It is becoming apparent that West-PAC schools looking to win the conference title in cross country will have to beat the Houghton Gremlins on both sides of the ledger. Monday afternoon on the Chassell Ski Trails, the Gremlins’ boys and girls teams each earned victory at the Dollar Bay Invite.
Slightly cooler temperatures, high winds, and a soft course led to tougher conditions for all involved than those last Thursday at McLain State Park in Hancock, where times were quite fast.
The conditions did little to keep the Gremlins’ top boys from nearly accomplishing an impressive feat as Seth Helman, Nick Wilson and Clayton Sayen placed first, third, and fourth, respectively to help Houghton to 28-59 victory over Gogebic.
The trio of Houghton runners were leading by the midpoint in the race. Helman found himself in fourth so he had work hard to keep pace with the leaders until he found a point where he could take advantage.
“Throughout the race, I was actually feeling pretty good,” said Helman. “I was fourth maybe halfway through the race. The guys in front me started to slow down and I knew I had more in the tank, so I started going faster. They dropped off at about the three-quarter mark, so I just sprinted it in.”
Helman entered the final turn with the lead and then sprinted for the finish line to post a time of 18 minutes. Despite his confidence, the race was closer than Helman would like to admit, as Ironwood’s Nick Niemi was just two seconds behind him.
Helman credited his teammates for helping train for proper pacing during races.
“They are both really accomplished runners,” said Helman. “In practice, it is a big help. When we are doing speed work, you have two pace setters with you on the course. We are all about the same speed, so we know we are going at the right pace and working hard to get that pace up for race day.”
Wilson finished with a time of 18:13 while Sayen was 13 seconds further back.
Calumet’s Mitchell DeLong took fifth with a time of 18:38.
Gogebic was paced by Isaiah Aili, who placed seventh thanks to a time of 19:05.
The girls’ competition was much closer as the Gremlins squeezed out a 64-70 victory over Calumet, who continues to improve with each race.
While the Gremlins were paced by Annabel Needham, whose time of 23:16 was good for fourth, and Calumet was led by Greta Poyhonen in seventh with a time of 24:00, it was a young runner from Jeffers who stole the show.
Gracia Asiala, who was running just her second varsity race of her career, emerged from the final turn with a four-second lead over Chassell’s Lela Rautiola. Asiala tried to stretch for the finish line, but managed to hold her lead all the way home.
Finishing ahead of Rautiola, Dollar Bay’s Cami Daavettila, and Needham was a thrill for the young Jets’ runner.
“It feels good, especially since it is only my second meet on varsity ever,” said Asiala. “I haven’t done cross country before, so it feels really good.”
Asiala is quickly learning that varsity cross country running is a different animal from other races.
“It felt good, but tiring,” said Asiala. “It is a lot more pacing yourself and strategizing and keeping it [going].”
Daavettila took third with a time of 23:02. West Iron’s Emmy Kinnen placed fifth thanks to a time of 23:45.
1, Houghton, 28; 2, Gogebic, 59; 3, Chassell, 98; 4, tie, Ironwood. 131; 4, tie, Calumet, 131; 6, Hancock, 155; 7, Jeffers, 194; 8, Republic-Michigamme, 199; 9, Baraga, 281
Top Ten: 1, Seth Helman, Houghton, 18:00; 2, Nick Niemi, Ironwood, 18:02; 3, Nick Wilson, Houghton, 18:13; 4, Clayton Sayen, Houghton, 18:26; 5, Mitchell DeLong, Calumet, 18:38; 6, Hunter Rautiola, Chassell, 18:57; 7, Isaiah Aili, Gogebic, 19:05; 8, Brendan LeClaire, Dollar Bay, 19:19; 9, Leif Odegard, Houghton, 19:23; 10, Tim Rowe, Gogebic, 19:24
1, Houghton, 64; 2, Calumet, 70; 3, Chassell, 86; 4, Hancock, 117; 5, Dollar Bay, 124; 6, West Iron, 165; 7, Gogebic, 179
Top Ten: 1, Gracia Asiala, Jeffers, 22:44; 2, Lela Rautiola, Chassell, 22:48; 3, Cami Daavettila, Dollar Bay, 23:02; 4, Annabel Needham, Houghton, 23:16; 5, Emmy Kinnen, West Iron, 23:45; 6, Lily Wieringa, Gogebic, 23:51; 7, Greta Poyhonen, Calumet. 24:00; 8, Maddy Lehman, Houghton, 24:05; 9, Annie Tervo, Calumet; 10, MaKenna Nuttal, Hancock, 24:19