Chassell Invite – September 21st.
Continued growth and improvement has been the goal of the Chassell Panthers cross country team this season — and that continued on Thursday.
The Panthers posted their best times on their home course during the Dollar Bay Invite as the girls claimed the team title with 31 points. The Houghton boys also took first with 26 points.
“I feel like they have a sense of pride on their home course,” Chassell head coach Marco Guidotti said. “The course is fairly hilly and conditions were a little bit warmer today than Monday, and I knew the team really likes how difficult the course is. They were going for their best course times today, which I think pretty much everyone did.”
Lela Rautiola repeated her first-place performance in Monday’s Calumet Invite at the Sweedetown Trails with another victory Thursday, finishing in 21 minutes, 42 seconds. Calumet’s Clarity Gipp took second (22:09), and Houghton’s Anabel Needham finished third (22:45).
The Panthers also had three other top 10 finishes, with Jenna Pietila taking fourth (23:05) and Gwen Kangas coming in sixth (23:43, while Paige Sleeman (23:51) finished seventh. Meg Hokenson finished in 13th (24:43) for Chassell.
“Scoring four girls in the top 10 was really huge,” Guidotti said. “We’ve been tightening the pack in the middle with our girls, where our No. 6 and No. 7 runners are tightening up and seeing that progress. I’m really pleased with that.”
On the boys side, Houghton’s Clayton Sayen recorded another victory in 17:51. His teammate, Seth Helman, finished second (17:51). Houghton also had strong finishes from Joe Wood (eighth, 19:08), Nikolai Huotari (ninth, 19:09) and Connor Jackson (10th, 19:10).
Chassell’s Ben Tuomi took fourth (18:34) for the other top local finish.
Girls team scores
1. Chassell 31; 2. Calumet 87; 3. Houghton 100; 4. Hancock 104; 5. West Iron County 105; 6. Dollar Bay 137.
Girls top 10
1. Lela Rautiola, Chassell, 21:42; 2. Clarity Gipp, Calumet, 22:09; 3. Anabel Needham, Houghton, 22:45; 4. Jenna Pietila, Chassell, 23:05; 5. Taylor Clark, West Iron County, 23:24; 6. Gwen Kangas, Chassell 23:43; 7. Paige Sleeman, Chassell, 23:51; 8. Natalie Maxson, Dollar Bay, 24:01; 9. Keena Larson, Jeffers, 24:04; 10. Sarah Dix, Baraga, 24:08.
Boys team score
1. Houghton 26; 2. Gogebic 38; 3. Chassell 71; 4. Republic-Michigamme 134; 5. Hancock 138; 5. Calumet 138; 7. Ontonagon 227; 8. Watersmeet 231.
Boys top 10
1. Clayton Sayen, Houghton, 17:51; 2. Seth Helman, Houghton, 18:15; 3. Isaiah Aili, Gogebic, 18:33; 4. Ben Tuomi, Chassell, 18:34; 5. Uriah Aili, Gogebic, 18:54; 6. Leif Odegard, Houghton, 18:59; 7. Devon Byers, Gogebic, 19:04; 8. Joe Wood, Houghton, 19:08; 9. Nikolai Huotari, Houghton, 19:09; 10. Connor Jackson, Houghton, 19:10.
Calumet Invite – September 18th.
Over the years, Houghton seniors Clayton Sayen and Seth Helman have had plenty of races against each other come down to the final stretch for the top spot. On Monday at the Calumet Invite, the deciding factor was a game of rock-paper-scissors.
As Sayen and Helmen approached the finish line side-by-side at the Calumet Swedetown Trails, the two broke out into a round of rock-paper-scissors to decide who would charge ahead to finish first. After a tie in the first round, Sayen’s scissors edged Helman’s paper, allowing him to pull ahead and finish first in a time of 17 minutes, 14.24 seconds, just ahead of Helman (17:14.61), to lead the Gremlins to the boys team title with 24 points on a cloudy, cool afternoon.
It was a more relaxed outcome after the two went all-out at the Hancock Invite on Thursday, with Sayen edging Helman by a second.
“Last race we killed each other finishing, so it didn’t seem very beneficial since it was just us,” Helman said.
Added Sayen: “We ran together the whole race side-by-side (today), and we talked about it before where if we had a substantial lead and there’s no one with us, we’ll do it and have some fun.”
