FLAT ROCK — Thirty-two years had passed since a Negaunee boys cross country team was last crowned Upper Peninsula champion.
The Miners, who were competing in Class C in 1983, changed that Saturday by earning their first Division 1 title in convincing fashion with 43 points.
“Our guys really wanted it,” said Negaunee coach Lisa Bigalk. “They went out and attacked. This was such an incredible season. The guys didn’t have an off day all year. This is a real close team. They stayed together and helped each other through. Hopefully, this will help us attract more guys into our program. This should motivate them for next season.”
Marquette senior Lance Rambo won the individual title for the second time in three years, covering the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 11 seconds at Beauchamp’s Grove in rural Delta County.
He was followed by Negaunee sophomore Colton Yesney in a personal-best 16:32.5 and Escanaba junior Joey Wolfe (16:49.4)
“I probably could have gone a little faster, but I just wanted to absorb everything in the last half-mile,” said Rambo. “Colton ran a great race. He was so happy to get second and Logan (Zueger) really stepped up for us. … Our team didn’t have its best race, but I love this course. I really appreciate Gladstone putting on this meet.”
Kingsford senior Nate Carey, who came in as defending champ, took fourth this time (16:52). He was followed by Calumet’s Mitch Delong (16:52.3), Zueger (17:06) and Negaunee’s Ethan Wallner (17:09).
“I’ve had a great four years and a great season overall,” said Carey. “Lance is the best runner in the U.P. right now. The top five runners were tough.
“I was running today for Mia Dalner (Iron Mountain seventh-grader) who had medical issues and passed away last week.”
Ishpeming, placing five runners among the top eight, retained its title with 28 points. Gogebic edged Powers North Central 61-62 for the runner-up trophy. Fourth-place Ironwood had 81, followed by Hancock with 133.
Gogebic senior Sam Dean earned his first individual title in 17:14.8, followed by Ishpeming freshman Spencer Giroux (17:22.5), Ironwood freshman Nick Niemi (17:30.4), North Central senior Bryce Holle (17:58.3) and Ishpeming’s Derek Mahoski (18:11.9).
“I wanted to go out with the fast group to see what that was going to be like today,” said Dean. “You just have to go out hard and hang on. In the last mile, the wind picked up and the rain came down hard, which made it a challenge. I just needed to be strong and go for the win. It feels good to win this race and for our team to take runner-up. Most of the race was good, but the course was muddy in different spots and it got chewed up a little.”
Niemi had similar thoughts.
“Getting a fast start was a key,” he said. “You have to get out fast and settle into a pace. The temperature (in the mid 50s) was real nice, but it started to get windy and the rain was coming right at you. My goal was to get into the top five, and I ended up with a personal-best time.”
Ishpeming junior Daren Giuchin, who helped the Hematites beat Gwinn in football Friday night, became the first gridder to place in the Division 2 Final.
“It’s crazy and tiring,” said Guichin, who took sixth in 18:17.3. “I didn’t think I’d be able to do it because I’m a little banged up from last night, but I came through.”
Chassell became a repeat winner with 51 points, followed by Dollar Bay with 69, Cedarville 96, Munising 134 and Stephenson 141.
Munising senior Brett Hannah retained his title (16:52.3) after also winning as a freshman in 2012 and senior Michael Brown recorded the highest finish ever for a Marquette North Star Academy runner by taking second in a personal-best 17:48.5.
Chassell’s Abraham Gockenbach was third (17:54.5), followed by Dollar Bay’s Brendan LeClaire (18:10) and Jacob Iacono (18:10.7).
“Our boys and girls winning for the second straight year is absolutely great for our program,” said Chassell coach Marco Guidotti. “The kids ran for each other. We’ve been back and forth with Dollar Bay all year, our girls especially. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but the kids worked together and made it happen for themselves.”
The MHSAA Cross Country Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.
PHOTOS: (Top) Munising's Brett Hannah breaks away from the Division 3 pack to claim his second individual title in four seasons. (Middle) From left, Escanaba's Joey Wolfe, Negaunee's Colton Yesney and Marquette's Lance Rambo were the top finishers in Division 1. (Below) Gogebic's Sam Dean rounds a bend on the way to winning the Division 2 title. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)