Division 3 U.P. Track: Can anyone stop the Saints?

ESCANABA – An imposing task is in store for area Division 3 girls’ track teams as they head to Kingsford for Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Finals.

That task is to compete with heavily-favored St. Ignace, which captured the D-2 title the past three seasons.

The Saints, who dominated the Pickford regional on May 17, qualified in 15-of-17 events.

“They’re pretty good,” Mid Pen coach Julie Beauchamp said of the Saints. “They’re well rounded and have a lot of girls going. They could be intimidating to some teams, although there’s more competition in D-3 with more regionals.”

St. Ignace scored 78 points in the regional, followed by two-time defending U.P. champion Brimley at 41.

Superior Central defended its regional title at Rapid River by edging Mid Pen 35-34. Third-place Bark River-Harris scored 29.

The Cougars are led by junior sprinter Teslyn Tyner, who figures to be in the hunt for 100 and 200-meter and long jump championships.

Mid Pen’s leaders are senior Krysta VanDamme (weight events) and Kelsey Shope (high jump and 400) and eighth-grader Sarah Hanson (distance).

“I think we did pretty well in the regional,” said Beauchamp. “All those I expected to place did and have an opportunity to go to the U.P. Finals. The Skyline Conference meet (where the Wolverines placed fourth) also went pretty well. Some of the girls got their best times. That also gave us a chance to compete against teams we don’t see that often before the Finals. Our girls have been working hard on their events. Hopefully, it will pay off in the end.”

Rapid River senior Neena Brockway will try to defend her discus title, with BR-H’s Sydnie Petrie also in the hunt.

Also among those to watch is BR-H’s Alex Parrotta in high jump and sprints.

In the remaining regionals, Forest Park was crowned champion at North Dickinson and Bessemer won at Baraga.

The Rapid River boys captured their own regional with 53 points, well ahead of runner-up Mid Pen at 24.

Defending U.P. champ Pickford took its regional by edging St. Ignace 60-55. North Dickinson also copped its regional, with Bessemer prevailing at Baraga.

“There were a lot of points scored between Pickford and St. Ignace,” said Rapid River coach Steve Ostrenga. “North Dickinson, Pickford and St. Ignace look every tough. It looks like they’re the odds-on favorites, but you never know what a darkhorse might be able to do at the Finals. Our guys will have to run their best times. Plus, we need a few breaks to win it. We had a pretty good regional. Only, we would have liked to gotten a few more relays in.”

The Rockets, who qualified only their 3200 relay, are led by freshman Dan Blair in the distances.

Other leaders are senior and defending pole vault champ Robert Metter and juniors Jake Pearson (weight events and sprints), Hayden Hardwick (weight events) and Riley Pajnich (hurdles).

“The pole vault will be competitive because there’s a lot of guys coming in at 12 feet,” said Ostrenga. “Dan has been solid for us. There’s some nice distance runners in Division 3, and North Dickinson is going to place real high in the hurdles. We’ll just try to do the best we can.”

Also trying to defend titles are Mid Pen senior Brett Branstrom (discus) and Superior Central junior Tyler Kienitz (800).

Branstrom is the U.P. recordholder in discus at 154-8. He has since uncorked a school-record toss of 159-1 in the Mid Pen Small School Invitational on May 7 and set the school shot put record at 49-7 in last week’s Skyline Conference meet at North Dickinson. He’s also among the leaders in high jump with cousins Chad and Trey Branstrom.

Also in the title hunt is Big Bay de Noc junior Cole Potvin in the 400.