XC: Cousineau, Esky triumph at Valley Spur

MUNISING – Junior Eric Cousineau reached a milestone while helping the Escanaba boys earn their fourth straight cross country title in Tuesday’s Larissa Vartti Cross-Country Invitational.

Cousineau earned his first varsity victory, covering the 3.1-mile course in 17 minutes, 25 seconds on the Valley Spur Cross Country Ski Trails.

He was followed by Menominee’s Davey Luplow (17:28), Stephenson’s Connor Cappaert (18:18), Kingsford’s Nate Carey (18:20) and Esky’s Gabe Ostrenga (18:25) on this cloudy, warm and humid day.

“This is a tough course, and I went out way too fast,” said Cousineau. “I’m surprised I was able to stay ahead. Hearing Davey right behind me inspired me to push through for the team. I’m very happy we won it as a team.”

The Eskymos, placing five among the top 13, scored 35 points. Runner-up Menominee had 92, followed by Munising 124, Ishpeming 139 and North Central 152.

“We had a nice opener,” said Esky coach Jake Berlinski. “The boys and girls both had a strong meet. Hopefully, this is just the start of things to come. The biggest point was to run well and stay healthy and we did that.”

Esky’s Jordan Ogren placed seventh (18:36), followed by Superior Central’s Nick Maki (18:44) and Esky’s Tyler Hardwick (19:08).

Munising sophomore Brett Hannah, who won at Newberry last Saturday, pulled a muscle in his sternum on Monday and was 11th this time (19:23).

Memoninee coach Suzi Merrill was pleased with Luplow and the Maroons taking runner-up honors.

“Davey had a great race,” she said. “He’s in better shape and more motivated this year. Actually, I’m shocked we took second here. Three of the six boys we had here are jayvee runners. They should be happy with that today.”

The Menominee girls won with 39 points, followed by Esky 49 and Munising 74.

Menominee senior Kameron Burmeister dominated in 20:17. She was followed by Esky junior Aimee Giese (21:36) and Manistique sophomore Holly Blowers (22:05).

“Kameron really went out fast,” said Giese. “I didn’t see her the whole race. Holly stayed with me until the last downhill, then I was able to surge and gain some separation. I slowed the pace a little in the beginning. Our coaches wanted us to have more left in the end.”

Blowers trimmed 20 seconds off her winning time at Newberry.

“Aimee is an excellent runner and I was trying to stay with her,” said Blowers. “At Newberry, I had nobody to push me. I was excited for this one. I felt this was good running weather. The heat was not a problem at all.”

Esky senior Aubree Peterson placed fifth (22:24), with teammates Isabelle Wellman sixth (23:25) and Michaela Bougie 10th (24:05).

“In a way, I wish I would have started a little faster,” said Peterson. “Although, our coaches’ goal for us is to win the third mile, and it’s helping a lot.”

Berlinski was impressed by the performance of Esky’s top runners.

“Aimee ran a real smooth race,” he said. “The heat and hills didn’t bother her. Aubree also had a real nice race. She’s in perfect position to lead us where we’re going.”

Menominee also got top 10 finishes from Lily Johnson, who was fourth (22:15), and Paige Reiswitz in ninth (24:01).

“We consider this a building year because we graduated four from last year,” said Merrill. “It’s encouraging that we were able to run with Escanaba. It seems like it’s always interesting between us.”