UP State Champions; Blue Devils Bring Home the Title

The Sault High Girls Track and Field team ended their incredibly successful 2024 season with a Division 1 Title, something that hasn’t happened since 2001. The top six in each event earned points for their team. The Lady Blue Devils earned 117 points over Negaunee 94, Gladstone 65, and Marquette 58. Head Coach of the girls’ team, Scott Menard, spoke highly of his team, and his fellow coaches. “It was a true team effort. We got contributions from everyone on the team. Things clicked and went as we had hoped, which is a strong reflection of the strong leadership from the seniors on the team and the excellent coaching staff that we have for the whole program.”

The girls’ team had two individual champions, and two relay team champions. Senior Katie Anderson capped off her high school career, winning the discus with a throw of 115’3. “Overall, I think I was really happy to see all the girls work from the season pay off, and it felt great to help the team win finals. I was lucky to have such a good team.” Freshman Ahnaka Oshelski was the 300m low hurdles champion with her best time yet, 48.29. “I was nervous for the 300 hurdles as I did not do as well as I expected in the 100 hurdles. I focused on my technique and advice given to me from my teammate Annabelle and dug deep for the win. I won by only .01 to a freshman from Neguanee. I know we will have some good battles in the upcoming years. It was a great feeling to bring a UP Championship to the Sault after 23 years. We have a great group of girls that push and support each other. I want to thank my coaches and athletic director Pat Bennin for helping and believing in me.”

The 4×200 relay team of Dayna Szabo, Oshelski, Grace Mayer and Bella Smith won with a time of 1:49.55. Izzy DeWildt, Mayer, Abby Walther and Dayna Szabo won the 4×400 relay with a time of 4:17.40. Senior Walther shared about her experience. “It was a really amazing feeling winning the 4×4. I got to watch Dayna Szabo come down the home stretch with a pretty solid gap, I couldn’t have been happier in that moment. I was so proud of the team, it’s so easy to fall apart but every person on the team really showed up and won it. All of our coaches also did a great job keeping us determined and getting us ready to compete. We all definitely deserved it.” Assistant Coach Becky Arbic reflected on the girls’ successful season. “I’m very proud of how well our seniors took our freshman under their wing & taught them how to race, they made competitors out of them, that leadership is a big part of us being successful.”

Sophomore Gabe Litzner broke the record in the 3200m run, with a time of 9:35.63. “It means a lot to me, the 1600 pr I was happy about, I would have liked the win but it took a lot of the nerves out of me in preparation for the two mile. I definitely wanted to make a comeback and take advantage of this opportunity. I was so happy and relieved once I won the two mile and made my comeback. It’s a very great feeling. Breaking the record was also great for me and both of these races gave me lots of confidence moving forward.” His win contributed to the boys’ team fourth place finish overall with 52 points. Marquette won the division with 163 points, over Kingsford 101, and Houghton 67.  Other champions on the boys team include senior Rayce Rizzo in the pole vault, with a vault of 13’. Junior Johnny Osborn won the adaptive shot put with a throw of 17’1.25. “It felt great I have been working hard every day since we got to the track with Mr. Boven our shot-put coach. I was eight inches away from a PR.”

Runners up included the other two girls’ relay teams. DeWildt, Stephanie Jones, Walther and Taryn Pratt took second in the 4×800 with a time of 10:20.82. Natalie Prestien, Mayer, Oshelski and Smith finished second in the 4×100 with a time of 52:03. Annabelle Fazzari was runner up in both the 100m high hurdles with a time of 17.07 and the discus with a personal best throw of 101’.  Pratt placed second in the 800m run with a personal best time of 2:28.59. Anderson was runner up in shot put with a throw of 34’1.75.

Throwers’ Coach Brad Boven noted the great day his athletes’ had. “Katie Anderson and Annabelle Fazzari both had multiple years of state meet experience and it showed. They never let the moment get too big for them. We have spent the past few weeks in talking through any possible scenario we have experienced before or could think of to make sure we were ready for the moment when it arrived. They had a goal of controlling what they could control and they did just that. It was Coach Menard’s and I hopes that they could move up 1 spot from their preliminary rankings because we knew that there was a shot at winning it all if everyone showed up to their capabilities. Annabelle a junior and 3rd time at the state meet impressed with a PR over 100 feet in discus which was where we knew she could get to. She also is consistent around the mid to low 30s for shot and did what she needed to do. Katie Anderson a senior and 3rd time at the state meet kept improving with every throw in discus and it was a tough task because we had a wet ring from the rain and it makes it that much tougher to keep your footing and grip on the disc. She also threw her season best at shot to take 2nd place behind a great athlete Danielle Lund from Manistique. Big thanks to Kingsford for always running a great track meet.”

Litzner was runner up in the 1600m run, with a personal best time of 4:27. Osborn was runner up in the adaptive 100m (26.80), 200m (48.89) and 400m (1:32.73 – PR)  races. 

Third place winners at the meet included Szabo in the 400m dash (1:02.93 – PR), Smith in the 200m dash (27.70) and Fazzari in the shot put (34’). The boys’ 4×800 relay team of Eli Hills, Shea Armstrong, Adam Brandt and Caleb Klier had a season best time of 8:30.50. Talon Thomas-Holm placed third in the high jump (5’11) and Rizzo took third in the long jump (18’9.5). Oshelski placed fourth in the 100m hurdles (17.23) and Walther was fourth in the 1600m run (5:42.90). The boys’ 4×100 relay team of Dean Roe, Donnivan Dykraaf, Klier and Javonte Bellamy placed fourth with a time of 46.21. Mayer placed fifth in the 400m dash (1:03.47) and Smith placed sixth in the 100m dash (13.56). Roe, Dykraaf, Klier and Max VanDoren brought home a sixth place finish in the 4×200 relay with a time of 1:38.18. Brady Ditmyer placed sixth in shot put with a throw of 41’6. 

Boys’ Head Coach Jim Martin was thrilled with the performance of his team. “All three boys relays pr’d (the 4 x 800 Pr’d by almost 20 seconds) Johnny pr’d in the 400 and won the shot and Gabe set the track record at Kingsford but missed the UP record by less than a second. That being said, his 3200 race was a beautiful thing to watch. We set up a race plan and he followed it flawlessly. Rayce and Talon had GREAT days. Isaac pr’d in the 110 highs and got some great experience. All four of our relays will bring everyone back next year along with Gabe and Brady.  We certainly overperformed Saturday and I could not be prouder of the team. Losing Ryver (Ryckeghem) and Owen (Rice) to season ending injuries, the team could have just laid down. But they rose to the challenge of the day. On paper we were a 6th or 7th place team, but we competed in every event we were in, showed a lot of grit and, well, the results speak for themselves.”

The track and field coaches are Jim Martin, Scott Menard, Brad Boven, Becky Arbic, Tony McLain and Michael Rand. The teams will wrap up their season with awards later this week. 

Katie Peabody, Staff Writer

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