Division I boys track: Dominating Braves

ESCANABA – The field events have been a major strength of the Gladstone boys’ track team throughout this season.

That held true again Thursday as the Braves retained their Division 1 regional title with 66 points. They were followed by Menominee 43, Marquette 35, Escanaba 29 and Sault Ste. Marie 14.

Gladstone took first in all five field events, where they scored 41 points. They were led by senior Justin Pederson, who won took high jump at five feet, 10 inches and long jump (20-7) and classmate Jared Vuksan, who won shot put (52-2) and discus (140-7) and placed third in long jump (18-6).

“I’m pleased I took first in long jump, although I was hoping for a personal best,” said Pederson, who set the school record at 21-5 last season. “In high jump, we had the wind coming in toward us when we were jumping, and I think it caught everybody off guard. Although, I thought the weather was perfect.”

Pederson also won the 100-meter dash in a school-record 10.78 seconds, topping the previous best by Matt Petr (10.92) in 2005, and helped the Braves take second in the 800 relay.

“The 100 was a tight race,” said Pederson. “It was nice to have someone here to push you. Personally, I think I’m a little weak coming out of the blocks. But I can stride it out. Menominee had a big lead (going into the anchor leg) in the relay. I felt I closed the gap a little, but their lead was too big.”

The Braves grabbed all four spots in pole vault, led by senior Zach Sturdy’s leap of 11-6 and junior Chris Sedenquist won the 400 (52.24). The Braves also qualified three relays for the Upper Peninsula Finals by placing second in each.

“Our field events went real well,” said Braves’ coach Gary Whitmer. “Justin had a real good day and Jared did a nice job in the weight events and long jump. I think we’re sitting pretty good for the Finals. We’ll just have to see how we match up with the other regional. I really proud of the kids. We had a real good meet. The events in which we felt we could do well, the kids did great. Now, we have to make sure we keep everyone healthy.”

Esky finished the meet with an exciting victory in the 1600 relay (3:38.49), where less than five seconds separated top from bottom.

“We were seeded fifth in that relay,” said Esky coach Pat Gannon. “We were hoping just to move up one spot and qualify. The kids responded real well.”

Sophomore Eric Cousineau won the 3200 (10:13.92) and senior Andrew Stenberg placed third (10:18.97) for the Eskymos, who also won the 3200 relay (8:36.38). Marquette junior Cole Rieboldt was runner-up (10:14.85).

“Eric and Andrew attacked and tried to get some separation, and that’s what happened,” said Gannon.

Senior Quinlan Hillesheim, who helped the 1600 relay, placed third in the 300 hurdles (45.34) behind Menominee’s Bryan Hines and Tyler Harmon.

“I’m real happy for Quinlan,” said Esky head coach Ryan Wender. “I thought our kids competed real well. I’m real impressed with some of the personal-bests our kids ran today. This is the best we ran the 1600 and 3200 relays all year.”

Stenberg added a third in a tightly-contested 1600 (4:41.34). Marquette freshman Lance Rambo won that race (4:39.41), with Rieboldt runner-up (4:39.87) and Sault freshman Parker Scott fourth (4:42.81).

Andrew Banitt added a first for Marquette in the 800 (2:03.79), followed by Esky’s Jake Walker (2:05.91) and Jordan Ogren (2:06.75).