MHSAA Div. 3 track: Bessemer sweeps Baraga regional

BARAGA – Just qualify.

With four events Thursday and just two total outdoor meets prior to the MHSAA Division 3 Regional, that is all that was going through Vikings senior Shannon Fish’s head as she competed in the high jump, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 200 dash.

Whether it comes in first or fourth, qualify for U.P. Finals and this bizarrely abbreviated track season will possibly right itself with a shred of normalcy. Get through the Regionals successfully, and then the real goals can be accomplished.

Likely summing up how many competitors felt Thursday, Fish nailed it, placing first in the short hurdle run, with a second place in the high jump and 300 hurdles and a third place finish in the 200 to boot. The Bessemer girls won the meet with a 59 team score, though area teams Baraga (41) and Ontonagon (39) were around the podium all day too, sending a significant amount of athletes to Kingsford for Finals on June 1.

The Bessemer boys (73), won handily as well, with Ontonagon (23) taking fourth and Baraga (15) fifth.

“Really, my entire goal was just to get through today with a fourth or better in each event,” Fish said. “We have only been practicing outside for like two weeks now – and our second outdoor meet of the year was just this Tuesday – and I felt if I could just get through Regionals, I could begin to prepare for the real season, you know?

“It is just a big relief. I’m so happy.”

With four total events and three of them distinctly separate skill sets, Fish said it has been hard to find time to adequately practice each since the snow melted.

The Baraga senior was just trying to scrape by for Regionals before devoting a more comprehensive plan for U.P. Finals on June 1. Thus, 300 hurdles – which might be her best event – was somewhat neglected as she trained for the 200 and kept her focus on the high jump where she is searching to break the school record with a 5-2 clearance. She hit 5-0 Thursday, just missing the record when her lower back scraped the bar.

“It’s been tough kind of juggling (four events),” Fish said. “I put in about 10 high jumps a day, which is the most you are supposed to do to avoid shin splints. And I have been working on my 200 with (boys) sprinter Taylor Lindemann (who finished second Thursday). He has really been helping me with my kick at the end. But my 300 hurdles has kind of been left out so far. I’ll have to get back to that.”

Ontonagon boys sprinter Aaron Kaikko echoed Fish’s goal of just trying to qualify.

Kaikko won the 400 by a hair Thursday, edging Bessemer Speedboy Jess Mazzon by 0.31 seconds at the finish line with a 55.61 time. Kaikko also qualified in the high jump with a 5-6 leap.

“I could feel him coming up on me in that last stretch, and I didn’t know if it was just him or what, so I just went all out,” Kaikko said. “It was a good race.

“I’m hoping for a top three finish (at Finals), and I think a 53 second time would be good enough. Still have some work to do.”

Jeffers will be sending a pair of distance runners to Finals as freshman Lindsey Johnson won the 1600 and Amanda Mattila enjoyed a wide-margin-of-victory in the 3200.

Johnson took her 1600 lead over Bessemer’s Molly Wieringa early in the first lap and never gave it back despite a solid push from Wieringa over the final 400 meters.

Just for kicks, Johnson also qualified with a third place in the discus, something she “just decided to try this year for fun.”

“It will be my first time (at Finals) so I am really excited,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to go out strong today.

“At Finals I’m hoping to crack six minutes.”

Other notable finishers include Ontonagon’s Lori Wardysnki, who won the 300 hurdles and placed in the 100 hurdles, 100 and long jump, and Gladiator Tony Soumis, who won the 200 and took third in the 100.