By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
As a Hall of Fame radio broadcaster, Jim Moyes has told stories of high school sports for more than 50 years – and helped others do the same with his contributions as an authority on Michigan high school track & field history.
In the latter role, Moyes decades ago endeavored to uncover the names of every champion in MHSAA Finals history. And amid that research, he uncovered stories he knew he must share from the state’s rich tradition.
Moyes’ initial inspiration added to the expertise of another of the state’s foremost historians in the sport – Michtrack.org creator and Track & Field News associate editor Jeff Hollobaugh – has culminated in a 439-page must-have tome covering more than a century of the state’s best.
“The Fleet Feet of Spring: Michigan’s High School State Championships in Track & Field, 1895-2018” is co-authored by Moyes and Hollobaugh and tackles exactly that – more than 100 years of track & field results, beginning with an era before the MHSAA was created during 1924-25, with summations of championship meets, photos and features along the way that paint an all-encompassing picture.
“My initial project was simply to develop a data base of state champions in track & field, but it soon mushroomed into much more. While delving into the research I was inspired by many of the vast accomplishments dating back over the years,” Moyes said. “It wasn’t long before I realized that this was a story that should be told, and it soon became a labor of love.
“Before my research, I had never heard of many of these great athletes of the past. I was dumbfounded to learn that Alan Smith, an eight-time state champion, was killed in action in World War II, as well as deeds of others both on and off the athletic fields.”
Moyes said he first was “piqued” to write during his days as a student at North Muskegon, where at his school library he picked up a copy of “Athletics in Michigan High Schools: The First Hundred Years” by Lewis L. Forsythe, the first president of the MHSAA Representative Council.
Moyes’ gathering of names began long before the internet and led him to libraries all over our state. He also wrote hundreds of letters as he tracked down thousands of names – mostly first names, as often only the last names of competitors were listed in newspaper reports during the early eras.
With Hollobaugh’s imprint, all of those years of research became not just an encyclopedia, but a story.
“What Jeff has accomplished with this book cannot be thanked enough with just words,” Moyes said. “Jeff took this data base and created a format for state champs that took him many hours, days, weeks, months and even a couple of years to finalize.
“He laboriously fact-checked this entire book and created many of those amazing ‘nuggets’ that gave this publication the character that goes beyond boring our readers with just stats.”
“The Fleet Feet of Spring” is available from Amazon for $24.99. The first 268 pages are filled with stories of every meet dating back to events conducted by the Michigan Inter-School Athletic Association. The next 170 pages are packed with every championship listing imaginable, including names of contributors to winning relays through the years and a list of total individual champions per school.
BLISSFIELD – Last fall, June Miller raced for an MHSAA cross country title at Michigan International Speedway. During the winter she played in the Division 3 Basketball Final at the Breslin Center. In the spring, she competed at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 track & field championships in Kent City.
As she embarks on her senior year at Blissfield Community Schools in southeast Michigan, Miller isn’t concerned about an encore.
“I don’t worry about topping my junior season,” she said. “I don’t feel the need to. I’ll fight for it to the best of my ability, but if I don’t make it that’s okay. There were a lot of factors that went into last year, and I can’t control all of them this year.
“I’ll leave my best out there and know that I gave it my all, and in the end that’s the true accomplishment. If it takes me that far or further, then great. If not, that’s okay.”
Miller’s remarkable run to MHSAA Finals in three sports remains even more impressive when considering she had eight goals and five assists playing defense for the Royals soccer team.
“Shows up to work, busts her tail every practice, every game,” said Blissfield girls basketball coach Ryan Gilbert. “Never have to worry about June Miller.”
Miller is as steady an athlete as they come, never getting too high or too low in pressure situations. In basketball, Gilbert said Miller never met a shot she didn’t like. Miller started all 29 games last season, leading the team in 3-pointers.
Gilbert said Miller is even-keeled.
“It takes a while to get into the ‘June Miller circle,’ but I’m almost in,” he said. “This is her senior year; this is my year. She’s very funny when you get to know her and has a brilliant mind.
“She wants to win over everything,” Gilbert said.
Miller wasn’t the fastest runner on the cross country team last fall – that spot would belong to her younger sister, Hope. June has no problem with that.
“I love running with my sister,” she said. “She’s an amazing and incredibly kind person. Her dedication to running inspires me and keeps me fighting for it. We train together sometimes and she’s the one that pushes me, and I love that.
“I always knew she’d be faster than me someday, and I couldn’t be prouder of how fast she’s become and how much she’s achieved. (People might) think I’d hold some resentment for her beating me while I’m older, but she’s lived in my shadow for years and I’m so glad she’s been able to find her place that she can dominate.”
Blissfield is eyeing a big season in cross country after winning a Regional and just missing the top 10 at the Final a year ago. The Miller sisters are a big reason for the giddiness.
“I’m ready to leave it all out there,” Miller said. “It’s my senior season, and I want to go out strong. I think the end goal for all of us is to really push it this season and improve with each race so by the time we hit Regionals we’re in the best shape physically and mentally so we can leave it all on the course to get to states again.”
Because of her work schedule this summer, Miller missed some of the team workouts but was able to get the details from her sister and went out on her own time and trained to build up her mileage in preparation for the season.
“I think the experience from last year will give us something to fight for,” she said. “It allows us to look at the season with our end goal being the state meet. It gives us a passion and something to fight for.”
Blissfield cross country coach Ryan Bills called Miller a strong competitor.
“She is fun kid,” he said. “You never know which June you’re going to get – funny, chatty June or serious, no-nonsense June. Either way she always gives it her all during competition, which is why she has seen so much success the past year.”
The four-sport athlete spent the first couple of weeks of summer refreshing her body before kicking it into high gear.
She did take some time to reflect on all the places she got to play and compete last year and is grateful to be part of a team that helped her reach those places.
“It was a unique experience,” she said. “When I’m playing basketball or running track and cross country, I’m not focused on where I am physically – instead I’m in my head focused on what I need to do.
“Once you get to someplace, you stop thinking about getting there and you move on to the next step of being there and doing what you need to there.”
Miller is one of the top students in her class. She’s currently trying to decide whether she wants to pursue playing soccer in college. She wants to major in business and minor in sustainability, eventually getting a master’s degree in architecture.
“I want to be a sustainable design architect,” she said, “who can better the world through the art of architecture.”
Miller’s future looks bright, as does the outlook for this athletic year. In all three sports for which she reached the Finals last year, the Royals have enough returning talent to make lengthy runs again.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Miller said, about four days before the first cross country event of the season. “I want to make it to all those state tournaments again, but I want to do it with my teammates because they’re the ones that make it memorable and something to remember forever.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Blissfield’s June Miller (750) races during a cross country meet last fall. (Middle) Miller pulls up for a jumper during last season’s basketball postseason run. (Cross country photo by Deloris Clark-Osborne; basketball photo by Gary Sullivan.)