Finals Preview: Last Chance to Catch These Stars

May 31, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

More good stories emerge from MHSAA Track and Field Finals day than perhaps any other during our school year.

And arguably the most significant this entire spring will be final good-byes to some of the top female athletes ever to compete in this sport.

Grosse Pointe South twins Hannah and Haley Meier, Detroit Country Day’s Kendall Baisden, West Bloomfield's Erin Finn and Reed City’s Sami Michell are among standouts who will compete in an MHSAA event for the last time Saturday.

Read more about them below in our breakdown of the team favorites and key individuals at all seven MHSAA girls championship meets. Of course, we can’t mention everyone here who may do big things this weekend – but we’ll have coverage of every meet as well on Second Half beginning late Saturday night.

Click for meet information including all qualifiers and also Saturday night for results as they come in. And check out for live streaming coverage of running events from both peninsulas. (NOTE: "Top ranked" aren't listed for U.P. divisions because the coaches association does not produce U.P. rankings for this sport.)

LP DIVISION 1 at East Kentwood

Top ranked: No. 1 Grosse Pointe South, No. 2 East Kentwood, No. 3 Rockford.

Grosse Pointe South: The two-time reigning champion can continue building on an impressive run with perhaps its most dominant team of the last three seasons. The Blue Devils have six qualifiers in field events, 10 in individual races, and all four relays come in with top-eight qualifying times – including the national record holders in the 3,200 relay (Kelsie Schwartz, Ersula Farrow, Haley Meier and Hannah Meier), who ran an 8:48.29 last season. Hannah Meier owns two more LP Division 1 Finals records (more below).

East Kentwood: Senior Mariah Davis is one of the state’s top throwers and has two of the team’s eight field event qualifying berths. The team also will compete in three relays, but only three individual races – although freshman Sekayi Bracey has the top qualifying time in the 100 and 200 (more below).

Rockford: Distance running remains the name of the game for the Rams, who have seven individual race berths and also will run all four relays – with three posting qualifying times among the top eight in Division 1. Rockford also qualified five times for field events.

Southfield-Lathrup’s Keianna Ingram: The senior high jumper set the meet record of 5-9 last season and qualified at Regionals this spring at 5-8.

Jackson’s Cierra Pryor: She too set a meet record last season as a junior with a long jump of 19-0, and jumped 18-9 at her Regional. Pryor also tied for the second-fastest qualifying time in the 100, 11.9 seconds.

East Kentwood’s Sekayi Bracey: Just a freshman, Bracey has the fastest qualifying times in the 100 (11.7) and 200 (24.2), and both would be Finals records in Divisions 2-4. She’ll need to cut just a few tenths of a second to break Shayla Mahan’s all-Finals record of 11.5 in the 100, set in 2006, but about half a second to catch Mahan’s all-Finals 200 record of 23.74. Bracey also qualified third in long jump at 18-2.75.

Grosse Pointe South’s Hannah and Haley Meier: The much-celebrated twins should add a few more accolades in their final MHSAA Final. Hannah, set the all-Finals record in the 800 of 2:07.37 in 2011 and also set the all-Finals record of 4:42.6 in the 1,600 that spring. She has the third-best qualifying time in the latter this weekend, and Haley has the second-fastest.

West Bloomfield’s Erin Finn: This senior also has established herself as one of the nation’s top high school distance runners, and enters her last MHSAA Final with the fastest qualifying times in the 1,600 (4:49.3) and 3,200 (10:25.4). She set the all-Finals record in the latter last season with a time of 10:17.86.

Other returning individual champions: Jae’vyn Wortham, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse (discus, qualified this spring number one in discus and tied for 16th in shot put).

LP DIVISION 2 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern

Top ranked: No. 1 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, No. 2 Dearborn Divine Child, No. 3 Williamston.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern: The Hawks have a solid collection of qualifiers with three in field events and nine in individual races. But they’ll make their points in the relays – all four enter with qualifying times among the top five in their respective races, keyed by the top-qualifying 400 relay. FHE’s 400 team ran a 48.8 at its Regional, the best of any Division 2 team by nearly a second and only 11 hundredths off Detroit Renaissance’s Division 2 Final record of 48.69 set in 2000.

