Gladstone 4th, Esky 6th, Bruce heads area runners

U.P. Boys Cross Country Finals

MUNISING — None of the area boys’ cross country teams were in contention for Upper Peninsula titles Saturday, but Adam Bruce was very much in the hunt for an individual championship.

The Gladstone junior placed fourth in the Division 1 race, covering the 3.1-mile course at Pictured Rocks Golf Club in 16 minutes, 39 seconds.

Houghton senior Clayton Sayen earned his first title at 16:25.7, edging Marquette senior Garrett Rudden by a step. Marquette’s Luke Rambo placed third in his final high school cross country race in 16:28.9.

“Adam stayed with the leaders until the three-mile mark,” said Braves’ coach Gary Whitmer. “They were all together at the last turn, but Adam said he didn’t have anything left in his legs. Rambo took off after the corner. Garrett then passed him and it become a foot race.”

The Gremlins were crowned champions for the first time in six years with 39 points. They were followed by Marquette 54, Sault Ste. Marie 98, Gladstone 113 and two-time defending champ Negaunee 119.

“This is just an unbelievable feeling,” said Sayen. “It was a great race. Garrett and Luke (Rambo) are amazing runners. Adam Bruce of Gladstone is also an awesome runner. I don’t know if I would have won if I didn’t have them pushing me. I knew it was going to be a battle and I gave it every ounce I could. Seth is an excellent runner. It’s great to have people like this to run with everyday. I can’t explain how well our team did today. This is almost like a dream come true. I love the pain. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Negaunee ran without senior and defending U.P. champion Colton Yesney, who’s nursing an ankle injury.

Gladstone junior Jake Strasler took eighth (17:23.9) and Escanaba senior Justin Sanpaka was 10th (17:34.3).

“Jake ran a real nice race,” said Whitmer. “He ran a 17:58 up here the first time (Sept. 26) and a 17:23 today. He had a nice season.”

Coach Randi Wender was happy with Esky’s overall performance.

“Luke LaFave was in the hunt for medaling and our two freshman boys ran their best times of the year,” she said. “The boys ran about as well as could be expected. The kids are excited about off-season training, which is a good sign. I think there was quite a bit of improvement from last year. I think they’re all pretty excited about that.”

In D-3, Brimley edged three-time defending champ Chassell on a tie-breaker for its first title. Each team scored 60 points and third-place Rudyard had 119.

Brimley sophomore Austin Plotkin retained his title in 17:08, followed by Cedarville sophomore Thomas Bohn (17:16.1) and Chassell junior Ben Tuomi (17:38.3).

“I ran the first mile in 5:20,” said Plotkin, who was clocked at 11:04.9 after two. “I don’t know what happened in the third. It felt like it was fast, only my time didn’t show it. Tom and I wanted to pace with each other. I set the pace for both of us and took off in the last 400 (meters). The first mile was right where we wanted it.”

North Central junior Griffin Johnson was the area’s pacesetter in ninth (18:22.7) and Rapid River sophomore Azariah Hernandez was 16th (18:54.8).

Gogebic, placing five in the top seven, captured its first D-2 championship with 22 points. The Miners were followed by three-time defending champ Ishpeming 36 and Ironwood 99.

The Miners and Ishpeming combined to take 13 of the top 15 spots.

Ishpeming junior Spencer Giroux was crowned champion for the first time at 17:03.1, followed by Gogebic senior Isaiah Aili (17:45) and juniors Uriah Aili (17:48.3) and Devon Byers (17:49.7).

“I didn’t really have a strategy,” said Giroux. “I just tried to run as hard as I could. I’m happy with how I ran. I think this is a confidence builder going forward. As a team, we’re a little disappointed. But it was a good day overall.”

Ironwood’s Nick Niemi was running second after the final final turn. The junior harrier, however, collapsed about 20 yards from the finish before ending in eighth (18:10.5).

Senior Phillip Hagenson was Manistique’s leader in 18th (18:55) and sophomore Alex Misniakiewicz was 20th (19:07).­­