Menominee’s Kameron Burmeister leads Lindsey Rudden and Amber Huebner of Marquette at the Division 1 Cross Country Finals Saturday in Marquette. Burmeister became the first Menominee girl to win the U.P. title with her time of 19:36.  EagleHerald/Tom Kaeser
Menominee’s Kameron Burmeister leads Lindsey Rudden and Amber Huebner of Marquette at the Division 1 Cross Country Finals Saturday in Marquette. Burmeister became the first Menominee girl to win the U.P. title with her time of 19:36. EagleHerald/Tom Kaeser
MARQUETTE, Mich. - Kameron Burmeister made a 3.1-mile run into Menominee cross country history and then made a jubilant 30-yard sprint into the arms of her mother.

With the fall colors bursting at the Gentz Homestead Golf Course Saturday, Burmeister turned in golden performance at the U.P. Cross Country Finals.

Burmeister became the first female U.P. cross country champion in Menominee history with a determined kick to the finish line, breaking away from Marquette's Lindsey Rudden with a winning time of 19:36.3.

"I can't believe it," exclaimed Burmeister. "This season has been such a blessing. I want to thank my parents, grandparents and coaches. They all gave me so much support. They made me push myself."

The Maroon senior was in a sneaker-to-sneaker duel with Rudden heading into the final turn when she kicked away for a six-second victory margin while her family and Maroon fans cheered on the last 300 yards of her career.

"It was neck-and-neck the entire way," she explained with emotion filling her voice. "Coming around the last corner, I wasn't sure I could do it. Lindsey was right by me. We both wanted it.

"It was my last race ever as a Maroon. I needed to leave it all out there and know I did my best."

The Division 1 gold medal closed out an amazing unbeaten season for Burmeister, who finished third at last year's Finals and 11th in her sophomore year.

Kameron deserved to win it," Rudden said. "I'm not disappointed I lost because I gained so much. I learned a lot this year."

Burmeister's winning time on the challenging rolling hills and muddy Gentz course was eight seconds faster than last year's winning time at Valley Spur in Munising.

"Kam ran a very smart race," coach Suzi Merrill said. "She stuck to her pace strategy. She looked extremely strong and focused. She was mentally and physically prepared. She's worked so hard for this. No one deserves it more."

Merrill pointed out that Burmeister's gallant run to the gold medal is even more impressive considering the strong field. Rudden and teammate Amber Huebner had both broken the 19-minute mark this season.

Heavy rain this week parts of the course into mud and the series of muscle-straining hills tested the endurance of the top runners in the U.P.

"I think this means even more because of the caliber of runners here," Merrill said. "I have so much respect for Lindsey and Amber. They pushed her."

Gunther DeDamos turned in the race of his career to earn all-state honors with his ninth-place finish to lead the Maroon boys.

Showing his hockey toughness and cross country determination, DeDamos amped up his fierce competitive nature in the final mile to cross the line in 17:40.6.

"I really wanted all-state," said DeDamos. "That was awesome. It was my last race and I was going to go for it. This is what I've been working for. I wanted to get it before I was a senior. This sets the standard higher for next year."

Heading into one of the final turns on the course, DeDamos was spurred on by the cheers from his family. He went into sprinter mode and passed a runner.

"I heard my mom yelling and I put my head down and took off," he explained. "Everyone was cheering. When one guy faltered, I thought that means other guys are going to drop back."

Prior to the race, DeDamos was bothered by pain in his hip.

"Suzi worked on it and I was fine from there," DeDamos noted.

"Gunther has been chasing the elusive all-state award the last few years," Merrill said. "Well this year he captured that moment. He broke through any barriers he had holding him back and pulled off a fantastic end to the season."

Dave Luplow closed out his career with a 13-place finish in 17:54.5 to earn All-U.P. honors.

As DeDamos celebrated his all-state run with his family, he noted that Luplow helped push him to his big run.

"I stuck behind Davey all the entire way. He and I are driving forces for each other."

Luplow was disappointed in his finish, but Merrill had nothing but praise for her senior leader.

"Even on an off day, he finished All-U.P. in 13th. Davey has had a fantastic career in cross country and he is sure to go far in the race of life in the future."

The Maroons girls placed fifth in the nine-team meet with 138 points. Marquette placed all seven runners in the top 12 to win the title with just 27 points.

Rebekah Wickman ran to a 16th-place finish (21:33.9), five seconds shy of an All-U.P. berth.

"Rebekah ran a great race. I told her to go out slow and then chase," said Merrill.

Lilly Johnson was 38th in 22:41, followed by Anah Schloegel (40th, 22:52.7) and Paige Reiswitz (43rd, 23:06.4). Paige Tickler (46th, 23:15.9) and Paiton Plutchak (58th,24:39.8) rounded out the Maroon finishes.

"Fifth place is a good showing against some very good teams," said Merrill.

The Maroon boys placed eighth with 158 points, two points behind Kingsford.

Cody Porath was 39th (19:19.6), Adam Nolde 42nd 19:34.4) and Michael Melchoir (56th) set a personal best with his time of 20:29.3. Erik Pohlmann (59th, 20:56.3) and Josh DeGayner (65th, 21:51.9) rounded out the Maroon team.