Dearborn Divine Child: A large group of frontrunners makes the Falcons the possible favorite again – they tied for first last season, won outright in 2010 and finished runners-up in 2011. All four relays qualified among the top eight overall in the division, with the 800 and 1,600 relays running the fastest Regional times. Paige Patterson (more below), Mallory Myler and Kayla Gandy enter Saturday with a combined four top qualifying times in their respective events – among 10 individual race qualifications total for the team.

Williamston: This is one of the younger Hornets teams of late, but they could improve on last season’s sixth-place finish with five qualifications in field events plus three relay berths. All three relays ran qualifying times 10th or better in the division.

Kendall Baisden, Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets’ senior is one of the most decorated champions in MHSAA history. She won the 400 last season in a meet-record 54.58 seconds to go with two individual championships as a freshman and three more won as a sophomore. She posted the third-best 200 Regional time in Division 2 at 25.6 and the 10th-best in the 400, 59.8.

Paige Patterson, Dearborn Divine Child: Also a senior, Patterson is favored to finish with two more MHSAA championships after winning the 200 last season in 24.91. She tied for the top Regional time in that race, 25.1, and also enters with the best 400 Regional time of 57.6 after finishing third in that race at last season’s MHSAA Final.

Janina Pollatz, Grand Rapids Christian: The senior is the reigning pole vault champion, going 11-3 last season. She tied for the second-best Regional vault at 11-2 and also leaped the second-best long jump of 17-2.

Kathryn Mills, Eaton Rapids: The Greyhounds junior is hoping to win the high jump for a third straight season and tied for the best Regional jump of 5-4. She also tied for the 15th-best Regional time in the 100 hurdles, 15.9.

LP DIVISION 3 at Comstock Park

Top ranked: No. 1 Frankenmuth, No. 2 Benzonia Benzie Central, No. 3 Hopkins.

Frankenmuth: The reigning champion won by nine points last season and again is loaded with scoring potential. Eight qualifiers are ranked among the top 12 in their respective events based on Regional performances – thrower Ashley Frahm, hurdler Sydney Bronner and sprinter Angie Ritter all are expected to contend in multiple events. The 800 relay ran the fastest Regional time in the division, 1:47.2, and all four relays ran times that ranked among the top 12 in those races.

Benzie Central: Last season’s runner-up should score big with its relays – all four posted Regional times among the top 10 in the division, and three of four posted times among the top five division-wide. Benzie Central also has seven individual race qualifiers and three in the field events.

Hopkins: After tying for 10th last season, Hopkins too could make a big jump thanks to relays. All four enter this weekend with Regional times that ranked among the top six for the entire division. Hopkins also has six individual race qualifiers and three in field events.

Sami Michell, Reed City: A senior, Michell last season became just the second girl and fourth athlete boys or girls to win four MHSAA individual titles in a single Finals meet. The University of Michigan recruit suffered a knee injury during volleyball season but should threaten her Division 3 record in the 100 hurdles of 13.84 (she ran a 13.9 at the Regional) going for her fourth title in that race; Michell also ran a division-best 45.2 in the 300 hurdles at the Regional and owns the all-Finals record in that race of 42.23. She also had the second-fastest 200 time in the division and will attempt to defend her two long jump Finals titles.

Brianna Dinneen, Buchanan: The Bucks senior should make a run at finishing her career as the elite sprinter in Division 3 history. She ran an 11.9 in her 100 Regional, better than the MHSAA Final record of 12.09 by Keyria Calloway of Detroit Crockett set in a 2006 semifinal. Dinneen’s 200 Regional time of 24.9 is just off the Division 3 Final record of 24.82 set by Laingsburg’s Julie Johnson in 2002. Dinneen also qualified in the long jump and 400.

Amber Way, Charlevoix: The sophomore’s 10:51.8 in the Regional 3,200 would best the Division 3 Final record in the race of 10:57.16 set by Nicole Bush of Wyoming Kelloggsville in 2004. Way also should contend in the 1,600 after running that race in 5:10.4 at the Regional.

Raquel Serna, St. Louis: The Sharks senior is a solid favorite in the 1,600 with the division’s best Regional time of 4:58.6, and she too ran a Regional time in the 3,200 that would break the MHSAA Division 3 Final record – 10:53.6. She also should score in the 800.

