U.P. harriers ready to run in Ludington Park – DailyPress.net | News, Sports, Jobs, Escanaba Information | The Daily Press

U.P. harriers ready to run in Ludington Park
By Dennis Grall
POSTED: October 24, 2009

ESCANABA – An extensive amount of prelimnary work is done. Now it is time for Upper Peninsula runners to enjoy the fruits of that labor and their own preparation.

The U.P. Finals will be held in Ludington Park today, the first time the event has been held in that location. Six races will be held, starting with Division 3 girls at 10 a.m.

Some U.P. coaches have grumbled about the location, citing a lack of hills among other complaints. However, Escanaba High School coach Jessica Menard said “it is more of a true cross country course. No course is perfect. It is very good for viewing.

“A lot of bigger races are on flat land,” she said, noting the state finals site at Michigan International Speedway is flat. She also pointed out it could lead to personal-best times for many runners. “We have just the one hill. It is not the most challenging (course),” she said.

The layout was changed this year to take runners off extensive blacktop roadways around Sand Point water plant, leading to a more friendly track that extends deeper onto Aronson Island.

It had a recent test run at the Golden K Kiwanis Invitational, and Menard said coaches and athletes “were pleased. I heard a lot of positive feedback. They really liked the changes.”

Some runners may adjust their strategy by sprinting out for an early cushion. “You don’t have to worry about gaining ground because of any hills. You don’t have to worry about extra energy,” she said.

Menard said a few tweaks were made after the Golden K race, such as placing more directional flags for the runners and adjusting areas for spectator viewing, particularly at the start-finish area near the bandshell.

“We’ve gotten a lot of help from the community, a lot of people are working on the course,” she said. “The way we have things laid out, the help we have, crowd control should not be an issue. We’re prepared. We’ve worked hard.”

EHS athletic director Dave Wilson said “this is by far the biggest event I’ve put on in my three years as AD. This is a huge event. It will be great for our community. It will bring money in for our restaurants and motels.”

Admission is $7 and entry gates are in four locations. “These events are not cheap,” said Wilson. “This event costs over $3,000 to stage. It is a monumental effort.”

Parents of the EHS runners are manning a fully-stocked concession stand in the pavilion, and various souvenir items will be available. Post-race awards will be distributed from the bandshell stage, starting about 2 p.m.

“I’m figuring 1,000 people will be in the park Saturday,” said Wilson. There will be 450 athletes from 33 schools and more than 50 volunteers, including a full medical staff.

“It is exciting to get all the kids in the U.P. in one spot. I’ve heard so much about these kids. There is going to be some great racing,” he said.

The lead group of runners in each division follow an ATV around the course. Wilson led the Golden K runners in a golf cart but said it was not fast enough. “A Munising kid (Jake Mahoski) passed me four times, and the kid from Marquette (Reed Payant) is a minute faster,” said Wilson.

Each runner will have a chip in their shoe for electronic timing, which is paid for by MHSAA.

Wilson had extensive prepartion time, which includes getting all entries sent to Marquette for the numbered bibs.

Menard and assistant coach Julie Moker have also been heavily involved, and Pat Gannon handled the course marking and had help from Gladstone coach Gary Whitmer in adjusting the layout.

“It’s been stressful, but we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to host such a big event,” said Menard. “I’m very excited.”

Categories: Track and Cross News

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