Prep cross country: Negaunee boys, girls race to Mid-Peninsula Conference titles

NORWAY – Negaunee’s girls, a dynasty when it comes to Mid-Peninsula Conference cross country, added a fifth-straight league title Thursday at Strawberry Lake Park in Norway.

Negaunee’s boys may be ready follow the girls to great heights.

“The girls did very well,” Negaunee Coach Lisa Bigalk said. “We also had individual goals and most of them were met.

“They did what they needed to win the meet. That was most important.”

The Miners girls registered 39 points to best Westwood, 70; Norway, 75; Ishpeming, 76, and Manistique, 91.

Negaunee’s boys, with sophomore Grant Johnson and senior Keenan Gantz running one-two, chalked up 19 points in dominating the field. Runner-up Ishpeming posted 70 points, followed by Gwinn, 78; Norway, 108, and Westwood, 115.

“I think we were expected to win, but sometimes you put a target on your back,” Bigalk said. “They really performed above and beyond.

“Some of them really stepped it up.”

Six Negaunee boys placed in the top 10, with just the top five counted for the team score. In addition to Johnson and Gantz, Mark Anderson took fourth; Ethan Wallner, fifth; Zach Carlson, seventh, and Kapin Fox, ninth.

“In my four years this is our best team,” Ganzt said. “We have a lot of strong freshmen and Grant is a real good runner.

“The freshmen are really making this team. This is the best freshmen class we’ve had in a long time.”

Wyleen Kniola, two-time defending MPC champ, led the Negaunee girls with a third (21:33). Melanie Kniola (fourth), Freddi Gjerrild (sixth) and Rachel Ring (11th) also medaled.

Manistique sophomore Holly Blowers led from start to finish, notching a personal best time of 20 minutes, 39 seconds, over the 3.1-mile course.

“I wanted to get a good start and get a good distance from everybody,” Blowers said. “I wasn’t expecting a PR today. I haven’t been practicing and I was really surprised with my performance.”

Conflicts with volleyball have limited her cross country workouts. This was her final event of the season with a cousin’s wedding in Hawaii nixing her participation in the U.P. Finals on Saturday, Oct. 19 in Marquette.

“I was pretty happy altogether,” said Blowers, who finished third last year. “This is probably one of my favorite courses. I was expecting something different because I’ve never run here before, but I’ve heard stories about it’s really hilly. There was one big hill, but it evened out by going downhill.”