By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half
KINGSFORD — There appeared to be a sense of relief within the ranks of the Rapid River boys track team Saturday as it retained its Upper Peninsula Division 3 crown.
Rapid River edged Bessemer 108-104 for the title, but the teams were tied at 96 prior to the 1,600-meter relay.
Rapid River then secured the title by setting a meet record in the final race at 3 minutes, 34.52 seconds, topping the previous best (3:36.32) by Crystal Falls Forest Park run five years ago. Bessemer was runner-up (3:39.40).
“We really needed those points,” said senior Austin Wicklund, who anchored the Rockets’ 1,600 relay. “It feels great to win it in the last race. Our hard work paid off. Our first three legs were unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for a better lead.
“Going out this way is great. Thanks to Coach O (Steve Ostrenga) and his assistants. They got us well prepared.”
The Speedboys pulled even in the 3,200 as Adam Mazurek placed third (10:54.31) and Isaiah Aili took fourth (10:58.94).
Senior Jared Anderson, however, kept the Rockets from falling behind by taking fifth (11:02.33).
Bessemer started the day by setting a meet record in the 3,200 relay (8:29.88), beating the old mark (8:30.1) by Powers North Central in 2004.
“I really had to push myself,” said junior Brayden Tomes, who anchored the winning relay. “The clock read 8:25, and I knew I had to gut it out. It was really close.”
Rapid River junior Lucas Sundling captured the 400 (52.41), helped the winning 800 relay (1:35.41) and was runner-up in the 100 (11.96) and 200 (23.76).
“I wasn’t feeling the best early in the meet,” said Sundling. “I didn’t have a good start in the 100, but managed to catch up. This is my first year in the 100, so I guess I can’t be too disappointed.
“Our first handoff in the 800 relay was bad. Our coach said we could have been under 1:35 without that.”
Junior Luke Gustafson provided the Rockets with a first in pole vault at 12 feet, took the second leg of the 1,600 relay and helped them place third in the 3,200 relay (8:55.61).
“I’m happy to get first,” said Gustafson. “I wanted the U.P. record, but it didn’t work out. I was up and over the bar twice (at 13 feet), but hit it with my arm. I’m pleased with my day overall.”
Bessemer’s main strength was in the distances where Isaiah Aili took first in the 800 (2:07.35) and 1,600 (4:39.82). Cade Mazzon was runner-up in the 800 (2:09.06), and Uriah Aili took fourth in the 800 (2:10.59) and 1,600 (4:52.56).
Tomes won the 200 (23.34) and placed third in the 300 hurdles (43.25).
“I had a good start in the 200,” said Tomes. “I wanted to take advantage of the first 50 meters where the wind was on our back. I knew I had to give our team some points. Having the competition helped me get a better time.”
Third-place Pickford’s lone win took place in high jump on Nick Edington’s leap of 6-2.
North Dickinson senior Garrett O’Neil was a triple winner, taking the 110 hurdles (16.34) and 300 (41.97), and long jump (18-10).
“My starts were good, but the races didn’t go as good as I wanted,” said O’Neil. “I hit a couple hurdles in the 110s and landed on the wrong foot on two of the first three in the 300s. I was going for the school record, but landing on the wrong foot made that difficult. I just had to push through and get to the finish line.”
Lake Linden-Hubbell senior Brendan Middleton took the 100 (11.83) and anchored the winning 400 relay (46.76).
Ewen-Trout Creek junior Jake Witt won shot put (45-5½) and was runner-up in discus (129-3), both with personal bests.
“I’ve been working on the glide the past week,” said Witt. “I brushed up on my technique, and with a little help from our assistant coaches I learned how to use my lower body. I threw eight feet further than in the Regional (at Wakefield), which definitely gave me some confidence.”
Click for full results.
PHOTOS: (Top) Rapid River’s Luke Gustafson runs his leg of the 1,600 relay Saturday. (Middle) Bessemer’s Brayden Tomes stretches for the win in the 200. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)