Skyline champs

Mid Pen girls, Munising boys capture conference crowns

North Central’s Griffin Johnson, shown racing in last Thursday’s Gladstone Invitational, finished runner-up Wednesday in the Skyline Central Conference boys’ race in Munising.

MUNISING — It was an exciting day for the Mid Peninsula girls’ cross country team Wednesday as it squeezed past Munising 42-43 for the Skyline Central Conference championship.

Third-place Stephenson scored 72 points and Superior Central took fourth at 79.

This marked the first conference title since 1996 for Mid Pen when it was crowned Central U.P./Skyline champion. Munising won the Skyline Central the past two years.

“That was a very good effort by our girls,” said Mid Pen coach Mark Branstrom. “They kind of surprised me with their attitude when they started out. They were very intense when they took off. Our third, fourth and fifth girls did the job. We have an eighth-grader (Landry Koski) who’s part of a conference championship team and Daisy (Englund) has a sore ankle and isn’t 100 percent. They’re a good group. I can’t say enough about them. I don’t know how much we were expecting it. But every meet we go to, we’re right there.”

Koski placed third, covering the 3.1-mile course at the Pictured Rocks Golf Club in a personal-best 20 minutes, 50 seconds. Englund took fourth (21:03) and Superior Central sophomore Danika Walters was fifth (22:24) on this sunny and mild day.

Munising’s Madeleine Peramaki, shown in the Gladstone Invitational, finished first Wednesday in the Skyline Central girls’ race.

“I tried to stay with the Munising girls (junior Madeleine Peramaki and senior Alyssa Webber), but they’re kind of fast,” said Koski. “Danika was ahead of us for while, then we had an opportunity to pass her and we took it. We knew there were a few good runners out there and just tried to keep pace with them. I’ve improved my time a lot since the first race.”

Englund said running together was part of their strategy.

“It’s nice to have someone out there to push me,” she added. “It’s hard to push yourself when you’re running alone. This is definitely a boost for our team.”

Peramaki won in a personal-best 19:54 and defending champion Webber was runner-up (19:56).

“It’s nice for Alyssa and I to able to push each other to fast times,” said Peramaki. “It’s always exciting to break 20. Our No. 3 runner was out, so this is still little bit of a confidence builder. I’m happy we were so close to winning it. Many of us got PRs and this was a season-beat for Alyssa.”

Mid Peninsula’s Daisy Englund, shown running in last Thursday’s Gladstone Invitational, finished fourth in Wednesday’s Skyline Central Conference girls’ race.

Webber believes Wednesday’s results will motivate the Mustangs in their preparation for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Finals Oct. 21 on their home course.

“I think this will be good for us,” she said. “We know we have to work a little harder. I’m proud of our fifth and sixth runners. They really stepped up. Mid Pen deserves the title. They’re a good team and we’re a good team, plus there’s Chassell. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Finals.”

The Mustangs ran without Nyki Fitzgibbon, who was out due to illness.

“Mid Pen ran well,” said Munising coach Fran DesArmo. “A couple kids had PRs and some had season-bests. It’s not the result we were looking for, but I’d give the girls a decent grade.”

The Munising boys retained their title with 41 points, followed by Stephenson 66, North Central 84 and Rapid River 87.

North Central’s Connor Robinson, shown running in the Gladstone Invitational, finished third in the Skyline Central boys’ race.

“Our boys ran well as a team,” said DesArmo. “I’m just pleased the weather was good. We had some nice times here today. The Stephenson kid (senior Ethan Brown) nearly broke 18.”

Brown earned his first varsity victory in 18:01, followed by North Central junior Griffin Johnson (18:11) and senior Connor Robinson (18:15) and Munising seniors Darren Castello (18:33) and T.J. Wing (18:35).

“I went out a little fast,” said Brown, who opened with a 5:20 mile. “I tried to keep striding it out. We’ve been back and forth all year. Today it just boiled down to whoever had the best day. This is definitely a momentum builder. This gives me more confidence going into the Finals.”

Johnson achieved a 50-second improverment from his previous visit to Munising two weeks ago.

“I think my conditioning is starting to come through,” he said. “I ran decent, but felt I could have run a faster time. We had a hard practice yesterday (Tuesday). We’re just trying to get ready for the Finals. I hope to get a PR at Norway because it would be a nice momentum builder for the Finals. It was nice weather for running today. We had a perfect temperature (60). It was good to run this course again. This was good preparation for Finals.”

Robinson said it took a while for his leg muscles to get loose.

“I started out fast and my legs tightened up early,” he added. “Then, they loosened up about midway through the race. I was in fifth place. Then, I started to gain on them (Castello and Wing) and came around the back corner pretty fast. I tried to catch Griffin, but didn’t have enough ground in the end. I tried to establish a pace early and told Griffin to get right behind me, which has worked pretty well this year. Ethan was cruising today.”