RAPID RIVER - The elements have furnished tough opposition for area track teams this spring, Rapid River included.
Rapid River and at least 20 other schools are about to pull one over on Mother Nature, however, by competing in Thursday's Superior Central Invitational at 1 p.m. inside Northern Michigan University's Superior Dome.
"The weather is definitely impacting everybody in all sports," said boys' coach Steve Ostrenga. "It has been a frustrating thing, but we're blessed in that we have a nice school to run in and parking lots to run on when it's a little warmer outside."
The boys have 28 on their squad, including eight seniors.
"I'm thankful we have that many out," said Ostrenga. "Some of the younger guys are coming on. They're ready to compete right now."
Leading the list of seniors is defending Upper Peninsula Division 3 pole vault champ Robert Metter, also entered in long jump and sprints.
April 18 - at Marquette (Superior Dome); April 23 - Big Bay de Noc, Superior Central, Mid Peninsula, Bark River-Harris; April 25 - Delta County Invitational at Escanaba; April 30 - CUP meet at Mid Peninsula.
May 3 - at Stephenson; May 9 - Rapid River Invitational; May 10 - at Gladstone; May 14 - at Bark River-Harris; May 16 - D-3 regional; May 22 - jayvees at Bark River-Harris; May 24 - Skyline Conference at North Dickinson.
June 1 - U.P. Finals at Kingsford.
Joining him are Eli Orth (sprints and possibly field events), Riley Pajnich (hurdles), Zac Dominique and Chris Morgan (weight events), Tyler McGuigan (distance) and Zac Dominque and Geno Constantino (middle distance), who's coming off a knee injury from last year.
"We have some nice leaders," said Ostrenga. "The seniors have certainly improved over the years."
Top juniors include Hayden Hardwick and Steve Lippold (weight events) and Jake Pearson (sprints, middle distance and/or weight events).
Leading sophomores are Mike Casey (sprints), Steve Johnson (hurdles) and David Hough (distance).
"The kids are working real hard, and I'm real happy about that," said Ostrenga. "We have several sophomores and juniors who have shown improvement. The freshmen are also improving."
The girls have 17 on their team, led by defending U.P. discus champion Neena Brockway, one of four seniors.
"Neena has been throwing the disc well in the school parking lot," said coach Greg Rubick. "She's obviously going to be a key player for us and the softball team. We have (a total of) five girls on this team who are also playing softball. They're practicing from 3 to 7:30 every night for about 2 1/2 months. To go through the rigors of both seasons and wanting to represent their school speaks volumes for them. Both programs are demanding. Although, this is not new to us."
Remaining seniors are returner Kristy Kerstner in three relays and long jump and newcomers Mia Hill and Paige Jensen (distance).
"Paige and Mia have been longtime runners," said Rubick. "It's good to have them finally come out for track. We convinced them to come out and compete and have fun. It will be fun to see them compete for the first time."
Juniors include Erin Anderson (sprints) and Hannah Micheau (hurdles).
Leading sophomores are Rachel LaCosse, Lydia Froberg and Valerie Viau (sprints), Aslynn Brockway (weight events) and Taylor Hedges (middle distance).
Promising freshmen include hurdlers Hayley Brockway and Shannon Gould.
"With the sprinters, we'll be able to fill relays," said Rubick, who has been with the school's track program since the 1990s. "We're also hoping to get enough middle distance runners to fill the 3200 relay, and we need help in the field events.
"This has been a very unique three weeks (of practice) due to weather conditions, but the girls haven't let it get the better of them. I've probably never been more pleased with the work ethic."