BANAT – It was a tight cross country race from start to finish, but Escanaba junior Eric Cousineau found a way to prevail in Saturday’s Stephenson Invitational.
Cousineau covered the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 47.9 seconds, holding off Kingsford sophomore Nate Carey (16:48.3) and Ironwood senior Jared Joki (16:48.6) for the victory.
Munising sophomore Brett Hannah, who led the first 1 1/2 miles, slipped to fourth (17:07.4), with Stephenson junior Connor Cappaert fifth (17:20).
“I saw Brett and Nate battling it out in front of me,” said Cousineau. “They and the Ironwood runner had good races. They definitely pushed me. I wanted to open with a 5:10 mile, then pass the people in front of me.”
Esky swept both ends of the title on the Dale Fountain Memorial Cross Country Course, with the boys scoring 46 points. They were followed by Negaunee 98 and North Central 141.
The Esky girls had 42 points, followed by Hancock 67 and Gladstone 87.
“We had heck of a day,” Esky coach Jake Berlinski. “Hard work pays off sometimes. Eric ran a real smart race. This is a real good confidence boost going into the heart of our schedule. We had good practices over the past 10 days (since the Kingsford Invitational). The girls are finally getting healthy. In fact, both varsity teams came out of here healthy and happy.”
Carey decided to back off slightly in the beginning, a strategy which helped him run a personal-best time.
“I’m very happy to get under 17 minutes, even though I didn’t win,” he said. “I sometimes go out too fast. Today, I wanted to pace off Brett. Once I passed Brett, I paced off Cousy for a little bit. Then, he took off.”
Esky’s Gabe Ostrenga placed ninth (18:00). Teammate Joey Wolfe was 10th (18:03), with Jordan Ogren 13th (18:15).
North Central’s leader was Seth Polfus in 17th (18:21), followed by teammate Bryce Holle (18:24).
“I’m thrilled with third place,” said North Central coach Jerry Root. “This is the highest our boys have finished in this meet. I want to give credit to Josh Granquist and Tyler Bentley. These are two football players who helped us today. Our hard work and leadership is paying off. I think this makes us a legimate contender in the (Division 3) U.P. Finals, if we stay healthy. We also need to keep dropping our times.”
Menominee senior Kameron Burmeister dominated the girls’ race in 19:24. She was followed by Gladstone freshman Leigha Woelffer (20:28), Esky junior Aimee Giese (20:36), Hancock’s Abby Tembruell (20:51) and Ironwood’s Jessica Gering (21:00).
“I felt I kept a pretty good pace,” said Woelffer. “I did more speedwork this week, and I think it helped. I like this course and we had perfect weather conditions. I did a mile warm-up for the first time which also seemed to help.”
Giese was also pleased with her overall performance on this seasonably cool and blustery day.
“I’m a little tired today, but I’m pleased with the way I ran,” said Giese. “This was a big week with homecoming and everything. I was with Leigha a little bit, then she sprinted ahead. We did a little speedwork early this week, which I think helped us for the finish.”
Esky senior Aubree Peterson placed sixth (21:34), with Isabelle Wellman eighth (21:45) and Callie Heller 12th (22:03).
Sam Sailer became Gladstone’s second finisher in 13th (22:11).
“The girls are coming along,” said Gladstone coach Gary Whitmer. “We had a hard workout on Wednesday, and I think the kids are still feeling it. It was nice to see the course because the (Great Northern) conference meet is here. We had four girls medal and Leigha looked relaxed coming around the last corner. She really enjoys running and I think she’s only going to get better.”
In the jayvee races, Esky’s Jon Hook paced the boys (18:43) and Jerrika McAlpine topped the girls (22:51).