Westwood Challenge

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Oct. 7, 2009

Westwood Challenge
West Ishpeming, MI

ISHPEMING - On a day more suited for ducks than humans, prep cross country runners Reed Payant of Marquette and Abbey Kelto of Munising didn't let a driving, cold rain deter them at the Westwood Challenge Tuesday afternoon.

A junior, Payant covered the soggy 3.1-mile Wawonowin Country Club course in 15:47 to take top honors for the boys in a meet sightly different than most.

Instead of a mass start, the No. 1 competitors of all teams entered run against one another, the No. 2 runners square off, and so on. That way, coaches can get a good idea of how their runners stack up against similar competition.

"I feel real good for having won this meet," Payant said. "It was really, really cold and terribly rainy out there. The course was muddy and the rain made it soggy and hard to run on.

"I slipped a few times, but I didn't fall."

Payant also made a wrong turn that cost him a few seconds, but not the meet title.

"I took a wrong turn ... after the last turn and about 600 meters to the finish," he said. "It took about three seconds off my time."

Payant said runner-up Alan Peterson of Ironwood pushed him the entire race. Peterson finished with a 15:55 clocking.

"He was with me until the very last half-mile," Payant said. "I was pushing it at the end to stay ahead of Peterson."

Jake Mahoski (16:06) of Munising placed third.

Marquette claimed the team title, placing all seven runners at the top of each group.

"I'm really happy with what we did today," coach Mike Leanes said. "Reed was running against two of the better runners in Peterson and Mahoski, and he responded well."

Munising placed second with 27 points, while Houghton came in third with 31 in the 13-team event.

Kelto, meanwhile, copped the girls' individual crown with a 19:36 clocking, beating runner-up Alicia Romano of Marquette by 15 seconds. Emily Humes of Houghton (20:01) placed third.

"It was probably some of the worst conditions I've ever run in," Kelto said.

"But I warmed up enough before the race that after the first mile, I felt good."

She added she and Romano battled early.

"We were together for the first mile," Kelto said, "but then I slowly pulled away.

"There was a small uphill where I got a little bit of a lead. I thought from there, if I kept pushing it, I could increase the lead."

Munising coach Fran DesArmo said Kelto was "pumped up and ready to go."

"She's doing a good job. She can run in any kind of weather, it doesn't bother her. She's a tough little runner," he said.

"She has been changing her strategy a little to take over a race in the middle," the Munising coach added. "She followed (Tuesday) for a mile, then stretched it out after that."

Marquette claimed the girls team title with nine points. Houghton (20) and Menominee (23) followed in the 12-team meet.

Meet organizer and Westwood High School head coach Stephen Pohlman said there never was any thought of postponing or canceling the event due to the poor weather conditions.

"We knew there wasn't going to be any lightning and we run in the rain," he said. "The cold was bothersome, but a lot of kids like to run in the rain."