Other returning individual champions:  Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port’s Kayla Deering (shot put, qualified this spring number one in that event and 18th in discus), Schoolcraft’s Kara Craig (high jump, qualified this spring tied for 10th), Leroy Pine River’s Devyn Powell (400, qualified this spring second), Manistee’s Annie Fuller (800, qualified this spring second, sixth in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200).

LP DIVISION 4 at Hudsonville Baldwin Street Middle School

Top ranked: No. 1 Beal City, No. 2 Sand Creek, No. 3 Traverse City St. Francis.

Beal City: Reigning high jump champion Addie Schumacher should again play a big role as Beal City works to move up from third last season. She tied for the second-best high jump at Regionals and tossed the sixth-best shot put. Only two relays qualified – but both with the third-fastest Regional times in the division – and the team also boasts four more field events qualifications and nine in individual races.

Sand Creek: These Aggies have fewer qualifiers than Beal City, but more expected to score big points. Senior Elizabeth Herriman is the defending shot put champ and had the best toss at Regionals both in that event and discus. Senior Natalie Perry ran top-five division-wide Regional times in both the 1,600 and 3,200, and the 400 and 800 relays turned in times that ranked second in the division.

Traverse City St. Francis: A pair of top individuals and strong relays could push last year’s runner-up to the top. Reigning 400 champ Lauren Buckel posted the fastest Regional time in that race and the second-fastest in the 200, and freshman Holly Bullough ran the second-fastest 800, fastest 1,600 and second-fastest 3,200 in the division. The 800 relay was Division 4’s fastest, and the 1,600 and 3,200 relays were among the top four.

Miranda Johnson, Ottawa Lake Whiteford: The junior has a shot at breaking at least two division records – her 18-3.25 long jump at the Regional would beat the current record by 3.5 inches, and her 12.2 100 would beat the current record by two tenths of a second. She also had the fastest Regional time (25.8) in the division in the 200.

Chantel Davenport, Athens: A senior, she’ll go after the 100 hurdles record of 15.14 set in 2009 – Davenport ran 15.1 at the Regional. She’s also the favorite in the high jump and posted the second-best long jump behind Johnson last weekend.

Ashley White, Detroit Edison Academy: Five sprinters should make a run at that 100 record, but White joins Johnson among those who bested that 12.4 time at Regionals. White, a junior, ran a 12.3 and also posted the third-fastest time in the 200.

Kirsten Olling, Breckenridge: The reigning 3,200 champion has the top Regional time (11:19.4) coming in and the second-fastest in the 1,600 (5:17.9).

Other returning individual champions: Hillsdale Academy’s Shaley Albaugh (800, qualified first this spring).

UP DIVISION 1 at Kingsford

Marquette: The Redettes are loaded for a third-straight MHSAA team title and fifth in six seasons. They have the top qualifying time in the division in all four relays plus the top qualifier in one field event and five individual races. Freshman Lindsey Rudden comes in as the favorite in the 800 (2:21.86), 1,600 (5:15.2) and 3,200 (11:53.21). That 800 time would approach this meet’s record, and the 1,600 time would break it easily. Sophomore Shayla Huebner won the 400 last season and enters with the best Regional time in that event and the second-fastest in the 800.

Negaunee: The reigning runner-up fell seven points shy last season but is led again by senior Ashley Veale, the 2012 champion in both the 100 and 300 hurdles who also will run the 100 and 200. Her 100 hurdles Regional time (16.54) was the best in the division.

Chelsea Jacques, Calumet: Last season as a freshman she set the meet record in the 100 (12.55), and she ran a 12.59 at this spring’s Regional. She also ran the second-best Regional time in the 200, 27.08, after winning the Finals championship in that race as well in 2012.

Jessica Young, Gladstone: The senior is expected to defend her discus title with the top Regional throw (107-3) by more than a foot, and she’s also a contender in the shot put.

UP DIVISION 2 at Kingsford

Iron River West Iron County: The Wykons bring a deep team coming off a third-place finish last season and a Regional title this month. They have at least one qualifier in every event, with Megan Miatech the favorite in both the discus and shot put and Cassilyn Pellizzer the top 300 hurdler at Regionals in the division.

