Ishpeming soars

KINGSFORD – If you catch Scott Syrjala during a track and field meet, he might be anxious, angry or simply preoccupied.

But catch the Hematites’ track and field coach at the Upper Peninsula Division 2 finals on Saturday, and he was calm, cool and collected.

Why? With two events to go, his team was well on its way to not only sweeping to championships.

His teams had already mathematically eliminated the competition, with the only suspense left whether they would set records in the process.

Then he watched his girls’ team break and his boys team shatter the Division 2 finals scoring record.

The old record, according to Syrjala, was 144 points posted by West Iron County in 2013. On Saturday, the Ishpeming girls registered 151 points while the boys zoomed to 164.

Nevertheless, WIC pushed the Hematites girls, finishing as runner-up with 126, but on the boys side, Westwood was a distant second with just 75.

“I was worried a little bit coming in because we have a young team with our girls,” Syrjala said, “but we have a great group of upperclassemn who provide a lot of leadership.

“Our boys, I’ve said before, know how to deal with pressure because of how far they’ve gone in football (playoffs).

“I just don’t know for sure how to explain it. It’s a great group of kids we have. We also get kids excited early on with our middle school program.

“And my coaches, really what I have is a coaching ‘staff,’ especially with P.J. Pruett. He’s our cross country coach, and he’s just has done a whale of a job with our distance runners. It lets me coach who I need to coach.”

He added there are other coaches, too, who handle other specialities so his kids get the attention they need.

The boys and girls took different routes to their victories.

The boys won four individual running races but none in field events. The girls won just one individual running race before adding three field event victories.

One thing they had in common – each Ishpeming team won three of four relays.

“Our turning point came after the (Marquette) County Meet,” Syrjala said about what led up to this dominance. “Our girls got pounded by Marquette and Negaunee, and I jumped on them a little bit.

“I told them this will be our crossroads – we can either be the team I think we can become or we won’t be.

“The boys I got on them a little bit, too. But I thought when we won the (Mid-Peninsula Conference) meet was huge. We were down to Negaunee by 50 points on paper.”

The Hematites’ Nate Meyer finished his high school career with a flourish, winning the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, the 400 in dominating fashion by nearly two seconds.

He also ran the anchor leg with the IHS 1,600 relay team that ended the meet with an exclamation point, winning the event by more than 7 1/2 seconds.

Tommy Potter was a double winner, running with the 3,200 relay winners and leading a 1-2-3 sweep by his school in the 800. Daren Giuchin was second and Derek Mahoski third.

Giuchin was also listed as running with the 1,600 and 3,200 relays as was Mark Holmgren. Mahoski was with the 1,600 relay winners, too.

On the girls side, Ishpeming’s Marissa Maino won the shot put and discus, teammate Nassi Thomas the long jump and a leg with the 400 relay winners, and Khora Swanson the 800 and a leg of the winning 3,200 relay.

Jessica Spencer, Anna Terres and Johanna Harvey ran with the 400 and 800 relay winners for Ishpeming.

In the boys meet, the runner-up Patriots had a double winner in senior Vincente Carlson when he swept the 110 high and 300 intermediate hurdles.

He won both races by wide margins while setting a Division 2 finals record in the 110.

Westwood teammate Brett Rautio won the pole vault on a tiebreaker, too.

Fourth-place L’Anse, which scored 55 points, got wins from Brandon Kemppainen in the shot put and Levi Hoskins in the discus.

Gwinn, which came in eighth with 20 points, scored half those when Luke Redlon won the high jump.

Among the girls, third-place Manistique, with 59 points, got a win from Katie Davis in the pole vault.

Westwood, just a point back with 58, got two wins from Katie Etelamaki in the 1,600 and 3,200.

In addition, Gwinn was ninth with 6 points.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@