Calumet’s Clarity Gipp has been among the frontrunners throughout this cross country season.
The freshman harrier took it a step further in Monday’s West Iron County Invitational, earning her first varsity victory by covering the hilly 2.8-mile course in 18 minutes, 56 seconds.
“Clarity had never run cross country before this year and worked real hard to get where she did today,” said Calumet coach Arnie Kinunen. “It’s nice to have a young athlete who’s coachable. We knew what she was capable of doing and have been building for this.”
Chassell junior Lela Rautiola, who led by 12 yards after the first lap, settled for runner-up honors (19:18). Houghton junior Anabel Needham placed third (19:34) on this sunny and mild day at the Iron River Country Club.
“I’m really surprised I was able to pass Lela,” said Gipp. “Once I got the lead, I knew I couldn’t stop. This is a big confidence boost. Knowing I can finish first is a big thing for me.”
Houghton coach Traci Welch said she was pleased with Needham’s performance.
“Anabel had a nice race,” she added. “The Calumet girl (Gipp) ran real well. Anabel has been having some good races. We’re working on getting her turnover a little faster.”
Chassell, which placed five among the top nine, was crowned champion with 27 points. The Panthers were followed by Calumet 90 and Houghton 93.
“The girls had a real good race,” said Chassell coach Marco Guidotti. “Clarity ran real tough and gave Lela a nice challenge. We come to compete in every meet. We know we have to come with our A game every time. I’m happy with how we’re working as a team.”
The Houghton boys grabbed five of the top six spots and finished with 17 points. Runner-up Gegebic scored 44 and Chassell took third at 88.
“We were hoping for a perfect score (15), but I’m happy with what they did,” said Welch. “Seventeen points is not too shabby. Gogebic is super competitive. They’ve been pushing us all year. Some of our guys had big races. We’re real happy.”
Gipp made her move early in the second lap of the girls’ race.
“I think my start was too fast,” said Rautiola. “With the downhill finish, I thought I’d have a little more left in the end. For a while, we were step for step. She’s a real good competitor. There were some steep hills back there, and I tried to stride it out on the downhills. I think this will help prepare me for the (Upper Peninsula) Finals. I’m happy with my time and how our team did.”
Chassell’s Jenna Pietila placed fourth (20:27), followed by teammate Paige Sleeman (20:31) and Dollar Bay’s pacesetter Natalie Maxon (20:45).
Houghton senior Clayton Sayen captured the boys’ race at 15:32, followed by teammates Seth Helman (16:03) and Leif Odegard (16:10).
“I was feeling pretty good and had a fast first mile (5:04),” said Sayen. “I just tried to run my race and it definitely helped by time in the end. I knew the course was a little short and felt the fast start wouldn’t affect me. This was a good tune-up for the (West-PAC) conference meet.
Isiah Aili was Gogebic’s leader in fourth (16:11). Cade Mazzon took seventh (16:29) and Devon Byers was eighth (16:30).
“I think our guys did well,” said Gogebic coach Lauren Korpi. “They ran well as a group. We’re closing in on them (Houghton), but they’re tough. The course had its challenges, although it was good conditioning for the Finals.”
Calumet’s Ilhan Onder placed ninth (16:35) and Chassell’s Ben Tuomi was 10th (16:42).
“Our boys are coming into their own,” said Guidotti. “We’ve had some good competition in the middle of the pack. Both of our teams love to compete. We’re very aware of the competition. Anything can happen.”
Area teams resume in Thursday’s WestPac meet at the Kilpela farm in Atlantic Mine.
West Iron County Invitational
At Iron River Country Club (2.8 miles)
Houghton 17, Gogebic 44, Chassell 88, Calumet 111, Hancock 148, Ironwood 150, Dollar Bay 175. Watersmeet, Ontonagon and Baraga NTS.
Top 10 — 1, Clayton Sayen, Houghton, 15:32; 2, Seth Helman, Houghton, 16:03; 3, Leif Odegard, Houghton, 16:10; 4, Isaiah Aili, Gogebic, 16:11; 5, Connor Jackson, Houghton, 16:12; 6, Joe Wood, Houghton, 16:28; 7, Cade Mazzon, Gogebic, 16:29; 8, Devon Byers, Gogebic, 16:30; 9, Ilhan Onder, Calumet, 16:35; 10, Ben Tuomi, Chassell, 16:42.
Chassell 27, Calumet 90, Houghton 93, West Iron County 98, Hancock 110, Dollar Bay 137, Gogebic 159. Baraga and Ironwood NTS.
Top 10 — 1, Clarity Gipp, Calumet, 18:56; 2, Lela Rautiola, Chassell, 19:18; 3, Anabel Needham, Houghton, 19:34; 4, Jenna Pietila, Chassell, 20:27; 5, Paige Sleeman, Chassell, 20:31; 6, Natalie Maxon, Dollar Bay, 20:45; 7, Gwen Kangas, Chassell, 20:51; 8, Bailey Poyhonen, Dollar Bay, 21:02; 9, Meg Hokenson, Chassell, 21:11; 10, Kieran Storer, Houghton, 21:14.