Barring injury or any other weird circumstance, Sayen and Helman separating from the pack was a foregone conclusion. But before the race, no one besides those two knew what was in store for the finish.
“We knew they had something planned and kind of told us they had something planned that they were going to try if they were far enough ahead, but we didn’t know what they were going to do,” Houghton head coach Traci Welch said. “We were all right with it. They ran hard and had good times.”
Through their first three years together, Sayen and Helman were pushed by competitors and rivals from other schools at the local meets. However, after the recent graduations of top runners at other schools, the two are left to challenge each other, all while preparing themselves for the end goal: U.P. Finals.
“They were like this last year, too,” Welch said. “Last year was the first year I gave two MVPs, and I don’t know what I’m going to do this year, because you’re talking about two kids who are good leaders, both work and push each other and it’s hard to pick one over the other. They’re right by each other and phenomenal to work with.”
Houghton took the top three spots with Leif Odegard coming in at third (17:53.64). Nikolai Huotari (18:15.36) took eighth, while Joe Wood finished 10th (18:31.36) to give the Gremlins five top 10 finishes.
Gogebic’s Isaiah Aili (17:57.27) finished fourth, and Chassell’s Ben Tuomi (18:00.17) rounded out the top five.
On the girls side, there was no late-race drama as Chassell’s Lela Rautiola cruised to a first-place finish and a season-best time (20:45.30). The Chassell girls claimed the team title, finishing with 39 points to beat out second-place Calumet (83).
“I felt great,” Rautiola said. “That was the best I’ve ever felt, and I hope every meet goes like that. The weather was perfect, and while I didn’t start out in the lead, as I built up, I just kept feeling better.”
Rautiola and Needham have been the top two local runners this season and that continued Monday, with Needham taking second (21:24.89) despite the rivals finishing with a larger gap between each other than they’re accustomed to seeing.
“She stuck with me for the first mile, but I kept building the lead and was surprised she was as far back as she was,” Rautiola said, “but she still pushed me.”
The Chassell girls claimed three other spots in the top 10, with Jenna Pietla finishing sixth (22:13.36), Gwen Kangas taking ninth (22:28.02) and Paige Sleeman rounding out the top 10 (22:39.17).
“Our whole team has great chemistry this year,” Chassell head coach Marco Guidotti said. “Our girls work really well together, and we saw some season records in terms of time.
“Lela was pushing hard and everyone was pacing off each other. Ultimately, we want to be our best at Finals, but we’re real happy with a strong team win today.”
Next, the teams will compete Thursday at the Chassell Trails.
Girls team scores
1. Chassell 39; 2. Calumet 83; 3. West Iron County 101; 4. Houghton 120; 5. Hancock 122; 6. Dollar Bay 148; 7. Gogebic 211.
Girls top 10
1. Lela Rautiola, Chassell, 20:45.20; 2. Anabel Needham, Houghton, 21:24.89; 3. Emily Carey, Ironwood, 21:43.02; 4. Taylor Clark, West Iron County, 21:51.95; 5. Clarity Gipp, Calumet, 21:57.49; 6. Jenna Pietila, Chassell, 22:13.36; 7. Avery Bociek, West Iron County, 22:19.83; 8. Natalie Maxson, Dollar Bay, 22:21.49; 9. Gwen Kangas, Chassell, 22:28.02; 10. Paige Sleeman, Chassell, 22:39.17.
Boys team scores
1. Houghton 24; 2. Gogebic 39; 3. Chassell 76; 4. Calumet 118; 5. Ironwood 145; 6. Republic-Michigamme 157; 7. Hancock 202.
Boys top 10
1. Clayton Sayen, Houghton, 17:14.24; 2. Seth Helman, Houghton, 17:14.61: 3. Leif Odegard, Houghton, 17:53.64; 4. Isaiah Aili, Gogebic, 17:57.27; 5. Ben Tuomi, Chassell, 18:00.17; 6. Tim Rowe, Gogebic, 18:11.64; 7. Devon Byers, Gogebic, 18:15.05; 8. Nikolai Huotari, Houghton, 18:15.36; 9. Uriah Aili, Gogbeic, 18:18.64; 10. Joe Wood, Houghton, 18:31.36.