ISHPEMING - Like their grandparents might say about going to school in the ol' days, these kids had to run three miles, uphill in both directions.
That's what one of the top finishers said it was like running a hilly course during the annual Tracy Strom Invitational high school cross country meet on Thursday afternoon.
"It felt like it was all uphill," said Marquette sophomore Calla Martysz, who finished second to freshman teammate Lindsey Rudden in the girls race at Al Quaal Recreation Area.
Marquette freshman Lance Rambo comes up to the finish line to win the boys varsity race by more than 25 seconds ahead of runner-up Keenan Gantz of Negaunee during the Tracy Strom Invitational high school cross country meet held at Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming on Thursday. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
Coaches and athletes agreed it is the toughest course they will see this season with a drop and later rise in altitude from the city of Ishpeming down to Teal Lake and back, a difference estimated at close to 70 feet according to statistics available on the Internet for each place.
"That was a challenge, but I love hard courses," said boys winner Lance Rambo, who like Rudden is a freshman at Marquette Senior High School.
"We do a lot of hill work. You want to keep your pace, but maybe push a little harder up the hills."
Two steep hills that racers had to climb were the most talked about features of the course. One is nicknamed "Two-Minute Hill" that the top finishers said you could easily crawl up, and another grassy, twisting hill about three-quarters of the way through the course used for cross-country skiing.
The times reflected the course's difficulty with no runner breaking 20 minutes on the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course. Rambo came the closest, finishing in 20 minutes, 19.04 seconds, more than 25 seconds ahead of runner-up Keenan Gantz of Negaunee.
Rudden and Martysz ran away from the pack in the girls race with Rudden clocking what would've been the boys seventh-best time of 21:52.26 and Martysz was nearly a minute and a half behind in 23:15.68. Martysz finished 2:08 ahead of third-place Wyleen Kniola of Negaunee.
The young Marquette girls led the Redettes to a near-perfect score of 18 points in the team standings as MSHS teammates Martha Storm, Nichole Mackey, Abby Potts and Shelby Ross occupied fourth through eighth, respectively.
Negaunee was second with 68, followed by Westwood with 84, Gwinn 93, Manistique 124 and Ishpeming 130.
Anna Honkala was a medalist in ninth place and was Westwood's top finisher, while Dory Demars did the same in 10th place for Manistique. Other top finishers for their teams were Makayla Mayo of Gwinn in 12th and Christine Leppanen of Ishpeming in 16th.
Rambo and medalist teammates Alex Wyble in fifth and Eddie Brauer in seventh led the Redmen to a close victory in the boys race, 43-47 over Negaunee.
Negaunee also had three medalists with Evan Fezatt sixth and Grant Johnson ninth.
Gwinn finished third in the boys team standings with 61 points, followed by Manistique with 121, Ishpeming 127, Westwood 144 and North Star Academy 154.
Tyler Pomroy of Manistique was third in 20:52.65, while Matt Moilanen of Gwinn was fourth in 20:54.17. The Modeltowners' Derek Reetz also medaled in eighth place, while Skyler Dakota grabbed the last medal spot and was Westwood's top finisher in 10th place.
John-Henry Kibit was the first to finish for North Star in 14th place, as was Peter Leppanen for Ishpeming in 15th.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.