Manistique: The Emeralds finished eighth in Division 1 last season but won their Regional in Division 2 and have the top relay in three races based on Regional times. Freshman Holly Blowers is one to follow – she enters with the best 800 (2:32.04), 1,600 (5:32.3) and second-best 3,200 (11:31.76) times from Regionals.

Hannah Palmeter, Ironwood: The senior is the reigning champion in the 800 and ran the second-fastest Regional time in the division, 2:37.13, ranking behind only Blowers.

UP DIVISION 3 at Kingsford

St. Ignace: The winner of the last three Division 2 championships is running in Division 3 this season. Senior Sarah Cullip won three individual titles last season and owns four overall; she ran the fastest Regional time in the division in the 800 (2:30), 1,600 (5:36) and 3,200 (12:30), and will also pole vault. Another big scorer could be junior Rachel Hetherington, whose times in the 100, 200 and 400 all ranked among the top five from the division’s Regionals.

Brimley: Despite finishing 37 points behind St. Ignace at their Regional, Brimley has to be considered a contender again after winning this Final the last two seasons. Junior Tabitha Graham likely will be the biggest contributor Saturday. She is the reigning high jump champ, has the second-fastest Regional time in the 400 and also is a contender in the long jump. Sophomore Emily Chartrand is the reigning champion in the 3,200 and had the second-fastest Regional time in the division.

Jamie Dompier, Chassell: The senior already holds a meet record in the 200 of 26.36 and ran a 26.21 at the Regional. Her Regional time in the 100 of 12.45 would break the Final record of 12.5 set in 2003. She also had the division’s fastest Regional time in the 400 (102:33).

Engadine’s Aspen Hood: She should approach a meet record as a freshman – her 47.94 in the Regional 300 hurdles would’ve broken this Final’s record of 48.07 from 2009. She also ran the fastest Regional time in the 100 hurdles (16.3) and the second-fastest in the 200 (26.29). She won the 300 hurdles last season as an eighth grader.

Rudyard’s Savannah Dugan: The junior won the Division 2 discus and shot put last season, setting a meet record in the former of 122-10.25. She had the best Regional throws this spring in both events in Division 3.

Other returning individual champions: Rapid River’s Neena Brockway (discus, qualified eighth in that event and shot put this season), Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Sarah Audette (pole vault, qualified tied for second in that event and 11th in high jump this season.)

PHOTO: Ottawa Lake Whiteford’s Miranda Johnson uncoils on a long jump on the way to winning the Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship last season. (Click to see more at 

East Kentwood Friends Continuing to Excel as NCAA Champ, Pro Soccer Keeper

By Steve Vedder
Special for

August 8, 2022

Maia Perez and Gabriela Leon saw it coming.

In fact, the two 2017 East Kentwood all-staters each predicted remarkable post-high school success for each other long before graduation.

Perez was a four-year letterwinner as a soccer goalkeeper who led the Falcons to the Division 1 Semifinals as a sophomore and now plays professionally in Los Angeles. Leon, an all-state pole vaulter in high school, recently became University of Louisville's first NCAA champion in that event.

The two say the success doesn't come as a surprise to either, that part of that success can be explained because they continually pushed each other athletically at East Kentwood.

"Obviously there are a lot of good athletes at East Kentwood, and she was one of those amazing athletes," Perez said of Leon. "When she accomplished something, I wanted to do something big, too. I was all-state in soccer, she was all-state in track, and it was nice to have someone push you, even on days when you didn't feel like being pushed."

Leon credits Perez for helping her grasp the difference between toiling as an ordinary athlete and rising to an elite status as early as the ninth grade.

"When you see high-caliber athletes in the state finals, I think you see the struggles that others don't see," Leon said. "I saw what she was doing, and I learned from that. I learned, and I think she did too, that you have to work hard to be good, to achieve your goals. There is definitely mutual respect between us."

East Kentwood track & fieldThe two met as freshmen and quickly became friends. They originally had soccer in common as both played junior varsity as freshmen before Perez was promoted to varsity later that spring. The teammates began hanging out together off the field, be it at the beach or while taking the school's advanced physical education class together. By the time they were sophomores, however, it had become apparent that Perez's future – despite being a good basketball player – would remain in soccer, while Leon – who had also lettered in volleyball and cross country – narrowed her focus to track.

