By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half
FLAT ROCK — Marquette High School’s Lindsey Rudden has excelled in track and cross country throughout her prep career.
The senior harrier has earned her share of Upper Peninsula Division 1 titles in track, but hadn’t won at the U.P. Cross Country Finals prior to Saturday.
That all changed on a cloudy, rainy and breezy day at Beauchamp’s Grove as she captured her first MHSAA cross country championship, covering the 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes, 59.8 seconds.
She was followed by Negaunee sophomore Clara Johnson (19:05.8), Westwood senior Katie Etelamaki (19:09.6), Sault Ste. Marie sophomore Mackenzie Kalchik (19:21.6) and Marquette senior Holly Blowers (19:27.4).
“It’s overdue,” said Rudden, who plans to run at Michigan State University next fall. “The second mile was real fast. We were pushing each other. It’s pretty humid, which made it hard to breathe. The course was pretty muddy in the first mile; otherwise it was pretty solid.”
The Marquette girls the team title won for the third consecutive year, edging Sault Ste. Marie 40-49. Negaunee placed third with 97 points, followed by Calumet 115 and Houghton 131.
“All the girls ran well in tough conditions,” said Marquette coach Dale Phillips. “I’m happy for Lindsey. This definitely takes a weight off her shoulders. This is a nice addition to her resume. Holly ran a nice race and I think Becci (McNamee) had a personal best. Our fifth and sixth girls (Chloe Henning and Samantha Borzick) also ran their personal bests, which was a big help.”
Johnson’s strategy was to stay with Rudden as long as she could.
“She (Rudden) is really good,” said Johnson. “I hung with her for nearly two miles. I didn’t have enough to stay with her all the way, but I thought it was worth a try. I thought Katie (Etelamaki) also ran real well. I’m glad I got to race with her all year. She was really closing the gap in the end.”
Kalchik ran a personal-best time, helping her move up a place from last year’s Finals.
“I didn’t want to go out too fast,” said Kalchik, who got sick after two miles. “I felt pretty rough, but just pushed through it. The girl from Marquette (Blowers) was coming up on me. It was hard. I felt good coming in here, knowing the competition. I had a better idea what to expect.”
This also marked a personal best for Blowers, who had hoped to break 19 minutes.
“This is not what I was hoping for, but we were working as a team,” she said. “I wanted to do it for the team. We have great girls on our team and great competition. I’m going to miss this so much.”
Sault Ste. Marie’s Megan Arbic placed sixth (19:32.2) and teammate Courtney Arbic took eighth (19:45.9).
“It went great,” said Sault coach Jim Martin. “Our top five girls ran lifetime bests by 20-30 seconds. They just went out and ran like they wanted to be on the podium. I’m real happy for them.”
Gladstone junior Leigha Woelffer, who was crowned champion a year ago, took 10th this time (20:19.8). Etelamaki also was seeking her second individual title after winning the Division 2 race in 2014.
Ishpeming was a repeat champion with 31 points. The Hematites were followed by Hancock at 49, Gogebic at 83, St. Ignace at 89 and Norway with 118 points.
“I’m pleased to see our boys and girls both win,” said Ishpeming coach P.J. Pruett. “This is only the fourth time the Ishpeming girls were U.P. champions. It happened in 1979 and ‘80 and now last year and this year, and our boys were pretty dominant.”
Ishpeming junior Khora Swanson earned top individual honors at 20:56.2, followed by Hancock’s Taylor Pertile (21:15.2), teammate Mariah Bertucci (21:44), Gogebic’s Melissa Wanink (21:45.4) and Hancock’s Madisyn Wright (21:46.4).
“I’m pleased with my time,” said Swanson. “I just worked hard today. We had to get our points by catching people in front of us. I’m just happy we won as a team.”
Chassell edged Munising 67-69 for its second straight Division crown, followed by Cedarville at 92, Dollar Bay at 105 and Brimley at 114.
“Sticking to the basics and believing in themselves were the keys to our victory,” said Chassell coach Marco Guidotti. “They were up to the challenge. They really like competing in the West-PAC (West Peninsula Athletic Conference). Competition in our conference is strong year in and year out.”
Newberry senior Natalie Beaulieu won the Final for the second straight time in a school-record 19:24.5. She was followed by Chassell senior Shitaye Sam (19:46.6), Munising sophomore Alyssa Webber (19:57.4), Cedarville’s Emma Bohn (20:55.7) and Brimley’s Lauren Halvorsen (21:30).
“I made my move at the mile mark and started to get some separation,” said Beaulieu, who ran the first mile in 5:51. “I was a little concerned at first because I thought I may have gone out too fast. But I knew where I needed to go, and the hills were then my only concern. I just tried to stay in my pace.”
Click for full results.
The MHSAA Cross Country Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.
PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette’s Lindsey Rudden (left) runs stride for stride with Negaunee’s Clara Johnson before breaking away for the Division 1 championship. (Middle) Ishpeming’s Khora Swanson sprints the stretch in first place in leading the Hematites to their second straight title. (Below) Newberry’s Natalie Beaulieu won her second straight individual title in Division 3, while Chassell’s Shitaye Sam led her team to its second straight team championship. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)