ESCANABA - There are often differences between the track and field regionals and MHSAA Upper Peninsula Finals besides the way the respective meets are scored.
That may especially hold true this year as the weather conditions are likely to be much different for today's Finals at Kingsford.
The U.P. championship meet begins at 10 a.m. (EDT) with the running of the 3,200-meter relay and several field events.
Negaunee junior Jason Bell ran through the cold and snow to win the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the MHSAA Division 1 track and field regional on May 15 at Negaunee High School. Today, runners will be battling against sunny skies and temperatures forecasted to be in the mid 80s at Kingsford High School for the MHSAA U.P. Finals. (Journal file photo by Steve Brownlee)
Today's forecast for Dickinson County calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 80s, possibly as much as 50 degrees warmer than at most regional meets.
"The U.P. Finals will be different than it appears on paper," said Manistique boys' coach Mary Lou Lund. "At the regional (in Iron Mountain) we ran in the rain and snow. If you're going to win, you're going to win no matter what lane you're in."
The Manistique boys, who are returning to Flivver Field as defending U.P. champs, won the Iron Mountain regional with 74 points on May 15. Runner-up St. Ignace finished with 47 1/2.
Manistique senior Ryan Ramey will try to retain his 200 and 400-meter titles and help the Emeralds repeat as 1,600 relay champs. The Emeralds also won the 3200 relay a year ago.
Ramey is fresh from taking the Mid-Peninsula Conference 400-meter championship in a school-record 50.46 seconds. His winning time at Kingsford last year was 51.12.
At Iron Mountain, he took the 400 (54.4) and 800 (2:15.81), anchored the winning 1,600 relay and placed fourth in the 200 (24.21).
"Ryan used to be a half-miler," said Lund. "We took him out of that race for a while, but there's plenty of rest time to do all of these races at the Finals."
Ishpeming won the West Iron County regional with 57 points, with runner-up Hancock at 33.
The St. Ignace girls won the regional at Iron Mountain with 80 points, followed by Newberry 46 and Manistique 36.
Manistique sophomore Holly Blowers, hindered by illness much of this season, will try to defend her 800 title. The Emeralds also hope to repeat as 400 relay champions.
"We have 15 girls going, which is second only to St. Ignace which has 16," said Emeralds' coach Rob Schwartz. "We're spread out all over the place, which gives us lot of opportunities to score. The girls seem to be peaking. We're getting healthier and better.
"Holly did three races with very little rest in the regional and conference. She'll get a little more rest at the Finals."
The Emeralds, led by Brittney Zellar's jump of 7 feet, 6 inches, grabbed all four places in pole vault at the regional.
"All four girls have been practicing at eight feet and 8-6," said Schwartz. "If they can have a good day, it's going to bode well for them."
West Iron dominated its regional with 97 points. Ishpeming was runner-up at 29.
"It looks like West Iron County is the favorite," said Schwartz. "The other regional seems to have the better times and West Iron is loaded all over the place. Although, we also have St. Ignace in the mix. They're a strong team. Newberry and Ishpeming also have nice teams. This will be an interesting meet.
"Having everybody together at the Finals, to me that's the highlight of high school sports in the Upper Peninsula. It makes for an exciting atmosphere when you get to see all the best athletes in the U.P."