By Craig Remsburg
Marquette Mining Journal
NEGAUNEE - With a wind chill in the mid-30s, snow pellets and a gusty breeze of 16-25 mph, conditions at the Mid-Peninsula Conference Cross Country Meet were less than ideal Thursday.
Tyler Pomeroy of Manistique and Wyleen Kniola of Negaunee didn't let the weather bother them, however.
Pomeroy won the boys' individual title with a time of 18:07 on the Negaunee Township course, while Kniola came in at 21:12 to claim the girls' crown.
"I was freezing," Pomeroy said after successfully defending his M-PC crown by beating runner-up Matt Moilanen of Gwinn by seven seconds. "I have bad knees and the cold didn't help them at all.
Boys team standings: 1. Norway, 47; 2. Gwinn, 48; 3. Negaunee, 60; 4. Manistique, 66; 5. Westwood, 138; 6. Ishpeming, 152.
Medal winners: 1. Tyler Pomeroy (M), 18:07; 2. Matt Moilanen (G), 18:14; 3. Evan Fezatt (NEG), 18:30; 4. Derek Reetz (G), 18:42; 5. Bryson Lawrence (M), 18:47; 6. Justin Anderson (NOR), 18:49; 7. Steven Raboin (NOR), 18:50; 8. Grant Johnson (NEG), 18:57; 9. Mike Zygiel (NOR), 19:17; 10. Jacob Wetsel (NOR), 19:15; 11. Ryan Ramey (M), 19:16; 12. Alex Redlon (G), 19:16; 13. Zach Carlson (NEG), 19:19; 14. Alex Anderson (G), 19:20; 15. Randy Mueller (NOR), 19:20.
Girls team standings: 1. Negaunee, 54; 2. Westwood, 59; 3. Gwinn, 60; 4. Norway, 64; 5. Manistique, 118; 6. Ishpeming, 137.
Medal winners: 1. Wyleen Kniola (NEG), 21:12; 2. Clara Churchill (NEG), 21:55; 3. Holly Blower (M), 22:28; 4. Alexis Kallenbach (NOR), 22:52; 5. Anna Honkala (W), 22:59; 6. Gabby French (W), 23:28; 7. Makayla Mayo (G), 23:34; 8. Annie Bjork (W), 23:41; 9. Kyra Johnson (NOR), 23:52; 10. Sarah Bietila (NOR), 24:01; 11. Brittany Dunklee (G), 24:09; 12. Autumn Hedlund (G), 24:38; 13. Dani Anderson (NEG), 25:12; 14. Laura Thompson (G), 25:38; 15. Christine Leppanen (I), 25:50.
"I was surprised when it started hailing."
Norway won the boys' team championship by one point over Gwinn (47-48), with Negaunee coming in third with 60 points with top runner Keenan Gantz absent.
The Negaunee girls, meanwhile, claimed their fourth girls' title in a row with 54 points to runner-up Westwood's 59.
Pomeroy said he led the entire race, even when he lost his footing "a couple of times" on the muddy 3.1-mile course.
"It was very nerve-wracking," the senior said. "I didn't know where anyone was (around me). I was mostly worried about Matt. I tried to get as far away from him as I could.
"It's my senior year, so I was hoping to get (the title)."
Norway put four runners in the top 10, led by Justin Anderson and Steven Raboin in sixth and seventh, respectively.
"I'm very proud of the boys," Knights' head coach Rose Zygiel said. "I don't know if we've ever won a conference title before (none since 1976). I was hoping for a second or third place today, but we've been running well all year in a pack.
"Just to get that many in the top 10 was the key. Each of my runners pushed each other along the way."
Gwinn head coach Jim Morris was both happy and disappointed with his team's second-place finish.
"I'm very proud of the boys," he said. "We wanted to win this, but it just didn't work out.
"I'm hurt (though). I don't like to lose to anyone. I'd rather get beat by 100 points than one."
Negaunee's Kniola said she wasn't necessarily looking to place first.
"I was hoping to get second," she said, "but I started off first and pretty much stayed on top the whole time. I was happy how it worked out."
Kniola said Manistique's Holly Blower, who placed third with a 22:28 clocking, led "for about a hundred feet" midway through the race.
"But then I caught her on the hill," Kniola said, adding the weather "wasn't a problem" once she warmed up while running.
"When I got (to the course), it was hailing. My hands and face were cold, but I didn't notice the wind (while running) in the woods," she said.
Said Negaunee head coach Lisa Bigalk: "She has really turned it on and improved a lot. She's a very hard worker."
The coach also praised runner-up Clara Churchill of Negaunee, who posted a time of 21:55.
"She really stepped up and made sure no one else was in front of her," Bigalk said. "She had a huge improvement on her time.
"She was a key part in us winning that title."
The coach added "the girls gave an excellent effort. The tradition of being defending champs kept them going. They wanted to keep the streak going."