Division III boys track: Versatile Rockets take care of business

RAPID RIVER – Being favored doesn’t earn anyone an automatic victory. The Rapid River boys had to work for their 53 points as the host school at the Division III track regionals, Thursday. In the end, they left no doubt, taking home the regional trophy by a wide cushion. Mid Peninsula was runners up with 24 points followed by Munising at 23 and North Central 21.

Earning points from across the spectrum, the Rockets placed in 15 of 17 events and will send athletes to the U.P. Finals in 12 events.

“I saw some great efforts out of every one of those kids,” said Rockets coach Steve Ostrenga. “They ran different events for us, stepped into some relays they haven’t run before. They faced adversity and they came through it. I’m very appreciative.”

The Rockets’ leaders were Jake Pearson, who qualified in four events and Dan Blair who placed in three.

Pearson took first in the 100 dash, third in the 200 dash and second in the shot put and discus. His time in the 100 -11.42, was a new personal best as he continues to inch toward the school record, which Pearson believes is around 11.10.

“I’m getting down there. Hopefully sooner or later,” he said of his goal. “There was perfect wind for the 100 and 200 today, it was nice and warm.”

There was some drama in the 100 as Munising’s Lucas Gauthier was disqualified after a false start. Gauthier took first in the 200 dash.

Blair led off the Rockets winning 3200 relay team and placed second in the 1600 and 3200. Still, he wasn’t quite satisfied and remains hungry after being bested by Munising’s Brett Hannah in both events.

“I qualified, that’s what I wanted, but I could have done a little better. I have to get some more work in,” he said. “The Munising kid is tough. I got him once before, but he’s getting better, that’s for sure.”

Robert Metter, overcame some minor leg issues, and won the pole vault at 12 feet.

Ostrenga persevered through a stressful day himself, but as he looked back on what his team accomplished, he couldn’t help but feel proud.

“We had some guys qualify who were on the bubble,” he said. “John Stropich, as a freshman, qualified for pole vault and that was huge. Another freshman Shane Norbert qualified on low hurdles. He just got cleared to run a week and a half ago. Metter hurt his leg a little bit on the long jump and it cost him, he finished in fifth, but he made it in the pole vault, so that was good.

“There was a lot of work done behind the scenes from (athletic director) Rick Pepin, Paul Brunngraeber, I can’t thank him enough for helping coach discus and shot put, Kim Viau and Greg Rubick, I can’t do this without those people. We work together as one group effort.”

Big Bay de Noc’s Cole Potvin had a nice day, qualifying in four events. He finished first in the 400 dash, second in the 200 dash, third in the 1600 and finished in a three-way tie for third place in high jump. Potvin acknowledged it wasn’t his best day in any event, but said it all worked out anyway.

“Running the mile killed me for the 400, so I didn’t have a good time for that. Coach wanted me to place in both events,” he said. I probably did my worst ever on high jump also, but two other kids did the same thing. They’re sending five of us to U.P.’s.

Mid Peninsula nearly swept high jump, where it took the top three spots with Brett Branstrom followed by Chad Branstrom and Trey Branstrom. Brett Branstrom also took firsts in shot put and discus, where he has dominated for the better part of four years.

A darkhorse double-placer was Leroy Ward-Harbaum of Grand Marais-Munising Baptist. He became the small co-op’s fourth athlete to qualify for the U.P. Finals after winning long jump with a massive leap of 19-07.25 and taking second in the 100 dash.

Superior Central’s Tyler Kienitz won the 800 meter run, anchored the Cougars’ 3200 relay team that took second and led off the Cougars’ winning 1600 relay team.