Submitted by Dave Mathieu
Menominee’s Hayden Buck runs alongside Negaunee’s Emily Paupore in the 800-meter run at Saturday’s U.P. Finals track meet in Kingsford.
Submitted by Dave Mathieu

Menominee’s Hayden Buck runs alongside Negaunee’s Emily Paupore in the 800-meter run at Saturday’s U.P. Finals track meet in Kingsford.

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KINGSFORD — On a day that started out looking like it might rain and ended with the sun in the sky, the Menominee girls track team, led by a large crop of underclassmen, placed fourth in the MHSAA Division 1 U.P. Finals track meet in Kingsford on Saturday.

Of the 11 girls that qualified for events, nine of them are going to be back next season and will all have had a valuable learning experience being able to compete on the highest stage for U.P. track athletes.

“We have all but two qualifiers back next year and we’ll be looking forward to getting back (to U.P.’s), especially because some of them were first-time competitors and I really thought everyone did a great job,” Menominee coach Scott Melchoir said.

The girls were fourth with a team score of 59. Marquette took first overall with 106 points, Negaunee was second with 100 and Sault Ste. Marie was third with 74. For the boys, Gladstone took first with 127 points; Ishpeming/Westwood and Marquette tied for second (97) and Calumet was fourth with 41.5. Menominee took 11th with six total points.

The day began with the 3,200 relay race and Menominee freshman Marin Park and Hayden Buck along with juniors Jaida Lesperance and Katie Anderla came two seconds shy of getting some points for the Maroons as they finished seventh with their fastest time of the year in 10 minutes, 46 seconds. While the relay race was going on, Maroons freshman Kennedy Olson was making a name for herself in the shot put pit.

In her first ever U.P. finals, Olson’s throw of 35 feet, 6 inches was good for second place behind Sault Ste. Marie sophomore Emily McLean, who set a new Division 1 record with a throw of 39-2.

“Kennedy’s first U.P. Finals had a great performance by her in the shot,” Melchoir said. “Her best throw this year was less than a foot away from the high school record, and she’ll only get better as she gets older. Coach (Greg) Langlois has done a great job with her all year.”

Buck performed well in the 800-meter run, taking fourth in 2:28.31 to improve on her regional qualifying time (2:31.67).

Also making her first appearance to U.P. Finals for Menominee was freshman Anna Nerat. Nerat tied for second in the high jump (4-8) with Westwood junior Tessa Leece and Calumet sophomore Emma Gariepy. Negaunee junior Chloe Norman cleared 5-0 to take home the gold.

Sophomore Makenzie Wellner caught a break in the 100 high hurdles to come in first place. In a race that saw Wellner and Escanaba senior Courtney Boyle break away from the pack early on, it all came down to the final 10 meters.

Boyle had a half-step advantage over Wellner after both cleared the last hurdle and it seemed as if Wellner wouldn’t be able to defend her U.P. title, but Boyle tripped and fell just before the finish line and Wellner crossed the finish line with a winning time of 16.43 seconds. Negaunee’s Norman took second with a time 14.96.

In the 300 hurdles, Wellner and Norman were neck and neck heading into the home stretch, and Norman was able to pull ahead in the end to win with a time of 45.56. Wellner clocked in at 45.82, and the next closest participant, Gladstone sophomore Ahna Larson, finished in 48.58.

“Makenzie had a great performance in both hurdles but especially in the 100 high hurdles,” Melchoir said.

Wellner then teamed up with her sister, senior Ely Wellner, Nerat and sophomore Jenna Nolde in the 800 and 400 relays.

By the time the 800 relay got to the second handoff it was a three team race between Menominee, Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie. Each team’s last baton pass came almost right at the same time and in the final 200 meters, Menominee fell just short. The Maroons took third in 1:50.73, a new personal-record; Sault Ste. Marie finished .03 seconds ahead for second and MQT won with a time of 1:49.55.

The 400 relay played out the same as the 800 did, with Marquette pulling away at the end to win (52.06), Negaunee coming in second (52.32) and Menominee in third (53.30), another personal-record for the Maroons.

The 1,600 relay was the final relay event of the day, and Menominee’s team of Buck, Nerat, Park and Ely Wellner placed third with a time of 4:19.06. That time, Melchoir says, is the fastest mile relay time Menominee has had in a very long time.

“All of our relay teams ran their fastest times of the year,” Melchoir said. “All of those girls went out and left everything they had on the track and that’s all I can ask as a coach. I’m proud of all of them.”

Anderla also participated in both the 3,200 and 1,600 runs, placing in the top five in both events. She took fifth in each of the runs, running the 1,600 in in 5:42.44 and the 3,200 in 12:50.53.

Senior Kansas Bailey gave the Maroons sixth-place points in the discus with her throw of 93-6 for the last of the Menominee points. Sophomore Alicia Nordquist just missed out on placing in the 100-meter dash, finishing in 13.71, .16 seconds behind Calumet sophomore Carli Jacques (13.55) and Nolde was seventh in the long jump (14-3.5), two inches behind snatching sixth-place points.

On the boys side, the Maroons qualified in the 3,200-meter relay, 400 relay, shot put and long jump.

The 3,200 relay team consisting of four sophomores (Cameron Buscher, Landen Clausen, Hunter Shepeck and Nick Sandahl) was the first to go and they lost to Ishpeming Westwood (8:59.00) by .53 seconds to just miss scoring Menominee some team points.

The 400 relay team of juniors Caden Bigger, John Boucher, Dylan Oudeans and senior Bryce Parrette also finished seventh (47.07), getting beat out by sixth-place Kingsford (46.64).

Parrette scratched on his long jump and therefor didn’t have a length recorded in the event and Shawn Sandahl took eight in the shot put (36-11.5).

The only Maroon boy to score any team points was Oudeans in the shot put. In what was one of his better showings of the season, he threw the shot 41-11.2 to take third place. He finished behind Calumet junior Alex Studebaker (43-5.25) and Ishpeming/Westwood senior Blake Hewitt (44-4.5).