Skyline track: Rockets hope to continue winning ways

ESCANABA – The Rapid River boys hope to continue their winning ways today when they visit North Dickinson for the Skyline Conference track meet.

Also entered are Forest Park, Carney-Nadeau, North Central, Bark River-Harris, Mid Peninsula and Republic-Michigamme.

Field events begin at 2 p.m.(EDT), with running events at 2:30.

Rapid River, which remained undefeated by winning last week’s Division 3 regional at home, placed third in last year’s meet.

“It was pretty close among the top four teams last year,” said Rapid River coach Steve Ostrenga. “The thing for us is the meet is at North Dickinson. Our seniors have been on a class trip this week. Obviously, they’ll be pretty tired from the trip. Hopefully, they can bounce back from that. We’ve struggled in the Skyline over the years. What’s good is you have to compete in different venues. We have to go on the road for the U.P. Finals, too.”

The Forest Park boys and girls have swept the league titles the past four years.

“Forest Park is real strong in the middle distances and has some excellent relays,” said Ostrenga. “North Dickinson is so strong in the hurdles and sprints and Brett Branstrom is a force for Mid Pen. Carney also has some strong middle distance runners. Plus, Superior Central and Cole Potvin (of Big Bay de Noc) not being there will impact the meet a little.

“North Dickinson runs a very efficient meet and we really appreciate that. They do a good job finding workers.”

North Dickinson is led by junior Tim Hruska and senior Ken Pekarek in the hurdles, with Hruska also a leader in sprints.

Rapid River’s leaders are senior Robert Metter (pole vault), juniors Jake Pearson (weight events and sprints), Hayden Hardwick (weight events) and Riley Pajnich (hurdles) and freshman Dan Blair (distance).

Besides Brett Branstrom in the weight events, others to watch are Mid Pen’s Chad Branstrom (high jump), North Central’s Travis Vincent (long jump), North Dickinson’s Cody Berg (shot put) and Jordan Neumann (sprints) and Forest Park’s Derek Aberly and Matt Wheat (middle distance), Chris Hilberg (high jump) and Steve Hallmann (weight events).

Mid Pen’s girls were runners-up in last week’s regional by a point (35-34) to Superior Central.

“I didn’t realize it was that close until I looked at the results,” said Mid Pen coach Julie Beauchamp. “I heard we were second, but I didn’t hear the points when they were announced.”

Mid Pen’s leaders are seniors Krysta VanDamme and Kelsey Shope (high jump and sprints), sophomores Hunter Branstrom (weight events) and Christine Hanson (middle distance) and eighth-grader Sarah Hanson (distance).

“Hunter is improving in shot and disc, and Brittany Salmi keeps getting better in pole vault in every meet,” said Beauchamp. “For the most part, we’re just trying to do what we normally do. For some of the girls, this will be a good conditioner for the Finals. It will actually be nice to have the meet on Friday before the Memorial Day weekend. We won’t have practice until Tuesday. Although, most of the kids are pretty good about working out on their own.”

The Forest Park girls are led by Mary Grandahl (sprints), Georgie Dohl (hurdles), Amanda Bustillos (distance) and Gina Graff (weight events).

Others to watch are Rapid River’s Neena Brockway (weight events) and Erin Anderson (middle distance), BR-H’s Alex Parrotta (high jump and sprints), Sydnie Petri (weight events) and Kim Palo (pole vault), North Central’s Sydney Campbell (high jump) and North Dickinson’s Deborah Starnes (pole vault).