MARQUETTE - The Manistique High School cross country program is one of the newest in the Upper Peninsula, now starting its third season as a varsity sport.
And the Emeralds currently don't have enough athletes to come up with an official team score for either its boys or girls teams at regular meets.
But that didn't stop the Schoolcraft County visitors from taking a couple of the top places at the Marquette Senior High School Relays held at the school on Friday morning.
Rather than the usual individual scoring, teams of two runners alternated miles to come up with a six-mile time and score for their schools.
Marquette won both meets, dominating the girls side as Lindsey Rudden and Calla Martysz broke the girls course record by 33 seconds in 36:19.
But Manistique came in second with its only two girls, senior Darby Demers and freshman Holly Blowers, working together nearly 3 1/2 minutes back in 39:44.
And half of its boys roster teamed together to win that race as seniors Tyler Pomeroy and Bryson Lawrence finished in 33:59, 13 seconds ahead of runners-up Lance Rambo and Alex Wyble of Marquette.
The other two Manistique runners - Robert Ayotte and Ryan Ramey - had a solid seventh-place finish as well in 35:16.
"We just got word from the (Manistique) school board this summer that we're back as an official school sport, so I'm hoping to recruit a few more students from our school to join the team when school starts," Emeralds coach Laurie Lindstrom said.
Pomeroy and Lawrence were proud to say they were the instigators for getting cross country its varsity status at the school.
"We asked Coach Lindstrom about getting it as an official sport," Lawrence said. "We had a cross country club when we were freshmen."
Marquette scored 17 points in the boys race, scoring with its second-, sixth- and ninth-place teams, with Negaunee second with 28, Manistique third with 33 and Gwinn and Munising tying for fourth with 39. They were followed by Ishpeming with 49, Westwood 61 and North Star Academy 63.
On the girls side, Marquette had a near-perfect eight points, adding third- and fourth-place finishes, while Negaunee was second with 39 and Munising third with 41. Gwinn was next with 46, followed by Manistique 47, Westwood 49 and Ishpeming 63.
Unlike the relatively new program at Manistique, Marquette has long-time leadership in its coaching as Dale Phillips is in his 36th year as either head or assistant coach. Currently he's head coach for both boys and girls teams.
"We couldn't have done much better for this being our first meet," Phillips said. "We've been planning for this, since we practice mile repeats, but we do have three or four of our returnees on the injured list right now."
Amazingly, both MSHS teams are being led by some of its youngest athletes.
Rambo and Wyble are among seven freshmen on the 10-member boys team, along with Marquette's next fastest boys on Friday, sixth-place Nick Tuma and Leighton Locke.
For the girls, Martysz is a sophomore and won several meets last season while finishing fifth at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 finals.
But she claims Rudden, her freshman partner Friday, was the stronger runner in setting the course record.
"It's her," she said pointing to Rudden when asked who posted the fastest times. "We were just trying to focus on our times and we hoped it would be good enough to set the (course) record."
"And it helps running with the boys," Rudden said. "I was trying to keep up with them."
Usually girls races are run separately, but at this event all runners were on the course together.
And if this Redette pair had been competing against the boys, they would've finished ninth. There was also a bigger time gap between themselves and the girls runners-up than between themselves and the boys winners.
"I heard one boy say under his breath I don't want no girl beating me," Rudden said with a laugh.