Girls team scores: Marquette 27, Calumet 89, Escanaba 112, Sault Ste. Marie 113, Menominee 138, Gladstone 146, Houghton 156, Kingsford 182, Negaunee 208

MENOMINEE - 1. Kameron Burmeister, 19:36.3; 16. Rebekah Wickman, 21:33.9; 38. Lilly Johnson, 22:41.3; 40. Anah Schloegel, 22:62.7; 43. Paige Reiswitz, 23:06.4; 46. Paige Tickler, 23:15.9; 58. Paiton Plutchak, 24:39.8

Boys' team scores: Marquette 42, Escanaba 75, Houghton 86, Sault Ste. Marie, 108; Calumet 110; Negaunee 147; Kingsford 156; Menominee 158; Gwinn 273; Gladstone 284

MENOMINEE - 1. Gunther DeDamos, 17:40.6; 13. Davey Luplow, 17:54.5; 39. Cody Porath, 19:19.6; 42. Adam Nolde, 19:34.4; 55. Michael Melchoir, 20:29.3; 59. Erik Pohlmann, 20:56.3; 65. Josh DeGayner, 21:51.9
EagleHerald assistant sports editor

MARQUETTE, Mich. - Connor Cappaert soared like an eagle to his second straight U.P. title with the help of his parents and teammates providing the wind beneath his wings.

Cappaert, who won the Division 2 title last year as a sophomore, had a lot of pent-up nerves heading into the Division 3 race.

"He was like a racehorse getting ready to go into the gate," coach Michael Herres said. "He was pacing all around. He was so nervous. I told him to just take off and nobody goes with you, just fly."

After testing the pace in the early portion of the race, Cappaert broke away from the pack and never looked back. He charged down the finishing stretch in 17:39.3, a whopping 39 seconds ahead of runner-up Seth Polfus of Division 3 champion North Central.

"I can't describe the feeling," said Cappaert. I thought, 'This is it. I have to go for it.' I'm so blessed by God for this moment he gave to me.

"I knew it would be a tough race, but my goal was to be the champion."

A few words from wisdom from his coach settled Cappaert down and fired him up before he stepped to the starting line.

"Coach Herres told me 'This is your race.' That pumped me up. I started out really strong and just ran my race."

The demanding terrain just made the Stephenson standout push himself harder.

"It was a mud bowl a mile and a half or two miles into the race," said Cappaert. "That's the sport of cross country. The hills just make you stronger for the rest of the course."

For a cross country runner, the race isn't over until the last teammate crosses the line.

"I can' describe how much the support of my teammates mean to me," said Cappaert, after consoling a teammate who was disappointed in his finish.

"Connor is a great kid, a great student and a great leader on our team," said Herres.

Josiah Newlin finished 29th in 20:49.2, followed by Brandon Kau (30th 20:51.8), Ian Menke (33rd, 21:01.7), Josh Thoney (43rd (21:32.3) and Mark Cappaert (47th, 22:06.5).
The Eagle boys finished seventh.

Caitlyn Havelka led the Eagle girls with her strong 23rd-place run in 23:50.1. Brooke Parrette was 29th (25:05.3), Sydnee Engel (34th, 25:32.1) and Rachel Starzynski (41st, 26:36.7).

Coach Herres noted that all of his runners will return next season.

North Central claimed its first-ever boys' U.P. title as it placed four runners in the top 16 to win the Division 3 crown with 66 points, edging Pickford by just two points.

Seth Polfus led the way with his second-place time of 18:18.1 and Bryce Hyde took third in 18:22.6. Josh Granquist finished 12th (19:31.8), Jonathan King was 23rd (20:14.1) and Tyler Bentley wrapped up the title with his 26th-place finish (20:30.3). Dillon Robinson was 31st (20:52.3) aand Jared Gerlach 48th (22:09.0).

Dionte Blahnik raced to a fourth-place medal in 18:34.8 to lead Carney-Nadeau to its sixth-place total of 132 points. Caine Krause was 24th (20:24.8), followed by Logan Forgette (32nd, 20:55.0), Austin Johnson (34th, 21:05.0), Manuel Duran (38th, 21:17.8), Jason Dupont (49th, 22:16.5) and Lucas Forgette (51st, 22:24.51).

Boys' team scores: North Central 66. Pickford 68, Cedarville 109, Dollar Bay 111, Painsedale-Jeffers 112, Carney-Nadeau 132, Stephenson 136, North Star 211, Chassell 224, Rudyard 247

STEPHENSON - 1. Connor Cappaert, 17:39.3; 29. Josiah Newlin, 20:49.2; 30. Brandon Kau, 20:51.8; 33. Ian Menke, 21:01.7; 43. Josh Thoney, 21:32.3; 47. Mark Cappaert, 22:06.5

NORTH CENTRAL - 2. Seth Polfus, 18:18.1; 3. Bryce Holle, 18:22.6; 12. Josh Granquist, 19:31.8; 23. Jonathan King, 20:14.1; 26, Tyler Bentley, 20:30.3; 31. Dillon Robinson, 20:52.3; 48. Jared Gerlach, 22:09.9

CARNEY-NADEAU - 4. Dionte Blahnik, 18:34.8; 24/ Caine Knauss, 20:24.8; 32. Logan Forgette, 20:55.0; 34. Austin Johnson, 21:05.0; 38. Manuel Duran, 21:17.8; 49. Jason Dupont, 22:16.5; 51. Lucas Forgette, 22:24.7

Girls team scores: Munising 46, Cedarville 54, Dollar Bay 555, Rudyard 82, Brimley 104

STEPHENSON - 23. Caitlyn Havelka, 23:501; 29. Brooke Parrett, 25:05.3; 34. Sydnee Engel, 25:32.1; 41. Rachel Starzynski, 26:36.7

CARNEY-NADEAU - 37. Morgan Dupont, 25:36.6; 39. Samantha Chartier, 26:07.3

NORTH CENTRAL - 42. Samantha Crydeman, 26:36.3; 46. Kayla Arkens, 28:02.0;