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Houghton just edges out Marquette Redettes for Upper Peninsula Division 1 girls cross country championship

Westwood's Elizabeth Williams sprints to the finish line on her way to a fifth-place finish in the girls race at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals in cross country on Saturday at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

MARQUETTE — Repeating as Upper Peninsula champions isn’t easy and the Marquette girls cross country team found that out Saturday morning at Presque Isle Park.

The Redettes came close, though, agonizingly close, but were edged out by two points, 56 to 58, by Houghton as the Gremlins celebrated their first-ever MHSAA U.P. Division 1 title. Sault Ste. Marie also nosed out Westwood by one point, 82 to 83, to finish third.

“That was intense,” Houghton assistant coach Erik Johnson said with a relieved laugh. “It was cold, but man, I didn’t feel any cold today. Those kids ran phenomenally today. The obvious goal is to get here and your heart goes out to the kids that weren’t here, like Kingsford and Negaunee and Ishpeming, that (weren’t) able to compete.

“Just to get here was the goal and then I kind of thought we might be in the mix, but you never know how it’s going to shake out. But man, they just kind of shocked the world a little bit today, I think.”

Like many teams, the Gremlins had to battle hardships this fall thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, making the championship even sweeter.

Westwood's Elizabeth Williams sprints to the finish line on her way to a fifth-place finish in the girls race at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals in cross country on Saturday at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

“It was hard because our school shut down for two weeks and we lost out on three or four meets,” Johnson said. “And those meets are how you get ready for this type of stuff. I’m proud of those kids for going out and doing the workouts we assigned them.”

Finishing just short of a repeat could be tough to take, but Redettes head coach Kyle Detmers was in good spirits after the meet.

“There’s nothing in me that’s disappointed, because they gave me everything they had and it just came out we were two points short,” he said. “So hats off to the Houghton Gremlins. After the season, they were shut down for awhile and didn’t know if they’d even run. So I even called up and talked to their assistant coach and just tried to encourage him to stay steady. For them to come out and beat us, that’s fine.”

Houghton not only got the team title, but it also picked up the individual championship as Paige Sleeman (20:55.2) finished five seconds ahead of Westwood’s Heidi Meglathery. Fellow Gremlin Ingrid Seagren (21:19.4) took third, while Marquette’s Olivia Moffitt was fourth (21:50.2) and the Patriots’ Elizabeth Williams finished fifth (21:53.0).

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.

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