Marquette runners sweep GNC meet

Ericka Asmus of Marquette runs away from the field to win the girlsÕ race at the Great Northern Conference cross country meet held at Ludington Park in Escanaba on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Mike Mattson)

ESCANABA — Then there were four.

Four is the number of schools, which sponsor cross country, remaining in the Great Northern Conference.

Marquette swept both ends of the title, with the girls winning for the 18th consecutive year and the boys taking their fifth straight championship.

“I’m happy with the results,” said Marquette coach Kyle Detmers. “I haven’t seen the GNC meet this small since I’ve been here. Yet, you still want your kids to push themselves. This was the biggest meet of the year so far.”

The Marquette boys, who grabbed five of the top seven places, scored 23 points. They were followed by Escanaba 58, Kingsford 71 and Menominee 72.

Marquette senior Luke Rambo retained his league title, covering the 3.1-mile course at Ludington Park in 16 minutes, 49 seconds. He was followed by Kingsford junior Blane Newman in a personal-best 17:28. Esky senior Justin Sanpaka then held off Marquette’s Garrett Zueger for third.

“That wasn’t the time I was looking for, but it’s all right,” said Rambo. “You just have to think positive. I wanted to make sure my first two miles were fast because the first two miles are going to be fast in the U.P. (Division 1) Finals. Then, it’s a matter of hanging on to the end. It seems strange to have just four schools here. I don’t know what’s up with that. I miss having Gladstone and Stephenson here because they always have some good runners. The GNC is the only meet I won in the last two years of cross country. It’s interesting how it worked out that way.”

Former GNC member Gladstone ran in the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet for the first time Thursday at Negaunee and Stephenson made its Skyline Central debut at Munising Wednesday.

Newman said he was pleased with his runner-up finish.

“It went real well today,” he added. “We had perfect weather conditions. It seemed like everyone was pretty well spread out. There wasn’t much pressure. It felt real weird because there was such a low number of runners. I was able to take a little more relaxed approach. This is definitely a confidence boost going into the Finals. My time is getting down where I need it to be.”

Sanpaka was clocked at 17:39, two seconds ahead of Zueger.

“Knowing this was my last GNC race and the last time running on my home course really motivated me to run hard and strong,” said Sanpaka. “At first it seemed strange to have so few runners (26) for the GNCs, but I tried to use that to my advantage. I tried to stay with Luke and Blane and stride it out on the uphill. I’m very pleased with how our team did. I think we did well to come in runner-up.”

Marquette senior Garrett Rudden missed the meet due to knee issues.

The Marquette girls placed five in the top 10 and scored 24 points. Esky edged Menominee 60-64 for runner-up honors. Fourth-place Kingsford had 85.

Marquette sophomore Ericka Asmus won in 20:11, followed by Esky freshman Nicole Kamin (21:15), Marquette’s Delaney Sall (21:16) and Kingsford freshman Sarah Kulas (21:23).

“I don’t think it was my best race,” said Asmus. “Although, I think this is a confidence builder going into next week. I will try my hardest to contribute to our team. I worked hard today, but it was sometimes hard to stay focused. This is the first time I ran here. It was nice having the go-kart out there. Having real good weather for this was also nice.”

Five runners were in the hunt for second as they approached the uphill (with a half-mile remaining).

“I was glad to see Nicole gut it out,” said Esky coach Randi Wender. “She showed some fight by taking second. I think we did all right. The last couple weeks have gone real good. We changed the course a little, but our times weren’t off a whole lot. We eliminated a sharp corner and made it more round.”

Kulas was followed by Marquette’s Reagan Ketzenberger (21:33) and Menominee sophomore Katie Anderla (21:38).

“I wasn’t expecting them (Kamin and Sall) to have that much left in the end,” said Kulas. “I was trying to stay with Nicole because she has been getting good times. I’m pleased with how the meet went.”

Marquette hosts the county relays Monday prior to the U.P. Finals at Munising Oct. 21. The remaining teams are idle until the Finals.

“It was a good race for second (individually) among the girls,” said Menominee coach Eric Burmeister. “We were a little slower than I anticipated, but I’m happy with the effort. That hill is a difference maker. Most kids were wearing spikes and couldn’t grip anything on the uphill or downhill. Now, it’s aanother week of tapering and keeping the kids healthy.”