By Dan Hardenbrook

The Newberry varsity track teams got a one of a kind opportunity to shine under the lights in primetime during the recent Munising Lions Under the Lights Invitational. The annual meet at Mustang Stadium gives the track and field teams a big game feel, much like the bright lights of a Friday night football game.

With that prestige and excitement comes top notch competition coming from far over. Fifteen schools showed up to test their talents against the very best in the most competitive field of the season. Many used it as a primer or practice run for this week’s Track Regionals, which qualifies participants for the UP Finals. Others wanted to test themselves against the best runners from a wider range of schools they don’t normally get to go up against.

Some coaches and athletes let their hair down and use the evening to create a memorable moment or have a little more fun than normal. Others use it for scouting.

Whatever the reason, the event has become a huge draw. Several schools canceled their home events or dropped out of closer meets to travel to Munising and compete.

The Indians found themselves up against stacked fields, both individually and as a team. The Newberry girls gave it their best shot, finishing sixth overall, but were only 41 points behind a traditionally strong Bark River Harris team. The fierce competition reflected final standings that showed four or five teams grouped up within a handful of points.

On the boys’ side, Newberry cracked the top five, trailing regional rival Munising and four other schools up in Division 2.

Top finishers for Newberry included Kaylen Clark, who earned the only win for either team on the night. Clark continues to run the best races of her career, with personal best times in the 3200M (1st – 12:28.42) and the 1600M (2nd – 5:33.03). Clark also ran a blistering leg in the 4x800M relay, teaming up with Addison Schroeder, Samantha Taylor, and Phinnea Bloom for a season best time of 10:54.52. They took second place. Taylor took second and third individually in the 800M and the 400M.

The boys were led by Matthew Rahilly, who took second in the high jump (5ft 4in), and Aa’Keem Jackson, who took second in the 400M with a personal best time of 54.16.

Newberry had 23 personal or season best times recorded by entrants at the meet.