Ongie’s brave run ends in victory

KINGSFORD – There was plenty bouncing around in Carli Ongie’s mind as she toed the line to start the 800 Saturday at Kingsford for the Division 3 U.P. Finals.

Her false start and disqualification at Finals last season. The constant presence of her mom Gail’s school record (2:29) she was trying to best. A hip injury that had nagged her all season. Her family in the stands.

So she tried to clear her mind with one simple phrase.

“I just kept thinking, ‘just go, just go, just go,'” Ongie said.

And go she did.

The Lake Linden-Hubbell sophomore took off at the gun and had opened a 10-meter lead on the field in first 100 meters – a near-suicidal pace in the 800.

She pushed through the first lap at around 1:10, raising the eyebrows of more than a few onlookers.

“Well, her one-lap time was about 1:10,” Lake Linden girls’ track coach Gary Guisfredi said. “And when she runs the 1600 relay for us, her lap time in that is about 1:10. So she was moving as she does normally with a full lap to go. That sure was a gutsy performance.”

With Ongie obviously laboring in the second 400, she somehow found enough in the tank to cross the finish line at 2:35 – a personal best – and more than three seconds ahead of second place finisher Heidi Hagen of Pickford.

“That’s kind of my strategy is to give it all in the first part, and then hang on with whatever I have left in the second. The first part puts pressure on the other racers I think,” Ongie said.

“I didn’t even know how my legs were moving in the last 200 because I couldn’t feel them, but I couldn’t lose. I had to keep going.”

As Ongie broke the plane, she almost immediately collapsed to the ground and started crying out. Half pain, half delirium.

The trainers rushed over and it was a few tense minutes before Ongie could begin to enjoy her victory.

“I had no idea what to do, my legs were just gone,” Ongie said. “I was telling (the trainers), ‘Can you hit my legs, because they are not there.’ He just looked at me, and was like, ‘Don’t worry, they are there,’ but I could not feel them.”

“I feel like death, but at the same time I feel really good,” Ongie added after she recovered. “I’m just so unbelievably excited right now.”

“You can never question her attitude,” Guisfredi said with a wry smile.

For Ontonagon hurdler Lori Wardynski, she can sympathize with Ongie’s pain.

She had been doing that to herself all season in practice to prepare for Saturday.

It paid off too, as Wardynski ran off with first place in the 300 hurdles at 48.75 seconds, took a close second in the 100 hurdles and another first to end the day on the 1600 relay (Raquel Jenney, Brooke Turin, Paige Blake, Wardynski).

“What a fun day,” Wardynski said. “I ran my best time ever in the 300, got a second in the 100 hurdles and my teammates have been doing really well too.”

Wardynski’s victories were built on the back of strenuous training this season.

Her mom, Kathy Wardynski, works as a part-time assistant track coach at Michigan Tech and put Lori through a rigorous practice regimen to prepare for Finals.

“My mom has been making me run split 400 and split 300 hurdles,” Wardynski said. “And if that is not enough to burn you up, nothing will.

“But she really knows her stuff about getting ready. I’m pretty blessed to have someone who knows so much. It really paid off.

“What you put in is what you are going to get out.”

Wardynski, a sophomore, said she can’t wait to come back to Kingsford next season and try to double up the hurdle victories.

“I built off the experience last year, and I’m going to build off this for next year,” Wardynski said. “It was a great day.”

While Ongie and Wardynski represented the only individual winners from the Copper Country in D-3 girls, there was a bevy of top-three results as well.

LL-H’s Sarah Audette took second in the pole vault, Jana Hendrickson finished third with a personal best in the 400 at 1:05 and Dollar Bay’s Cami Daavettila placed in the top six in both the 1600 and 3200.

“All you can do is hope for your best at Finals,” Guisfredi said. “We got that from a lot of girls today.”

Brimley (84 points) won its fifth U.P. title in the last seven years, with Bessemer in second. LL-H (34) was the best local finisher in sixth, Ontonagon was seventh (32), Dollar Bay 15th (seven) and Baraga tied for 18th (one).