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Big end to prep year

June 2, 2009
By Dennis Grall

ESCANABA - One of the busiest, most hectic sports weeks of the high school season came to an end Sunday, and it was as fun and exciting as ever.

It was particularly spectacular for the Gladstone Braves.

Thursday the Braves won the U.P. Division 1 boys and girls golf championships at Escanaba Country Club.

Article Photos

Dennis Grall
Daily Press sports editor

Saturday in Newberry the Braves won their eighth straight girls softball district title and the boys track team claimed its sixth consecutive U.P. Division 1 crown in Kingsford.

Individual highlights were provided by Hilary Austin's no-hit victory against Negaunee in the softball district opener and a third straight U.P. shot put title by Kent King. Both are juniors.

For Gladstone fans, those tremendous triumphs came on the heels of even more outstanding accomplishments by Gladstone graduates Adam Sutter, KC Blahnik and Holly Bruntjens.

Sutter and Blahnik were named the top male and female athletes for 2008-9 at Lakeland College and Bruntjens claimed top female honors at Ferris State University. In addition, earlier this spring Sutter earned All-American status in NCAA Division 3 wrestling.

Saturday's Upper Peninsula track finals were the perfect capper to the week. They are always a highlight, with perhaps a thousand athletes and several thousand fans jammed into Flivver Field.

Garde Kangas of Manistique had a sensational day, winning the 100, 200 and 400 dashes. Karrie Meyers of Bark River-Harris repeated as D-3 shot put (two years) and discus champion (three years) and Terry Martin of Manistique had a discus three-peat.

Also, North Central senior Brooke Granquist swept the D-3 hurdle races for the second straight year and Superior Central freshman Lauren Spranger was crowned D-3 400 and 800 champion.

The winners get much of the attention, which is deserved, but so many athletes give so much of themselves but unfortunately don't get the same attention for their efforts.

Track finals are just an incredibly busy day, for athletes, officials, fans, track and field judges in all 17 events, and the media.

Most media are content to stay at the track finish line and let the runners come to them. It is easy, and you don't miss much.

I use a different approach, chasing all over the place, which unfortunately means missing some events - high jumper Olivia Nash of Escanaba and Tyler Veraghen of North Central in the 800 were the only area winners I missed with pictures.

From the shot put and discus venues behind the grandstand to the track in front the stands and the pole vault and long jump pits across the football field, there are plenty of athletes performing wonderfully but away from the spotlight.

As I was going to the distant girls discus circle, Meyers said she saw me coming and tried to complete her throws before I could get her picture. She wasn't fast enough.

Later I was shooting pictures of Rapid River's Derek Berglund winning the D-3 pole vault and realized the D-1 boys 200 dash was starting.

I dashed across the field to my equipment bag, took off the telephoto lens and replaced it with a smaller lens and darted to the finish line.

I'm not sure who ran farther or faster, but Kangas and I were there together at the finish line as he claimed his third victory.

It is fun and exhilarating and always memorable. Thanks to everyone who makes it that way.



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