Inch makes the difference

KINGSFORD – With more than a hundred events held Saturday in Kingsford, including upwards of 70 on the track with dashes, runs, hurdles and relays, it’s no surprise there were at least a few photo finishes.

During the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Finals for track and field, the photos were supplied by Superior Timing of Marquette, which also recorded all the times for six full track meets – separate boys and girls meets in Divisions 1, 2 and 3.

The first really close call came in the Division 3 boys 110-meter high hurdles, where Andy Cooper of Munising was declared the winner by a hundredth of a second over Tim Hruska of North Dickinson.

Actually, that hundredth might’ve been added on to differentiate the two racers, since they were that close.

Race officials soon after the race said their examination of the finish-line photo showed that when Cooper’s lunge reached the finish line, Hruska was one inch behind.

It allowed Cooper to deliver the maximum four first-place finishes in the Mustangs’ D3 team victory.

Later it got even closer. In the Division 2 boys 800 relay, officials couldn’t find any difference between Westwood and St. Ignace for first place, even after bringing in several extra officials from other places on the track to look at the pictures.

So they had to declare the teams co-winners of the event. If Westwood would’ve earned the first-place spot, they would’ve moved up from fifth place to a tie with the Saints for fourth place in the final team standings, too.

Records broken

A pair of sophomores broke U.P. Finals records on Saturday, each in the 1,600 run in Division 1.

On the girls side, Marquette’s Lindsey Rudden clocked 4:55.28 to break her own record she set as a freshman in 2013 of 5:05.50. It also gave her a nearly 20-second victory over freshman teammate Amber Huebner.

Then for the boys, Parker Scott of Sault Ste. Marie finished in 4:18.09 to shatter the record of 4:22.3 held by Jamieson Cihak of Marquette in 2002. Scott held off another sophomore, the Redmen’s Lance Rambo, by 16 seconds for his victory.

These are records for D1, though they are also the fastest regardless of division in the U.P. Finals. The fine print with the records list, however, shows they only go back to 2001 when the U.P. Finals changed from classes into divisions to split up the teams. Officially, the MHSAA has retired the class records.

Another source, though, the 32-page program distributed Saturday, has class records for the U.P. that date back to at least 1970, the oldest of the records listed.

Before that at some point, events were run using yards and those records aren’t readily available. Even if they were, it is rather questionable trying to convert yards to meters anyway.

The class records show Rudden is the first girl to run a sub-five-minute 1,600, commonly known as the “metric mile.” The previous fastest time was by Krista O’Dell of Escanaba with 5:00.1 in 2000 in Class A.

Scott can also make the same claim for the boys, but with a much smaller margin, as Westwood’s Pete Remien clocked 4:18.63 in Class C in 1998.

A handful of other competitors made quality runs at records, too. They include Scott in the D1 boys 800, with a 1.58.59 just missing the 1:58.06 record.

From the area, there’s Kevin O’Keefe of Negaunee in the D1 boys 200, 22.60 compared to the record 22.46 seconds.

For D2 boys, Noah Olgren of Ishpeming in the pole vault, his mark of 12-feet compared to the record 12 feet, 6 inches.

And in D3 boys, Cooper clocked 40.77 seconds in the 300 hurdles compared to that record of 40.42.

Weather not so hot

A number of athletes, particularly girls, collapsed on the track at the conclusion of their races, most likely due to almost cloudless conditions and temperatures well into the 80s all afternoon.

“I don’t like this heat,” Westwood hurdler Vinny Carlson said after coming in second in the D2 boys 110 high hurdles in 16.20 seconds. “It makes me tired and I get drowsy. It’s hard to run a race like the 110 (hurdles) like that.”

Teammate Caitlin Hewitt agreed.

“I don’t think I ran my best race because of this heat,” she said after winning the D2 girls 100 hurdles in 16.89 seconds. “You just have to make sure you gets all the water you need.”

Rudden, who didn’t collapse but was also really knocked down physically after her record-setting 1,600, missed the 400 about an hour later despite her being the No. 1 seed in the event.

She said that after having some pretzels and an electrolyte drink that it really perked her up and allowed her back for the 800 about another hour after that.

A kicker who can sprint

Northern Michigan University football recruit Ryan LaBerge of L’Anse might get some extra special-teams time on the gridiron after his performance Saturday.

The 5-foot-9, 145-pound Purple Hornets senior signed as a kicker with the Wildcats in early February, but maybe he’ll see some return time too after winning the D2 boys 200 dash in 23.33 seconds, exactly three-tenths of a second ahead of another heralded senior, Ryan Ramey of Manistique.

LaBerge had a full day, also running with his school’s fourth-place 400 and 800 relay teams and placing fifth in the long jump. He helped his team pick up 20 of its 42 points that landed L’Anse in sixth place.

“The 200 was the one I had circled as my big one today,” LaBerge said.

In answer to a possible spot on kick return or punt return teams at NMU, he said, “Hey, whatever they need me to do, I’m game.”

LaBerge, who was a transfer from Houghton midway through his high school days, also punted and played quarterback for the Hornets.

Freshman 2nd-year finalist

Freshman Michaela Peramaki of Munising won the D3 girls pole vault by clearing 9-feet, the second straight year she scored points in that event at the finals.

She’s one of the rare athletes who could compete and did place at the finals as an eighth grader. That’s because in 2013 she was a member of the Grand Marais/Munising Baptist team that even as a cooperative was small enough in enrollment to allow eighth graders to be on the team as full members.

Peramaki also came in fourth in both the 100 and long jump this year. Last year, she was fifth in the pole vault, third in the long jump and sixth in the 100.

A former teammate, senior Leroy Ward-Harbaum of Grand Marais, participated with Newberry and won the D2 boys high jump by clearing 5-8 with fewer misses than Bobby Zhulkie of Ishpeming.

Grand Marais had a cooperative agreement with the nearest school to their east this season. Via M-77 and M-28, it’s about a 45- to 50-mile drive to Newberry, versus a 60-mile trip to Wetmore where Munising Baptist is.

Steve Brownlee and Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500; Brownlee at ext. 246, Remsburg at ext. 251. Email them at