’s interesting, because this is when our biggest workout of the week would be,” Lake Linden-Hubbell girls’ coach Gary Guisfredi said. “So instead of a workout, we are having competition, which is better. The kids would never run this fast in practice, it’s just human nature.”

The timing was so helpful, Guisfredi and Houghton coach Dan Junttila kicked around the idea of purposefully setting up a meet next year in the same slot.

“We were just talking – not doing anything official – but the timing does seem to work out,” Guisfredi said. “The kids seem to like it, it works with our workout schedule. It’s something to look at.”

Houghton athlete Elisa Jurmu – who will be competing in four events Saturday – said it was an excellent opportunity to start fine-tuning technique that can shave valuable time off in a crowded, quality field.

The senior Gremlin won the high jump (5-2 clearance) and 800 and 1600 relays Tuesday while placing third in a strong discus field.

Jurmu said any chance to practice her steps for the high jump or get more comfortable in the circle for discus was fine by her.

“This is a really good time to have a meet,” Jurmu said. “You can pretty much just work on your events how you need and then taper down to prepare for the U.P’s. It’s good timing.”

For Calumet coach Steve Parks, the twice rescheduled meet was a blessing in disguise, with his sprint-relay team dropping the baton during the 800.

They recovered to win the 400 relay, but a slow exchange gave him and the defending U.P. champs something to work on heading into Saturday.

Sprinter Chelsea Jacques starred for the Kings, winning the 100 (12.94) by more than a second over Ontonagon’s Lori Wardynski, edging Hancock’s Ellie Lucier in the 200 and anchoring the winning 400 relay team.

“Better to mess up here than Saturday, that’s what I told them,” Parks said. “If we can get three good handoffs than I like our chances at Finals.”

Even the weather, such a scourge during the shortened-regular season, provided a boost Tuesday.

The 70-plus degree heat is likely what Kingsford will bring for Finals, and Guisfredi noted the Lakes were hydrating differently.

“We just aren’t used to running in 70 degree temperatures,” Guisfredi said. “We haven’t done that this year. That part was good too, the acclimation to the temperatures we are probably going to see Saturday.”

Houghton’s Annika Wheeler won both throwing events and Gremlin Michelle Laux took the 400.

Julie Heinonen and Wardynski took their last battle of the season to the wire in the 100 hurdles with Heinonen edging the Ontonagon sprinter by two one-hundreths of a second. Wardynski won the 300 hurdles and the pair will race in different divisions Saturday.

On the boys side, Jacob Jarvis swept the hurdle events for Hancock, and the Bulldogs’ Gage Hawthorne swept the throwing events.

Calumet won the 3200, 400 and 1600 relays.

“It was a productive meet,” Guisfredi said. “I’m glad we got it in.”