KINGSFORD - The Manistique High School boys track and field team waited 53 years for a chance to win an MHSAA Upper Peninsula Finals title.
But they weren't willing to wait another day or two.
The Emeralds were excited to hear that organizers wouldn't postpone the end of Saturday's MHSAA U.P. Finals to today or Monday due to heavy thunderstorms just before the final event of the meet, the 1,600-meter relay.
Manistique junior Ryan Ramey, left, and Ishpeming sophomore Nate Meyer approach the finish line of the 1,600-meter relay at the MHSAA U.P. Division 2 boys track and field meet held in Kingsford on Saturday. Ramey made up ground in the final straightaway to catch Meyer at the finish line and not only win the race for the Emeralds, but clinch the team’s first U.P. boys track title since 1960. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
Enough rain fell in a short time to flood grassy areas just inside the track, and continued lightning kept forcing organizers to hold off on a restart due to MHSAA rules.
When the meet restarted after an hour-long delay, the top two teams, Manistique and Ishpeming, had an old-fashioned duel in their culminating relay race.
Holding a slim four-point lead, the Emeralds needed a third-place finish in the 1,600-meter relay to guarantee a share of the title, or a second-place relay finish to clinch the championship outright.
After each of the first two legs, the Hematites were in first place and Manistique was third. If it stayed that way, both teams would finish with 98 points.
Then Manistique's third runner, senior Bryson Lawrence, caught the second-place runner from West Iron County and began to close in on Ishpeming.
But junior teammate Ryan Ramey, the Emeralds anchorman and 400 specialist, wasn't satisfied with that.
In what the relay's No. 2 runner Robert Ayotte said was a "kick for that whole lap," Ramey ran down Hematites anchor Nate Meyer in the final few meters to just edge him out at the finish line and clinch his team's first U.P. team championship since 1960.
"We were the No. 2 team coming into the race and they were No. 1," Ramey said about the seedings set at regional meets two weeks ago. "But we beat them the only other time we got to race them at the (Mid-Peninsula) Conference meet."
Manistique senior Kenner Broullire, who ran the opening leg of the 1,600 relay, set a Division 2 record in the 300 intermediate hurdles to go with the same record he set in Division 1 last year.
"I've been chasing it all year," Broullire said about last year's finals time of 39.74 seconds that he bettered on Saturday with 39.35. It beat the field, led by runner-up Vincente Carlson of Westwood, by more than three seconds.
"I had a setback when I had surgery on my foot this winter, and now I'm just getting back to form," Broullire said.
The Emeralds also won the 3,200 relay with Lawrence, Ayotte and Ramey adding another win to their day.
Ishpeming won the 400 relay with a Division 2 record and the Hematites' Josh Whittington took the long jump.
Carlson took the 100 high hurdles for the Patriots' lone win and Newberry's James Sutton took the high jump with a divisional record.
In the girls meet, West Iron County beat out runner-up Manistique by 47 points, 144-97, while Newberry was third with 84, Westwood sixth with 37 and Ishpeming seventh with 27.
The Emeralds and Indians each won two events. For Manistique, freshman Holly Blowers took the 800 while four teammates combined to take the 400 relay. Newberry freshman Natalie Beaulieu took the 1,600 and 3,200.
Manistique also counted six runner-up finishes, led by junior Elizabeth MacGregor claiming three. Newberry had three who came in second and Ishpeming one.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.