RAPID RIVER - A large field of teams will invade the Rapid River track today for its annual invitational meet.
At least 14 schools will be represented in the meet, which begins at 2 p.m. with the field events. Running events start at 2:30.
Expected to join the Rockets are Mid Peninsula, Bark River-Harris, North Central, Carney-Nadeau, North Dickinson, Forest Park, Republic-Michigamme, Superior Central, Munising, Grand Marais-Munising Baptist, Engadine and Big Bay de Noc.
The Pickford boys won a year ago, while the Forest Park girls hope to retain their title.
"The invitational is always tough," said Rapid River boys' coach Steve Ostrenga. "We haven't seen North Dickinson yet, but I know they're real tough. They have good hurdlers, speed and field events all the time. We constantly tell the kids that every point counts. The fifths and sixths are also very important. We have to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise."
North Dickinson has won its first two invitationals this season, one in convincing fashion Monday at Norway.
Nordics' junior Tim Hruska was a triple-winner at Norway and set a meet records in the 110-meter hurdles at 16.3 seconds and 300s (44.39) at Niagara, Wis. on April 30. Senior teammate Ken Pakerek was runner-up in the hurdle races at Norway.
The weight events could prove interesting today.
Mid Pen senior Brett Branstrom is fresh from setting school records in shot put (48 feet, 6 1/2 inches) and discus (159-1) in the school's first small-school invitational on Tuesday.
Rapid River junior Jake Pearson has proven a worthy challenger in the weight events, taking second to Branstrom in the Central U.P. Conference meet at Mid Pen on April 30. Pearson, throwing the disc for only the second time, uncorked a toss of 147-1.
Also leading the Rockets are senior Robert Metter in pole vault, junior Riley Pajnich (110 hurdles) and freshman Dan Blair (distance).
"Dan is a gutsy runner for us," said Ostrenga. "We'll see if he can get his time down on our home track. We're still trying to piece things together in the relays. We're trying to get people healthy on our handoffs down. It's going to be a dogfight. We're looking forward to Thursday and running on our own track, which we haven't done this year yet."
Other athletes to watch are Big Bay's Cole Potvin (sprints and high jump), GM-MB's Leroy Ward-Harbaum (long jump), Munising's Brett Hannah (distance) and Lucas Gauthier (sprints), Superior Central's Tyler Kienitz (middle distance) and Nick Maki (sprints), Mid Pen's Chad Branstrom (high jump), North Central's Josh Granquist (middle distance), North Dickinson's Cody Berg (weight events) and Forest Park's Chris Hilberg (high jump).
The BR-H girls were crowned CUP champions last week and its 800 relay remained undefeated by winning Monday at Gwinn.
"I'm anxious to see how our girls' 800 relay does this week," said BR-H coach Katina Demers. "We did a little experimenting at Gwinn and it was a huge success for us. I think we found a good mix in most of the relays. Micheala Peramaki (of GM-MB) is very good in pole vault and (BR-H's) Kim Palo has been finding her groove. Mallory Peterson and Morgan VanLanen have also been coming around for us."
Others to watch are Engadine's Aspen Hood (hurdles and sprints) and Jacquline Formolo (weight events), Superior Central's Teslyn Tyner (sprints and long jump), Mid Pen's Kelsey Shope (high jump), Sarah Hanson (distance) and Krysta VanDamme (weight events), Rapid River's Neena Brockway (weight events), North Central's Sydney Campbell (high jump), North Dickinson's Miranda Jacobson (long jump) and Deborah Starnes (pole vault) and Forest Park's Mary Grandahl (sprints and relays), Georgie Dohl (300 hurdles) and Gina Graff (weight events).