U.P. prep runners, jumpers, throwers finally hit track

HOUGHTON – Not only was it the first competition of the Upper Peninsula track and field season at the Michigan Tech Indoor Invite on Thursday, it was the first real workout of the year for most of the participating teams.

The lack of a typical spring thaw has proved devastating for preseason preparation, with all local tracks still accumulating snow – including a “belly-deep depth” at Houghton according to boys coach Dan Junttila – that have reduced practices to stair routines, half-shoveled parking lots and some sprinting work inside the gym.

So it was a blessed relief for most runners Thursday to lace up on an appropriate surface for the non-scored meet.

“It is just nice to be able to get a workout in,” Lake Linden-Hubbell girls coach Gary Guisfredi said. “We haven’t had hardly opportunity to get outside, and when we do get outside it is on a side walk half filled with snow and wet or a street that’s full of gravel. A lot of our practices have been in the building because of the temperature and precipitation. So this has been a nice day to have the kids get a workout in that is competitive against other schools. They find out real early that they are not yet in shape for where they want to be.”

Unfortunately, there is little relief on the horizon with just a pair of indoor meets in Marquette next week inside the Superior Dome on the schedule.

“I have been in the area coaching track off and on for 33 years, and this is the first time that I can remember in 33 years that we have had this much snow at this time of the year,” Guisfredi said. “We have had heavy winters, but usually we get some sort of thaw in the spring, but we haven’t had that thaw yet. In 33 years of being involved in athletics, I think this probably tops them all.

“We are not going to have a local meet in April.”

The rust was evident Thursday with times nowhere close to approaching peak performance and several issues handing-off among the relay teams.

Still, the joy of actual competition was evident among the participating teams as cheering and support rang continuously through each race.

Just thankful to run on a real track, the Calumet supporters organized a full-bodied “Wave” around the final turn for their teammates in the 1,600-meter relay.

In the girls events, Marquette picked up wins from Lindsey Rudden in the 1,600 run (5 minutes, 31 seconds); Shayla Huebner in the 400 (1:04.3) and 800 (2:35.1); Liz Slagle in the 200 (29.44); Hunter Viitala in the high jump (4 feet, 10 inches); and Kirsten Iwanski in the shot put (32-2). The MSHS girls also won the 800 relay in 1:59.5 and 4:33.9 in the 1,600 relay.

For the MSHS boys, individual wins came from Cole Rieboldt in the 1,600 (4:52.1); Andrew Banitt in the 800 (2:13.2) and Brett Place in the 200 (25.12). The Redmen also won the 1,600 relay in 3:55.