The Dollar Bay Blue Bolts hosted the WestPac Finals in Chassell Thursday afternoon. While the Panthers’ Shitaye Sam won the girl’s varsity race, it was the Calumet Copper Kings girls and the Houghton Gremlins boys who came away with the team titles thanks to strong depth of running. After battling injuries for the majority of the season, the Copper Kings are finally getting healthy and the results speak for themselves. With the win in the WestPac Finals and the U.P. Finals upcoming next week, there is no better time for them to be feeling better.
“We had some injuries early season, shin splints, back issues,” said Copper Kings coach Arnie Kinnunen. “We worked through them. I think we are getting close to being 100 percent for the first time all season…We’re really happy to see that all of our athletes are healthy and running some of their best times.”
While Sam won the girls’ race with a time of 20 minutes, 29 seconds and the most valuable runner, the Copper Kings’ Leah Kiilunen, who has struggled with injuries this season, was nipping on her heels. Kiilunen’s time of 20:47 meant that the pair finished well ahead of the pack.
“Leah has been having some issues of her own,” said Kinnunen of Kiilunen. “We’re not quite 100 percent there but we hope to have her ready for the U.P. Finals.”
Alexa Anderson finished third with a time of 21:31, Corey Miller seventh, and Jessica Berryman 15th. Kiilunen, Anderson, and Miller all qualified for the First Team. Calumet was named the WestPac Women’s Team of the Year for their efforts.
“All the homework has been done,” said Kinnunen about the U.P. Finals. “We just have to keep them healthy and sharpen them up. The work they did several weeks ago is what is going to be paying off at the U.P. Finals. The hard work they did in the summer is going to be the foundation.”
Berryman was the lone representative on the Second Team for the Copper Kings who won the Girls Varsity team competition with 49 points, a full 20 better than second place Hancock. The Bulldogs placed two girls on the Second Team in Taylor Pertile and Madisyn Wright. Pertile finished fourth by pushing hard through the final 20 yards to beat out the Gremlins’ Anabel Needham by just 29 hundredths of a second. Wright finished eighth, just six seconds better than the Gremlins’ Megan Vlahos. Ashley Aho finished 11th by posting a time eight seconds behind Cami Daavettila of the Blue Bolts, who also made the First Team. Her sister Carli made the Second Team thanks to her 14th place finish along with Tori Cichosz. Building off the great performance of Sam, the Panthers finished third as a team. Lela Rautiola finished sixth by being just 33 hundredths of a second behind Needham. She was named to the First Team. Julia Pietila finished 13th by posting a time seven seconds better than Carli Daavettila. She earned Second Team honors. Panthers’ coach Marco Guidotti was named Coach of the Year.
In the boys’ race, Gogebic’s Sam Dean took the race with a time of 17:20, making the First Team. Unfortunately, Dean was by far the top runner for Gogebic, who finished at the bottom of the team competition. Houghton’s Seth Helman finished second with a time of 17:31. He was named to the First Team. Leif Odegard joined him on First Team by finishing fifth. Matt Chard beat teammate Finn Storer by two seconds. Both Gremlins were named to the Second Team. The Panthers finished second as a team thanks, in large part, to Most Valuable Runner Abe Gockenbach, who finished the race third with a time of 17:39. Teammates Hunter Rautiola and Ben Tuomi finished nine seconds apart in ninth and tenth place. The Copper Kings placed two runners on the First Team in Mitch Delong and Ryan Nelson. Nelson finished fourth while Delong finished seventh. Dollar Bay’s Brendan LeClaire made the First Team after placing sixth. Jacob Iacono and Kyle LeClaire made the Second Team by placing 13th and 15th. The Bulldogs’ Murphy Mallow finished the race in eighth. He was named to the Second Team. Houghton was named the Men’s Team of the Year.