Cougars track looks to get started

EBEN – Recent weather conditions haven’t been suitable for track and field, but the Superior Central Cougars had a chance to open their season Thursday by hosting their own invitational at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome.

The boys placed fifth and the girls were eighth among 21 schools in last week’s Division 3 Dome Invitational.

“Teams were looking to get a meet in,” said coach Chris Messano. “That’s why the number of teams was so high.”

Gone from the girls’ team through graduation is Lauren Spranger, who collected four Upper Peninsula 400-meter and two 800 championships during her prep career and helped the Cougars win the 1600 relay at the U.P. Finals last spring.

The girls have 10 on their roster, including all four members of last year’s school-record setting 400 relay.

They include junior sprinters Vanessa Freberg, Mikayla Barrows, Brooke Pasanen and Teslyn Tyner, all of whom combined for a runner-up finish in the 800 relay Thursday at the Dome.

“That’s a pretty good core,” said Messano. “I think Mikayla could be a real good 400 runner. We also have a group of younger kids whom I think will step up. They play multi-sports. Many of them got a taste of success.”

Tyner also opened with seconds in the 100 (13.37 seconds) and 200 (28.62) and a third in long jump at 15 feet, one inch.

“We have a long jump pit, but we struggle in the other field events because our facilities don’t lend themselves to really train for those,” said Messano. “We always make do with what we have. Those are the challenges we face. Although, I think this will be a good year for the girls. I think we’ll be able to fill all four relays.”

The boys, who have 12 on their squad, are led by senior Tyler Kienitz and junior Tucker Spranger in the middle distances and sprinter Nick Maki.

“We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores whom I think are going to be pretty good,” said Messano. “I think we’ll have pretty decent 1600 and 3200 relays. But we’re looking to add some depth in the sprints.”

Maki was runner-up in the 400 (55.89) and third in the 200 (24.94) on Thursday. He also helped the Cougars win the 3200 relay and place fourth in the 1600 event. Joining him in those relays were Kienitz, Spranger and freshman Greg Seppanen.

Kienitz took third in the open 800 (2:15.19) for the Cougars, who are scheduled to resume in Friday’s Manistique Invitational.