Girls Finals: Burning up the record book

June 2, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Rain or shine and everything in between couldn't keep a strong class of MHSAA Track and Field athletes from once again shining in the final girls meets of the season Saturday.

A total of 19 Finals records either were tied or broken during the seven championships events featuring schools from throughout both peninsulas. Three records were new bests for all Finals, regardless of division. And two athletes won four individual titles – another feat rarely seen.

Here's our breakdown of the best from Saturday's meets. It's impossible to include every highlight, of course. But feel free to comment below and tell us what we missed.


Few have put together a Finals like Sami Michell’s in Division 3 – and no girl has done so in the Lower Peninsula since 1979. Adding to her three championships in 2011 and another in 2010, Michell won four events – long jump, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the 200 – and set three records in the process, including the all-Finals mark in the 300 erasing what had stood since 1984. She’s only a junior, and nearly pulled off the four-title feat last season but finished second in the 200. The last girl to win four events at one LP Finals was Mason County Eastern’s Maria Shoup, who did so at the 1979 Class D meet with victories in the 100 hurdles, 200 hurdles, 800 and long jump.

Record setters

All Finals and LP D3/300 hurdles – Sami Michell, Reed City – 42.23
(All Finals previous was 42.4, set by Benton Harbor’s Carolyn Ferguson in Class A in 1984; previous D3 was 43.84, also by Michell, set in 2011)

All Finals and LP D1/3,200 relay – Kelsie Schwartz, Ersula Farrow, Haley and Hannah Meier – 8:48.29
(previous was 9:05.47, set by Rochester in 2010)

All Finals and LP D1/1,600 run – Erin Finn, West Bloomfield – 10:17.86
(previous was 10:22.75, set by Rochester’s Megan Goethals in 2010)

LP D1/High jump – Keianna Ingram, Southfield-Lathrup – 5-9
(ties previous set by Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Ariel Roberts in 2008)

LP D1/Long jump – Cierra Pryor, Jackson – 19-0
(previous was 18-9, set by Saginaw Arthur Hill’s Monsherri Hall in 2007)

LP D2/100 dash –
Sydney Cureton, Detroit Country Day – 11.90
(previous was 11.92, also by Cureton, set in 2011)

LP D2/1,600 run –
Sara Barron, Pontiac Notre Dame – 4:51.67
(previous was 4:54.07, set by Corunna’s Jamie Kryzmiski in 2000)

LP D2/400 dash –
Kendall Baisden, Detroit Country Day – 54.58
(previous was 54.91, also by Baisden, set in 2010)

LP D2/3,200 run –
Ali Wiersma, Allendale – 10:40.22
(previous was 10:40.66, set by Monroe Jefferson’s Beka Smeltzer in 2004)

LP D3/Long jump –
Sami Michell, Reed City – 18-6.5
(previous was 18-1, set by Albion’s Juandretta Oliver in 2007)

LP D3/100 hurdles –
Sami Michell, Reed City – 13.84
(previous was 14.07, also by Michell, set in 2011)

LP D3/800 run –
Annie Fuller, Manistee – 2:13.03
(previous was 2:14.03, set by Albion’s Amelia Bannister in 2007)

UP D1/Long jump –
Adeline Grier-Welch, Houghton – 17-3.5
(previous was 17-0.75, also by Grier-Welch, set in 2011)

UP D1/100 dash –
Chelsea Jacques, Calumet – 12.55
(previous was 12.58, set by Escanaba’s Stephanie Ostrenga in 2005)

UP D2/Discus –
Hunter Perry, Rudyard – 122-10.25
(previous was 120-4.75 by Iron River West Iron County’s Desirae Rasmussen in 2010)

UP D2/High jump –
Nicole Vanderlin, Norway – 5-4
(ties previous record, also by Vanderlin, set in 2011)

UP D2/200 dash –
Dani Gagne, Norway – 26.42
(previous was 26.47, set by Chassell’s Jamie Dompier in 2009)

UP D3/Long jump –
Olivia Soumis, Ontonagon – 16-7.5
(previous was 16-5.5, also by Soumis, set in 2010)

UP D3/200 dash – Jamie Dompier, Chassell – 26.36
(previous was 26.65, set by Rapid River’s Stephanie Boyer in 2001)

Tales of the Trophy

LP D1: Grosse Pointe South continued its impressive two-year run with its second straight championship, this time by 13.5 points over Ann Arbor Huron. The same athletes who keyed the school’s cross country title in the fall did so again Saturday – distance runners Hannah and Haley Meier, Kelsie Schwartz and Ersula Farrow, plus sprinter Caitlin Moore.

LP D2: Detroit Country Day won six events and Dearborn Divine Child just two, but at the end of the afternoon they’d both scored 60 points to tie for the championship. Last season, Country Day was first and Divine Child second, while in 2009 those places were reversed. Country Day’s Brittany Mann repeated as champion in the shot put and discus, and Baisden won her third in the 400. Divine Child balanced the scoring with contributions from 10 entries.

LP D3: Frankenmuth won its third championship in four years and improved on last season’s runner-up finish by beating Benzie Central by 11. Relays were the key: the Eagles won both the 800 and 1,600 with Olivia Shelton, Emily Wee and Angela Ritter running on both, helped by Sydney Bronner on the 800 and Lauren Peterson on the 1,600.

LP D4: Fowler won its second straight after runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2009, edging Traverse City St. Francis by four points with a total of 54. Relays were the key for these Eagles as well. They won the 3,200 and 800 relays with seven athletes (Elizabeth Thelen was the only common runner between the two) to balance out wins by St. Francis’ Lauren Buckel in the 400 and 200.

UP D1: Marquette repeated and won its fourth in the last five seasons by edging Negaunee by seven points. Shayla Huebner and Jessica Fluette were half of the winning 1,600 relay and also won individual events. Fluette also was on the winning 3,200 relay.

UP D2: St. Ignace won its third straight and fourth in five seasons with 142 points – 46 more than runner-up Norway. The Saints won five events including a relay, with Sarah Cullip the star. She won the pole vault, 1,600 and 3,200.

UP D3: Brimley also repeated and won its fourth in five seasons, edging Eben Junction Superior Central by 12 points. Brimley won just four events, but got scoring from 12 entries.

So long, seniors

Cindy Ofili, Ann Arbor Huron – Won the 100, 200 and 100 hurdles and ran on the winning 800 relay at the LP Division 1 meet.

Kyra Jefferson, Detroit Cass Tech – Won the LP Division 1 200 championship for the third straight season, giving her four individual championships for her career.

Tori DeSira, DeWitt – Won the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles at the LP Division 2 Final, giving her five individual championships for her career.

Sara Barron, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep – As well as setting a LP Division 2 record in the 1,600 (see above), Barron repeated as champion in the 800.

Dani Gagne, Norway – In addition to setting the UP Division 2 record in the 200, she also won the long jump, 100 and 400, giving her 10 championships total during her career.

Megan Kangas, Norway – Joined her teammate as a repeat champion, winning the 100 hurdles to finish her career with four MHSAA championships total.

Lauren Spanger – Eben Junction Superior Central – Won the UP Division 3 400 title for the third straight season and the 800 for the second time in three seasons.

Click for links to all results.

PHOTO: Competitors race to advance to the 100-meter championship race during Saturday's Division 4 Final. (Photo courtesy of Click to see more.)

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).]