Emeralds’ Blowers has shot at conference championship

ESCANABA – The Manistique Emeralds may not have enough cross country runners to contend for today’s Mid-Peninsula Conference team championship.

One of their runners, however, figures to be in the hunt for an individual title.

Sophomore Holly Blowers will lead the Manistique girls into the league meet, which starts at 4 at Strawberry Lake in Norway.

Other schools entered are Negaunee, Ishpeming, Westwood and Gwinn.

Blowers was third in last year’s M-PC meet at Negaunee, where the host Miners grabbed the top two places.

Negaunee’s Wyleen Kniola returns as defending champion and Clara Churchill was runner-up a year ago.

Blowers, however, finished ahead of both Sept. 24 at the Munising Invitational where she placed seventh in 20 minutes, 38 seconds (for 3.1 miles). Churchill took 16th (22:20) and Kniola was 19th (22:29).

“We’re pretty optimistic about Holly’s chances,” said Emeralds’ coach Laurie Lindstrom. “Holly has been working on pacing all season. I think she has learned in order to go faster, you have to go slower early in the race. Olivia (Holmberg) looks real strong, too. Our freshman Kelsey Dehke is also doing pretty well. Kelsey did real well in the Gladstone Invitational (on Oct. 1), where she ran a PR by about a minute.”

Also among those to watch is Norway’s Kyra Johnson.

The Negaunee girls are shooting for their fifth consecutive crown. The Norway boys won last season, but the Knights are rebuilding this year following heavy graduation losses.

“The Negaunee girls are definitely the team to beat and the Negaunee boys are probably the favorites,” said Lindstrom. “The Gwinn boys also have a pretty strong team.”

It appears Negaunee’s Grant Johnson and Keenan Gantz and Gwinn’s Alex Anderson are among the boys’ frontrunners.

Manistique is represented by seniors Robert Ayotte and Ryan Ramey.

“We’re hoping Robert will break 19 minutes and Ryan has been chasing the 20-minute mark all season,” said Lindstrom. “Ryan’s goal is to break that.”