Both excelled after leaving East Kentwood. Leon had earned her first top-eight MHSAA Finals places as a sophomore, and as a senior placed fourth in pole vault, third in long jump and ran on the fourth-place 400 relay and third-place 1,600 relay as East Kentwood finished third in Lower Peninsula Division 1. Her high school personal records were 13 feet in pole vault and 18-11 in long jump (with a wind-aided 19-7). She broke Louisville's indoor and outdoor records in the pole vault as a sophomore and never looked back. She won the 2022 NCAA outdoor championship in June with a jump of 15-feet, one inch (4.6 meters) while becoming just the fourth collegian ever to amass three clearances over 4.6 meters.

Perez was a three-time Ottawa-Kent Conference Red soccer pick in high school who helped the Falcons in 2015 to their best postseason finish, when they lost to 1-0 in a Semifinal to eventual Division 1 champ Saline. She went on to play at University of Hartford after attracting interest from other programs including Western Michigan, Coastal Carolina and Pittsburgh. She wound up playing every minute of all 37 of her starts as a sophomore and junior while missing just 45 minutes over 19 games as a freshman. COVID-19 wiped out the program's season when Perez was a senior. Still, she is eighth on the school's all-time saves list with 206 while ranking 10th in shutouts with 12.

Following college, Perez was signed by the Los Angeles-based Angel City FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. While she wasn't drafted by any NWSL club, Perez impressed coaches enough during a tryout to land a spot on the team's "Discovery List" as the youngest of three goalkeepers.

"Things have been going real well for me there," Perez said. "I feel like I've improved a ton."

While Perez credits Leon with pushing her as an athlete, she said the two didn't necessarily dwell on what they accomplished in high school. They did, however, compare notes on the similarities it took for both to succeed, both physically and mentally.

"We didn't necessarily talk about (honors) a lot," Perez said. "We both knew what each other accomplished, and I don't think we need to talk about it. But I just knew one day she would be really good in track."

East Kentwood soccerLeon said the trait which stuck out about Perez in high school was her competitive drive. She hated to lose, Leon said.

"She was always a very impressive athlete," Leon noted. "She always had (success) in her because she was a real hard worker. Going into high school you could see her work ethic. We had a mutual friendship, and I saw what a work ethic and being humble could do for you."

As for herself, Leon, like many athletes, explored playing many sports. But she always came back to track.

"I always wanted to be the best athlete I could be," she said. "I was never just satisfied with just doing something. I always had this deep desire to perform to the best of my ability."

Perez remembers the first sport which interested her was skateboarding. In fact, the first time Perez met then-East Kentwood coach John Conlon, she told him she was only marginally interested in soccer. Conlon, who led East Kentwood’s girls and boys programs to a combined 654 wins and the boys varsity to five Division 1 championships, quickly made a convert of Perez.

"It's funny how things work out," Perez said. "I was looking for something that I could really be a part of, and now it's my job and I'm so happy I can say I'm getting paid for something I really like."

2021-22 Made in Michigan

Aug. 3: 3-Time Finals Champ Cherishes Memories, Considering Golf Future - Read
Aug. 1: 
Lessons Learned on Track Have Jibowu's Business Surging to Quick Success - Read
July 28: 
Running Set Life's Stage for Grosse Pointe South's Record-Setting Meier Sisters - Read
July 25: 
2005 Miss Basketball DeHaan Cherishing Newest Title: 1st-Time Mom - Read
July 21: 
Championship Memories Still Resonate with St. Thomas Star Lillard - Read
July 14:
Portage Central Champ Rolls to Vanderbilt, Writing Next Chapter in Alabama - Read
July 12: Coaching Couple Passing On Knowledge, Providing Opportunities for Frankfort Wrestlers - Read
June 30: Hrynewich's Star Continuing to Rise with Olympic, Pro Sports Arrivals - Read

PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from left, Gabriela Leon competes for the East Kentwood and University of Louisville track & field teams, and Maia Perez plays soccer for East Kentwood and trains for the NWSL's Angel City FC. (Middle) Leon holds up her NCAA championship trophy in June. (Below) Perez is one of three keepers for Angel City FC. [Photos courtesy of East Kentwood's athletic department (2017 soccer), Run Michigan (2017 track & field), the Louisville athletic department (2022 track & field) and Will Navarro/Angel City FC (2022 soccer).]