'It has that hometown feel'

Runners from throughout Midwest come out in full force Saturday for perfect conditions


Pat Krause/Daily Globe

KASEY KUKER, foreground, of Rochester, Minn., and an Ironwood native, and Donna Gering of Ironwood finish the Paavo Nurmi Marathon Saturday on Silver Street in Hurley.

HURLEY – Melissa Williams-Herrala lives in Chicago but talk to her for a few minutes and you realize she still has a soft spot in her heart for northern Wisconsin. After all, she grew up in Iron Belt and ran cross country at Hurley K-12 School.

Last year, Williams-Herrala was second in the women’s half-marathon, but on Saturday at the 45th annual Paavo Nurmi Marathon, she was the first to cross the finish line. Her time was 1:34:13.

“I like coming up here,” Williams-Herrala said. “It has that hometown feel. People are out there cheering for you. My husband said, ‘It feels like Americana.’”

Williams-Herrala said she felt really good and ran strong throughout the race with an added incentive to do well.

“My dad passed away in December,” Williams-Herrala said. “He was my inspiration out there today.”

Emmy Tuzee of Ironwood won last year’s half marathon but took fourth place this year in 1:39:17. What made the fourth place finish so impressive was that this year she is running for two as she is six months pregnant at this time.

Ironwood’s Paulette Niemi is a perennial contender in the Paavo’s half-marathon and she was right behind Tuzee in fifth place. (1:41:32).

Sandra Pera of Wakefield ran to an eighth place finish (1:47:01) and Mellen’s Heather Jokinen was the fifth area woman to finish in the top ten in the half-marathon.

Mike Treder of Belleville, Wis. shaved three minutes off his best Paavo time in the men’s half-marathon and won in 1:18:51. But Treder said it didn’t come easy.

“The second place guy (Neil Weerakoon) kept passing me on the hills,” Treder said. “Then I’d re-pass him on the straightaways. Finally at mile 23, I caught him and put some distance between us and he never caught me again. I ran the two-person relay for ten years and I enjoy coming up here with a group of guys from Ripon College.”

Ironwood’s Preston Carli (13th place), Brad Vaara of Hurley (14th) and William Vernetti of Bessemer (16th) were the area’s top finishers in the men’s half-marathon.

Dan Stietz of Dover, Minn. cruised to a win in the men’s hand cycle marathon and set a new Paavo course record in the process. His new record time of 1:26:33 was almost five minutes faster than his 2006 record finish of 1:31:26.

“It was a lot of cranking and a little bit downhill,” Stietz said. “Gravity is my friend. I’ve been working hard to improve and training hard. I’ve been averaging 100-150 miles a week and Dover has lots of hills. The weather couldn’t have been better and there was no wind.”

Stietz said he has won six of the seven Paavos he has raced in.

The Black and White World Brands (BWWB) running club of Milwaukee, Wis. blazed to a win in the men’s five-person relay in 2:27:44. And they did it with four runners when one teammate had to cancel out at the last minute.

Alex DeVillers ran legs one and two of the half-marathon (or 10 miles). The other team members included Bryan Schneider, Harrison Smith and Jason Smith.

DeVillers said running 10 miles was no big deal.

“We trained hard for this (half) marathon and we ran hard,” DeVillers said. “We all ran track and cross country against each other in college. The weather was beautiful and we had no challenge out there. Now we’re going to get a good start on a weekend in Hurley.”

Joe Pinardi, Steve Buck, Kevin Genisot, Brad Oinardi and Ross Corullo of Hurley took seventh place and were the top area finishers in this race.

Alex Zedler, Talyn Jones, Emmy Larson and Audrey Whitling of Tomahawk along with Dani Whitling of Rhinelander dominated the women’s five person relay with a winning time of 3:30:51.

That was 20 minutes faster than the second place team.

Area relay teams filled in the fourth through eighth places in the race. Molly Hagstrom, Dani Friedley and Jen Kuklinski ran with the fourth place team and Heather Selin, Megan Ahnen and Paige Berwald of Bessemer with Bethany Engel of Wakefield and Brandi Reed of Montreal were fifth.

Nancy Dary, Katie Piispanen and Cari and Emily DiGiorgio of Ironwood teamed with Rita Franzoi of Hurley to cross the finish line in sixth place.

The core of the Running Red Devils mixed five-person relay team has always been runners or past runners of the Ironwood cross country teams. This year the team consisted of Kari Strand, Jessica Gering and Jared Joki of Ironwood with Sam Dean of Wakefield and Steven Reynolds of Ashland filling in for Mike McPherson and Allan Peterson.

Team members have been so successful over the years that they couldn’t recall if this was the tenth or eleventh year consecutive year the Running Red Devils ran to victory in this event.

The winning streak continues to be a big deal for the team.

“We just really like running in the Paavo,” Strand said. “It shows we still care. We take pride in representing the Ironwood cross country program and the Ironwood Red Devils.”

The relay team came in just under three hours at 2:59:41.

Reynolds will be running for the Gogebic Community College cross country team this year.

In the women’s masters five-person relay, Judi Yatchak, Ginger Kivisto and Cheryl Bunt of Ironwood teamed up with Enni Gregas of Bessemer and Shelia Gregor of Hurley and took first place in 4:36:35.

Gary Aimone and Michael Gregor of Hurley and Gary Engstrom and Forrest Kivisto of Ironwood along with Carl Gregas of Bessemer won the men’s masters five-person relay in a time of 4:36:35.


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