By Eddie O’Neill
HOUGHTON — With a temperature in the low 50s, and an overcast sky covering the Keweenaw, the Houghton Gremlins boys and girls cross country teams took advantage of the ideal conditions and won their respective races at the Bill Fezzey Memorial Invite held at the Tech Trails on Thursday. The boys finished first with a score of 39 – beating out Jeffers (61) and Kingsford (95) in the top three spots.
The Houghton girls had a winning score of 27. Behind them in second place was Hancock (45), and Ironwood (75) came in third.
Interestingly, both Gremlins’ teams dominated the Top-10 finishes. Among the girl runners, Tessa Rautiola won the race with a time of 21:25.1. Teammate Ayla Miller finished sixth with a time of 22:42.1. Behind her was Katie Sarau coming in at 23:01.4 and an eighth-place spot. Kiira Niska closed out the top finished at No. 10, with a time of 23:37.4.
While “perfect” weather was helpful and being at home was comfortable, the Tech Trails are never easy according to Rautiola.
“I came out hard and tried to pace myself with the other girls before breaking away,” she said. “For the most part I am happy with my time.”
On the boys’ side, it was Chassell’s Kalvin Kytta who crossed the finish line first with a time of 17:40.9. Birk Seagren was the first Gremlin to finish. He came in third at 18:09.6, and right behind him was Ben Hemmer at 18:55.2. The Gremlins Isaiah Lawson finished seventh with a time of 19:00.6. In the 10th slot, was teammate Lane Laux with a time of 19:16.9.
“This is a tough course,” said Kytta. “I’ll be honest; I’m glad it’s over. My strategy was to go out hard for the first mile and a half before the hills started and just survive from there. “
Thursday’s Invite was the second big cross-country race for this fall season. It included close to 12 teams from the region with racers as young as seventh and eighth grade. Those middle school boys and girls ran first then came the boys and girls’ JV races.
For two runners from Kingsford, Thursday’s competition was their first races in their careers -both girls on the opposite end of the high school spectrum.
At the start of her high school career was freshman Flivver Alyvia Kowalski. She was just glad she finished (35th) her first race.
“Those hills were awful,” she said. “They never ended.”
Her teammate and senior Flivver Ady Weber was right behind her and echoed a similar sentiment.
“I got into this this year to get in shape but this was hard,” she said. “I think I am having regrets.”
Zach Smith, of Ironwood, was no stranger to the challenges of the Houghton home course at the Tech Trails. He finished 10th.
“I’d been here before; so, I knew what I was getting into,” said the junior. “I knew it was hilly and my strategy was to catch up to people and pick them off if I could and it worked as I did do that, and it helped keep my eyes off the hills. That kept me going today.
Area cross country teams will have two meets next week. On Tuesday, Kingsford will have their Flivver Cross Country Invite. On Thursday, Hancock will host their annual invitational.