By John Vrancic
MANISTIQUE - Area cross country runners will be offered a change of scenery in Thursday's Manistique Invitational.
The second annual event is taking place at the Manistique Township Environmental Laboratory, approximately a mile west of the Schoolcraft County Airport.
The Gladstone girls and Munising boys were crown champions last year at Intake Park.
Thursday's meet starts at 4 p.m. with the junior high race, followed by the boys' varsity, girls' varsity and open/jayvee race. All races are 3.1 miles except the junior high event, which is 1.8.
Joining the Emeralds this time are Marquette North Star Academy, Munising and Munising Baptist.
"Our kids are looking forward to hosting this meet," said Emeralds' coach Laurie Lindstrom. "They're excited about running at home. We had a practice out there last week. The kids also brought rakes from home and raked the course. This will be a double loop around the lab. The footing is a little uneven. But the course is very flat and it's all in the woods."
Gladstone sophomore Iris Robare won a year ago, but the Braves have elected not to run in this year's event.
Possible frontrunners are Manistique's Holly Blowers and Darby Demers and Munising's Alyssa St. Amour, Anna Baij, Emily DesJardins and Diana Charbonneau.
Blowers has run in just one race this season, placing sixth in the Munising Invitational in 22 minutes, 21 seconds on Aug. 21. She had the flu and missed last Saturday's Newberry Invitational.
"Holly is a young, talented runner," said Lindstrom. "We're looking forward to learning more about her competing on the high school level. Darby has been consistent throughout her high school career and Holly provides support for her."
The boys' race may also prove interesting with Manistique senior Tyler Pomeroy and Munising freshman Brett Hannah as probable frontrunners, and Munising's Izaak Mahoski also in the hunt.
Pomeroy placed third at Newberry (17:50) and Hannah took eighth (17:31) in Division 4 in Saturday's Holly Invitational.
"Tyler and Bryson Lawrence came to me three years ago and wanted to start a cross country program in our school," said Lindstrom. "We ran as a club four years ago. Tyler ran in the Lake Superior Shore Run in Marquette that year and kind of got hooked. He, Bryson, Ryan Ramey and Darby laid the foundation for our program."