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Ironwood's Niemi sticks with lead pack, finishes 3rd at Ashland Invite


August 26, 2016

Jason Juno/Daily Globe

Ironwood's Nick Niemi, right, runs in the lead pack at Thursday's Ashland Invitational cross country meet at the Chequamegon Bay Golf Club. He finished third, not far behind Ashland's Maury Miller (209), who finished first, and Walker Miller (213). Drummond's Gavin Martell, second from right, ended up falling back and finishing fourth.

ASHLAND, Wis. - Ironwood sophomore Nick Niemi's goal for this season is to win the Division 2 U.P. Finals in October.

If Thursday is any indication, that's a realistic goal.

The top two runners, Ashland's Miller twins, Maury and Walker, were the top finishers at Thursday's Ashland Invitational.

That's no surprise. Maury went to state last year in cross country, Walker just missed because of an injury. Their brother Bryce finished 10th in the Olympic trials in 3,000-meter steeplechase this summer.

Just 3.9 seconds behind Maury and 2.2 behind Walker was Niemi, who finished in 17:50.6.

Those three were clearly the class of Thursday's field of 132 boys.

"My goal was just top three and just stick with them for as long as possible because I know they're really fast," said Niemi, who finished third at last year's U.P. Finals. "I just stuck behind them. I knew the second lap was going to be pretty hard because it's all uphill and coming to the finish it's all uphill, too."

Niemi improved on last year's Ashland time by 14 seconds.

"That was very nice him being in the lead pack. The Millers are very strong runners," Ironwood coach Ben Schmandt said. "That was a nice pace. For the first meet of the year, knowing he can set a pace and stick with it, that was pretty good."

Drummond's Gavin Martell ran a strong as race as well, running with the lead pack for awhile, eventually finishing fourth, nearly 36 seconds behind the lead pack.

The fifth-place runner, Gavin Douglas of Ashland, was 23.2 seconds behind Martell.

The Gogebic Miners boys finished fourth with their top five runners all finishing in the top 27. The Devils finished seventh and Hurley was 10th.

"To have the top five in the top 30 in a big meet like this, it's really great to see," Gogebic coach Lauren Korpi said.

After finishing second in the U.P. last year, the Miners lost Sam Dean, who won the Division 2 U.P. title last year. But everybody else is back and they gain Adam Mazurek, a freshman who finished 22nd Thursday.

Gogebic was led by Tim Rowe, who finished 11th.

"He ran really, really well. He's worked hard in practice," Korpi said.

Ironwood's Andrew Niemi was 20th.

Schmandt said Ironwood has a lot of boys who are new to the sport and they did well. Of the conference teams here, Ironwood was second to Solon Springs by 10 points. They were well behind Gogebic, which is also in Division 2 in the U.P.

"Overall with the guys side, I was happy with it," Schmandt said. "Andrew Niemi, I think, is looking better. He's put the work in and he's going to bounce back from a tough stretch, he's going to bounce back strong for us."

Hurley was led by Carson Thewis, who took 26th.

Ashland's Amy Wallis won the girls race by almost a minute over Superior's Audrey Phillips. Phillips led through most of the first lap, but Wallis overtook her and then took off.

Tori Anderson paced the Midgettes in 25th. Corissa Mattson finished 32nd for Ironwood. A shorthanded Gogebic was led by Elizabeth Makela in 68th.

Chequamegon swept the boys and girls races, winning both by 16 points. Chequamegon's five in the top 25 beat Ashland's three in the top five on the boys side.

Ironwood's Blaze Hollenbeck won the middle school race in 9:55.1 on the 1.6-mile course.



Team: 1. Chequamegon 60, 2. Ashland 76, 3. Tomahawk 83, 4. Gogebic 95, 5. Superior 113, 6. Solon Springs 162, 7. Ironwood 172, 8. Drummond 214, 9. Hayward 251, 10. Hurley 261, 11. Barron 282.

Top 5: 1. Maury Miller, Ashland, 17:46.7; 2. Walker Miller, Ashland, 17:48.4; 3. Nick Niemi, Ironwood, 17:50.6; 4. Gavin Martell, Drummond, 18:26.8; 5. Gavin Douglas, Ashland, 18:50.0

Gogebic: 11. Tim Rowe, 19:20.9; 17. Devon Byers, 19:49.5; 21. Cade Mazzon, 19:54.8; 22. Adam Mazurek, 19:55.9; 27. Austin Vizina, 20:25.9.

Ironwood: 20. Andrew Niemi, 19:52.6; 46. Rico Braucher, 21:35.8; 62. Cole Brunell, 21:59.7; 72. Jake Joki, 22:26.9.

Hurley: 26. Carson Thewis, 20:18.9; 63. Luke Marczak, 22:03.7; 80. Tate Guenard, 22:50.0; 81. Gavin Ransanici, 22:55.6; 85. Dante Bender, 23:19.9.


Team: 1. Chequamegon 44, 2. Superior 60, 3. Hayward 83, 4. Tomahawk 88, 5. Ashland 103, 6. Hurley 173, 7. Barron 188, 8. Washburn 219.

Top 5: 1. Amy Wallis, Ashland, 21:22.3; 2. Audrey Phillips, Superior, 22:19.2; 3. Sophie Mattson, Ashland, 22:36.7; 4. Nel Hanson, Hayward, 22:53.0; 5. Haley Voermans-Dean, Tomahawk, 23:06.7.

Gogebic: 68. Elizabeth Makela, 31:38.4; 85. Jessica Hegblom, 32:53.4; 98. Evelyn Hokans, 36:05.2; 105. Ella Lynott, 41:11.5.

Ironwood: 32. Corissa Mattson, 26:29.3.

Hurley: 25. Tori Anderson, 25:41.1; 46. Aiyana Nickel, 28:30.3; 50. Melissa Simonar, 28:56.4; 54. Brooke Piilola, 29:24.9; 59. Riley Kangas, 29:51.4.


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