ESCANABA - Spectators may be in for a real treat today when the Upper Peninsula's best Division 3 athletes meet in Kingsford for the MHSAA U.P. Track and Field Finals.
The Munising, North Dickinson and Pickford boys won their own regionals and Lake Linden-Hubbell edged Bessemer 55-53 1/2 for the title at Wakefield two weeks ago.
Rapid River, which was runner-up (74-63) in the Munising regional, also hopes to be in the hunt on Saturday.
The Rockets, however, were dealt a major blow Tuesday when senior sprinter Jake Pearson suffered a hamstring injury during the 200-meter in the Bark River-Harris Invitational.
He appears doubtful for running events, but may do shot put and discus, pending a favorable report from a doctor.
Ready to step in for the Rockets in the weight events are senior Hayden Hardwick and junior Lucas Bero.
"We just have to suck it up and do our best at the Finals," said Rockets' coach Steve Ostrenga. "Hayden and Jake and other seniors have certainly laid some good leadership down. Jake is keeping everything in perspective. He knows worse things can happen. Yet, it still hurts."
Rapid River, which won the Skyline Conference title last week at North Dickinson, was then runner-up to Munising (147-138) at BR-H.
North Dickinson scored 63 points in its regional compared to 43 for runner-up Stephenson.
The Nordics return to Kingsford as defending U.P. champs and are led by senior Tim Hruska, who will try to defend his 100-meter dash and 100 and 300 hurdles titles.
Munising has the defending 3,200-meter champion in Brett Hannah, but the sophomore distance runner was battling hip problems at BR-H. Junior Andy Cooper, however, won four events including his school-record leap of six feet, five inches in high jump.
"Munising is tough," said Ostrenga. "They're an excellent team and Pickford is going to be an excellent team. North Dickinson has the sprinters and hurdlers and Munising and Pickford are well rounded. Hopefully, we can heal up and get some help. We'll just do the best we can."
Pickford dominated its regional with 90 3/4 points, followed by Cedarville 42 3/4 and Rudyard 36.
Hoping to retain his 400 title on Saturday is Big Bay de Noc senior Cole Potvin.
The Munising girls also won their regional with 51 1/3 points and Mid Peninsula squeezed past Engadine 40-39 1/3 for runner-up honors.
Mid Pen senior Kelsey Shope will try to retain her high jump title, which she won at 5-3 a year ago.
Shope, who stopped after winning at 4-foot-4 in the regional, then soared a school-record 5-5 in the Skyline Conference meet last week. On Tuesday she cleared 5-4 at BR-H, then narrowly missed on her final attempt at 5-6.
"Some of our kids have been doing some analyzing," said Mid Pen coach Julie Beauchamp. "I think our girls are focused. They want to do well. We're telling the girls that anything can happen at the Finals. We just want them to do their best."
Munising freshman Michaela Peramaki has soared a school-record 10 feet in pole vault this season and jumped 9-6 on Tuesday.
Forest Park won the regional at North Dickinson with 80 points, with BR-H a distant runner-up at 26.
"They (Forest Park) are a great team," said BR-H coach Katina Demers. "They're very well rounded. We're looking forward to the speed relays. Our boys are doing very well. They've really been working on handoffs and the girls' handoffs have been pretty good, too. I think we're peaking at the right time. I think Saturday will be a good day for us."
Brimley copped the Pickford regional, topping the host Panthers 56-49, and Bessemer edged Lake Linden 49-43 1/2 for the title at Wakefield.
St. Ignace, which ran away with the U.P. D-3 title last season, has returned to D-2 this year.