By JOHN VRANCIC
For the Daily News
IRON RIVER - The numbers haven't been real high on West Iron County's cross country teams in recent years, but that doesn't mean the Wykons haven't had quality runners.
Junior Tori Harris represented the West Iron girls admirably on Monday by placing 10th in the Wykon Invitational.
Harris, despite feeling under the weather, covered the 3.1-mile course at the Iron River Country Club in 21 minutes, six seconds on this sunny, but breezy and seasonably cool day.
"My chest was so tight," said Harris, who won in 21:57 at Ishpeming last week. "I couldn't breathe. I have a touch of asthma, but I never felt this way before. I think much of it had to do with the pressure of running on our home course. I felt anxious all day. This is only my third meet this year because I've been focusing so much on tennis."
The Calumet girls were crowned champions with 32 points, followed by Houghton 57 and Hancock 69.
"The girls ran well overall," said Calumet coach Arne Kinnunen. "Our number three, four and five runners had great performances. We were able to show a little depth today."
Ironwood senior Jessica Gering was the individual winner at 20:26, followed by Calumet's Leah Kiilunen (20:36) and Chelsea Jacques (20:36.1).
"I tried to break away after the first 800 (meters), and started getting some separation after a mile," said Gering. "The hill along the highway (M-189) doesn't look that long, but it kills you. We had to run it twice and the headwind made it even more challenging. I knew about the uphill coming into the finish. I also knew I had people chasing me. I just had to keep going."
The Houghton boys, placing all seven runners in the top 15, won with 25 points. They were followed by Calumet 70 and Hancock 103.
"We're real happy with the results," said Houghton coach Traci Welch."Our depth is real good. We have our eyes on the U.P. Finals. The potential is there for us to be (Division 1 title) contenders."
Ironwood junior Jared Joki won in 16:44, followed by Houghton juniors David Jazsczak (16:59) and Jacob Colling (17:12).
"I started out real well," said Joki. "There were times when it seemed like I may have gone out too fast. But it was nice running against some of the Houghton guys. I was trying to push it on the uphills. I really like this course, and I think the weather was real nice for running. Overall, this is probably the best weather I had this year."
Jazsczak had been battling a knee injury and Stone was hindered by an Achilles tendon injury during this season, and Colling underwent hernia surgery six weeks before the opener.
"We're just starting to come back together," said Welch. "Dan Wood, who was our fourth runner today, has done a phenomenal job."
Junior Gabe Harris (Tori's brother) led the West Iron boys by placing 22nd.
"I practice with the boys and like running with my brother," said Tori. "Gabe does this to stay in shape for football. I run with him in practice and do longer runs on my own during the weekends."
Tori wasn't the only one to have butterflies prior to this meet. Second-year coach Cindy Harris admitted she was also nervous coming into Monday's event.
"I haven't been educated on how to run a home meet," said Cindy. "Fortunately, (former Wykon coach) Fred Jacobs was here to help me. He was a real life saver. It's hard for West Iron because we have only seven runners (varsity and jayvee combined). But once the meet got going everything seemed to go smooth. The goal is to keep cross country alive at our school.
"Gabe ran his best time ever and we're certainly happy about that. In the girls' race, we knew the top three would be tough competition. I don't think Tori is the only one who struggled out there today. I think everybody had issues with the wind and cold."
West Iron County Invitational
At Iron River Country Club
Boys - Houghton 25, Calumet 70, Hancock 103, Dollar Bay 126, Ironwood 127, Painesdale Jeffers 142, Chassell 177, Bessemer, Wakefield-Marenisco, Baraga and West Iron County NTS.
Top 10 - 1, Jared Joki, Ironwood, 16:44; 2, David Jazsczak, Houghton, 16:59; 3, Jacob Colling, Houghton, 17:12; 4, Zack Mazurek, Bessemer, 17:21; 5, Isaac Stone, Houghton, 17:23; 6, Dan Wood, Houghton, 17:41; 7, Devin Berg, Calumet, 17:41.1; 8, Josh Larson, Calumet, 17:54; 9, Ri Chen, Houghton, 18:02; 10, Tom Autio, Dollar Bay, 18:15.
Girls -Calumet 32, Houghton 57, Hancock 69, Dollar Bay 112, Ironwood, Bessemer, Wakefield-Marenisco, West Iron County, Baraga, Chassell, Jeffers NTS.
Top 10 - 1, Jessica Gering, Ironwood, 20:26; 2, Leah Kiilunen, Calumet, 20:36; 3, Chelsea Jacques, Calumet, 20:36.1; 4, Noelle Polakowski, Houghton, 20:44; 5, Abbey Tembruell, Hancock, 20:56; 6, Corey Miller, Calumet, 20:56.1; 7, Erin McKenzie, Hancock, 20:57; 8, Lily Wieringa, Bessemer, 21:01; 9, Abbey Helppi, Calumet, 21:04; 10, Tori Harris, WIC, 21:06.