By Dan Hardenbrook
Saturday, June 3 will go down as a landmark day for many of the local individuals and teams who competed at the Upper Peninsula Track and Field Finals in Kingsford. Stars shined on the big stage, picking day to have their best day by stepping up and shocking the field. Along the way titles were won, records were broken, and a team came oh-so-close to claiming the ultimate prize.
The Newberry boys delivered a performance that would have delivered them a team title in most years. However, a decorated group of Mustangs finished a nearly perfect school year (semifinals in football and a State Championship in Basketball) edging the Indians 103-81 for the Division 3 Championship. The Indians, who led the meet for most of the day, earned the runner-up trophy and positioned themselves as the team to beat heading into next year.
Matthew Rahilly did what many expected him to do, winning an individual state championship in the long jump with a personal record distance of 19 feet, 10.25 inches. Rahilly also took home a title along with three of his fastest friends when the 4x200M relay team, which also included seniors Aa’Keem Jackson and Marco Juarez, and Rahilly’s fellow sophomore Kennedy Depew, took home top honors with a blistering fast time of 1:35.57. Depew was the anchor and provided what will go down as one of the long-lasting memorable images of the event, throwing his arms in the air in triumph as he crossed the finish line.
It wasn’t just the top stars who put up big performances. Chris Hopson stunned everyone, including the competition, to win the 300M hurdles championship (45.21). For Hopson, it was the fastest time of his career and his first varsity win in any meet. Liam Nalette also had a day to remember, stealing the show (and nearly the title) in discus. Nalette, who has been middle of the pack in most meets this season, sent the disc flying farther than he ever had before (128 feet, 5 inches).
The Lady Indians had their own day to remember, led by an unstoppable performance by Kaylen Clark. Clark doubled down in Kingsford, winning not one, but two individual titles to become a double champion. Clark won the 1600M (5:41.03) and 3200M (12:55.92). The performance was a statement from Clark that she has reclaimed her spot as the top distance runner in the Upper Peninsula.
Clark also led the 4×800 relay team to a runner up performance in a great showing by each leg. Addison Schroeder, Phinnea Bloom, and Sammy Taylor joined forces with Clark to claim that runner up spot.
Taylor capped off her incredible freshman season by earning a second-place finish in the difficult Girls D3 800M. The Lady Indians will bring back most of their current team and add in several talented newcomers next year after finishing fifth overall on Saturday.
Engadine was also in action in Division 3 and battled for the spot among the best of the best. It was Bianca Briggs leading the way and establishing her place among the UP’s elite, earning a second-place finish in the 200M and 4th in the 100M.
Another freshman, Duane Krenek also set himself up for future success. Even though many will overlook Krenek’s 8th and 6th place finishes in the 1600M and 3200M, Krenek was the top finishing 9th grader in those races on a day that became so hot that hoses and sprinklers were set up to cool off the runners and water stations were allowed on the track during the races. Krenek, Dakota Taylor, and Conrad Spieles all had personal career best or season best times in their race. Derrek Clark also ended a decorated senior season with medal-worthy performances in the shot put (4th) and discus (3rd).