Cross Country: Esky boys triumph at Kingsford

IRON MOUNTAIN – Leigha Woelffer tried something new in Tuesday’s Kingsford Invitational cross country meet at Iron Mountain City Park.

The Gladstone High School freshman wore spikes in a race for the first time and it paid off as she placed second in the hilly 3.1-mile race at 21 minutes, 12 seconds.

“The course was slippery and the spikes helped a lot on the hills,” said Woelffer, who held off Marquette’s Calla Martysz for the runner-up spot. “I wasn’t expecting to do this good. I was just hoping to place in the top 10. I was surprised to see all the schools here.”

Marquette, which placed seven among the top nine, topped the 14-school field with 22 points. Runner-up Escanaba scored 76, followed by Houghton 79 and Gladstone 80.

“We have great team depth, and placing seven in the top nine shows a lot of depth,” said Marquette coach Dale Phillips. “We had a very good performance from a freshman (Hannah Detmers) who was put into a varsity meet and placed sixth (21:57). The other girls also picked it up.”

The Esky boys won with 40 points, followed by Marquette 71 and Houghton 105.

“It was a good day,” said Esky coach Jake Berlinski. “I’m real happy with where we’re at in terms of positioning for the end of the season.”

In the girls’ race, Detmers filled in for sophomore ace Lindsey Rudden, who was feeling under the weather and didn’t make the trip to Dickinson County.

Marquette freshman Amber Huebner won in 20:37, with Martysz third (21:16) on a day which runners were greeted by rainy and mild conditions.

“I hadn’t run in the rain before, but it was fun,” said Huebner. “What I think helps us is we practice a lot on hills. They still tend to make our times slower, but it’s all mental. You just have to push through it. We run as a pack and push each other. Lindsey especially pushes me a lot. We really enjoy running with each other. At first, it didn’t feel right without her. Then, I remembered Lindsey told me to win it for her before we left the school.”

Woelffer also didn’t mind the off-and-on rain showers.

“I was expecting it to be hot and muggy (as earlier in the day),” she said. “I was glad to run in the rain and not have the lightning with it.”

Gladstone coach Gary Whitmer came away impressed with Woelffer’s performance.

“It’s nice having Leigha up there,” he said. “She and Alyssa Polley had nice races and Sam Sailer had a nice finish. It was a close race for second (in the team standings). I think this is encouraging for our girls. It’s all about numbers and Marquette has a lot of tough runners. They also have an excellent tradition.”

The Braves ran without junior Iris Robare, who had other commitments.

Junior Aimee Giese placed fourth (21:48) for Esky, which ran in a meet for the first time since Aug. 29.

“The ending for me was pretty bad,” said Giese. “I wasn’t feeling good. I was worried about the heat this morning. Once the race started, I just focused on catching the girls in front of me. It was just a case of regaining the competitive edge. This is the first time I’ve run here. I really like the course, although the hills made it challenging.”

Marquette sophomore Lance Rambo won the boys’ race in 17:49, with Kingsford sophomore Nate Carey runner-up (18:03).

“I definitely think the downhills were a big factor,” said Rambo, who gained some separation in the last half-mile. “I like hilly courses, which made this one fun. There were so many people behind me who fell on the course. I probably should have worn spikes.

“I dedicated this race to one of my dad’s friends (Paul Butterfield) who died in a shooting downstate (on Monday).”

Esky junior Eric Cousineau placed third (18:26), followed by Stephenson junior Connor Cappaert (18:35) and Houghton’s Isaac Stone (18:46).

“We’re trying different paces with Eric,” said Berlinski. “I think he’s real comfortable with where he’s at. He’s set up to peak at the right time. Our freshman (Joey Wolfe) did real well. He placed seventh (18:55) for us, which was an outstanding effort on his part. He’s doing a great job.”

Marquette ran without its top runner, senior Cole Riebolt, who was playing in a high school soccer match Tuesday.

“We’re pleased with our boys placing second without Cole,” said Phillips. “Our boys aren’t as deep as our girls, but we have 7-8 kids who can help us if they’re healthy.”

Gladstone also ran without its pacesetter, senior Chris Sedenquist, who’s battling a foot problem.