Great Northern Conference track: Braves boys, Redettes aim for track dynasties

GLADSTONE – There will be plenty of activity at the Gladstone athletic field today, serving as host site for the Great Northern Conference track meet.

Field events begin at 2:30 p.m. Running events start at 3.

Joining the Braves are Escanaba, Menominee, Stephenson, Kingsford and Marquette.

Gladstone’s boys will try to retain their title, while the Marquette girls go after a seventh straight crown.

Both teams are fresh from earning Division 1 regional championships last Thursday at Esky.

“I think that absolutely gave us momentum, plus we’ll have a full roster,” said Gladstone boys’ coach Gary Whitmer. “There’s plenty of motivation for everybody. The kids who didn’t qualify for the U.P. Finals will want to prove something. This also gives our qualifiers a chance to get better.”

Gladstone senior Justin Pederson won three events in the regional, including the 100-meter dash in a school-record 10.78 seconds, and classmate Jared Vuksan won shot put at 52 feet, two inches and discus (140-7).

Providing competition for Vuksan in discus is Kingsford’s Hilding Beaudoin, who copped the regional title at Houghton at 142-7 and helped the Flivvers take the team championship.

“It looks like Kingsford will definitely be a challenge,” said Whitmer. “That’s good because we’ll get a chance to see them for the first time since the Dome meet (April 16). I know they always have speed and Menominee is strong in the 100 and hurdles. Marquette also has some speed and their distances are strong. It will be interesting between them and Escanaba in the distances, plus Stephenson has some good distance runners.”

Esky sophomore Eric Cousineau won the 3200 in the regional in 10 minutes, 13.92 seconds. He was followed by Marquette junior Cole Reiboldt, Esky senior Andrew Stenberg and Marquette freshman Lance Rambo, all within 10 seconds of the leader. Also in Thursday’s mix are Stephenson’s Ken Truitt and Connor Cappaert.

The Eskymos followed up with a victory in the 1600 relay, a race in which less than five seconds separated top from bottom and excited many of Esky’s other athletes.

“The kids are supporting each other very well,” said Esky coach Ryan Wender. “I’ve never said anything to them. They’re doing it on their own. The kids need to run the way they’re capable of running. Even in the things we’re good at, Marquette will also be there. There are some things we need to improve on. Our field events have a way to go, but they’re better than last year. Our main message to the kids is ‘compete and improve.'”

Others to watch are Gladstone’s Zach Sturdy (pole vault) and Chris Sedenquist, Kyle Kleiman and Riley Ballard (sprints), Esky’s Jake Walker and Jordan Ogren (middle distance) and Quinlan Hillesheim (hurdles), Menominee’s Bryan Hines and Tyler Harmon (hurdles) and Shaun Sullivan (sprints), Kingsford’s Cole Tengesdahl (sprints), Tyler Roberts (300 hurdles and 400 dash), Jacob Allen (middle distance) and Ryan Camp (pole vault), Marquette’s Alexander Gagnon and Stephenson’s Casey Wilson (sprints).

The Marquette girls are led by freshman distance ace Lindsey Rudden, who won the 800 (2:21.86), 1600 (5:15.2) and 3200 (11:53.21) in the regional.

Esky’s leaders are senior Holly Ettenhofer (pole vault and weight events), juniors Brittinie Larson (distance), Aubree Peterson (middle distance) and Lynsey Collins (hurdles and sprints) and sophomore Aimee Giese (distance).

“We’ll be back to regular scoring (points for six places), which I think helps us,” said Esky coach Dan DeLong. “We had a number of people take fifth and sixth in the regional. We want to see how we stack up in the relays and what kind of adjustments are needed for the U.P. Finals. “Obviously, Marquette is the heavy favorite. They have very few weak spots. It would take a real good effort on our part and a few mishaps on their part for us to have a chance to beat them.”

Gladstone’s leaders are seniors Jessica Young (weight events) and Andrea Starr (hurdles) and sophomores Iris Robare (long jump and 400) and Jaime Snowaert (pole vault).

“We’re looking forward to the conference meet,” said Braves’ coach Jim Murtha. “It’s nice to have it on our home track. We’ve been coming on lately. Our field events are getting better and our relays are improving. We’re heading in the right direction.

“Marquette is coming off a pretty dominating performance. They’re strong all over the track and in the field events.”

Others to watch are Marquette’s Shayla Huebner (middle distance), Hunter Viitala, Hanna Johnson and Tori Healy (hurdles), Kathleen Noblet and Cassidy Thomas (sprints), Esky’s Jayna LaVigne (sprints) and Kelcey Geyer (discus), Menominee’s Kameron Burmeister (distance), Stephenson’s Breanna Martin (pole vault) and Kingsford’s Carlee Benzie (long jump and sprints).