There was no stopping the Sault Ste. Marie girls Thursday as they simply overwhelmed the large-school field in the Escanaba Golden K Kiwanis Invitational cross country meet.
The Blue Devils placed, who placed seven runners in the top 10, scored 20 points. They were followed by Houghton 71, Calumet 92 and Gladstone 103.
“It was nice to win, but we have to remember Marquette wasn’t here,” said Sault coach Jim Martin. “We kind of trained through this one. The girls are very focused and motivated. This is a tight-knit group which did a lot of running during the summer. We have two freshmen among our top five. We’re excited about this season.”
Sault’s MacKenzie Kalchik won the 3.1-mile race at Beauchamp’s Grove in 20 minutes, 22 seconds on this sunny and hot day. She was followed by teammate Josie Roos (21:01) and Kingsford’s Peyton Johnson (21:13).
Houghton coach Traci Filpus was pleased with the second-place finish.
“Sault looked terrific,” she said. “There were good teams here, too. We knew they were going to be tough. I thought our girls gave a good effort. Anabel (Needham) is looking good. Our second girl just missed out on a medal in Marquette (Sept. 1), but she definitely got one today.”
Gladstone senior Leigha Woelffer was the area’s pacesetter in seventh (21:46).
“Some of our girls weren’t feeling well and two of them dropped out,” said Braves’ coach Gary Whitmer. “Leigha was with the front pack at the midway point. She wasn’t happy with her time, but I thought she ran well. I think she’ll be fine. She’ll just get better.”
The Houghton boys grabbed three of the top five spots, capturing the title with 35 points. Defending champ Sault followed with 50 and third-place Escanaba had 93.
Calumet’s Mitch Delong recorded the day’s best time (17:16). He was followed by Houghton’s Nick Wilson (17:21) and Clayton Sayen (17:22).
“Our boys looked super strong today,” said Filpus. “Our top three looked stronger than they did in Marquette and our fourth and fifth runners ran super strong, too. We placed five in the toip 15 which was a big group effort by our guys.”
Gladstone’s leader was sophomore Jake Strasler in seventh (18:07).
“Jake ran a faster time than he did in Marquette, which was a nice surprise,” said Whitmer. “James Young also stepped up. He’s trying to get back in shape and was our second runner today. We’re pleased with the way the kids handled the heat.”
The Braves ran without senior Connor Powell, who’s nursing a calf injury.
Esky’s pacesetter was senior Joey Wolfe, who’s battling a hip injury and back issues. He took eighth (18:13).
“Our guys looked tired and hot,” said Esky coach Tyler Crossman. “I think some stayed in the sun too long, although they worked hard. We’re improving little by little, but we need to raise our mileage and run some hills. We need the conditioning.”
The Stephenson boys earned the small-school title with 39 points. Chassell squeezed past Munising 48-49 for runner-up honors.
“Overall, I thought our guys ran well,” said Chassell coach Marco Guidotti. “We have a strong team that works well together and we know everybody else works well.”
Chassell senior Hunter Rautiola won at 18:32, followed by Stephenson’s Ethan Brown (18:55) and Munising’s Isaac Cooper (19:14).
“It was hot out there,” said Rautiola. “I wanted to settle into a pace and make sure I had something left when I finished. I just drank a lot of water today and stayed hydrated. I’ve been happy because my times are better than they were last year.”
Manistique freshman Alex Misniakiewicz was seventh (20:06) and Mid Peninsula junior Brandon Nummilien placed 10th (20:21).
The Munising girls won with 39 points, followed by Stephenson 56 and Chassell 74.
Munising junior Alyssa Webber captured the individual title at 20:22, two minutes ahead of teammate and runner-up Madeleine Paramaki. Chassell’s Leah Rautiola took third (22:39).
“It was a very hard day for running,” said Webber. “It was hot in the sun, although the shade in the woods helped a little. I definitely tried to surge in the shade. Maddy was looking forward to coming here because this is her favorite course.”
Manistique sophomore Ashley McDonald was eighth (24:20).