Negaunee Miners’ record-setting runner Emily Paupore dedicates win to Coach Lisa Bigalk’s late sister

Negaunee’s Emily Paupore shows off her winning and record-setting high school cross country form during the Marquette County Meet held at Presque Isle Park in Marquette on Thursday. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — While Negaunee High School junior Emily Paupore has been dominating cross country courses around the Upper Peninsula for the better part of three years, her victory in the the race on Thursday in the annual Marquette County Meet at Presque Isle Park meant something more for her and Miners head coach Lisa Bigalk.

“It was Coach Bigalk’s sister’s birthday (today) and she passed away a few years ago,” Paupore said right after the race.

“Right before the race she (Bigalk) told me that and I said I’m going to run it for her.

“Every single time I started to struggle, I said to myself ‘OK, we’ve got this, I can do this.’

“I just wanted to do it for them and make it a special run today.”

This photo, from around 2011, shows Negaunee High School cross country coach Lisa Bigalk, right, and her sister Anni Hill. Hill, who passed away in 2016, was visiting Bigalk in Negaunee at the time of this photo. (Photo courtesy Lisa Bigalk)

Bigalk’s sister, Anni Hill, passed away from cancer in 2016 at age 58. She lived in Longview, Washington, an area where Bigalk grew up.

While Hill was never a runner herself, the Negaunee coach stated that she was a big supporter of Bigalk and high school athletics.

She was also an official at some meets in Washington.

“She was a big supporter of mine,” Bigalk said.

“We were very, very close and she always kept up with how I and my teams were doing.”

“She was older than me but when I left school she stayed in my hometown community and volunteered and helped at all of the high school athletic events, especially cross country.”

Bigalk appreciated the small but meaningful tribute from her standout runner.

“It was nice to have something to look forward to and to have the race dedicated to her,” the coach said.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.