By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
HUDSONVILLE – Harbor Springs’ Emily Kloss has been coaching track and field for more than two decades.
Throughout her career, however, one accomplishment had eluded her.
That was until Saturday afternoon at Hudsonville’s Baldwin Middle School.
Harbor Springs claimed the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Track and Field Final championship. It was the first in school history.
The Rams finished with 57 points, while Fowler placed runner-up with 53.5 points. Concord (50) and was third, and defending champion Reading (48) was fourth.
“I’m super excited because we brought 11 girls here and every single one of them placed and medaled,” said Kloss, who coaches with her husband, Mike. “This is my 25th year coaching, but the first state championship won for track.”
Harbor Springs’ cross country program has won two MHSAA Finals and placed runner-up twice, but the track and field crown has special meaning.
Kloss’ hometown is Fowler, and she and Fowler’s coach, Jill Feldpausch, were teammates in high school.
“We won state championships together so this is pretty special, especially for them to take second,” Kloss said.
Senior Charlotte Cullip, who placed runner-up in the 400 to teammate Salix Sampson, was thrilled to end her career with a victory in the Finals.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’ve run forever in cross and track and this is my last year, so it’s amazing. Our coaches looked at the stats and thought we had a chance. I didn’t believe them until the 4 X 4, and then I thought we could do it.
“We had throwers, pole vaulters, distance runners, relays. We had everything, and I’m so glad it all came together this last year.”
Sampson clocked a 58.99 in the 400 and was the anchor on the victorious 1,600 relay (4:08.14).
“Our team has worked really hard at it, and our coach doesn’t say that we can do something if we can’t,” Sampson said. “We had a lot of good freshmen come through, and they really powered through. We couldn’t have done this without them, and the seniors have been there since the beginning.”
Kloss credited her seniors for helping propel the team to the top of the standings.
“My seniors have worked so hard, and we broke two school records today,” she said. “I’m pretty excited to finally do it with the great seniors that we have. Everyone worked really hard, and it is nice to end it this way.”
Sophomore Caylin Bonser took fifth in the discus and fifth in the shot put, while teammate Erika Lechner, a sophomore, was fourth in the shot put.
The weather Saturday changed dramatically, and the final portion of the meet was run in light rain, wind and cooler temperatures.
“We’re used to this crappy weather,” Kloss joked. “We had snow at our conference meet last week.”
Fowler senior Ashley Hufnagel led her team’s charge.
She won the 300 hurdles (47.38), placed runner-up in the high jump (5-2), and led off the 800 relay, which won with a time of 1:48.35.
Fowler also finished runner-up to Onekama in the 400 relay. Also contributing to the win were junior Madison Koenigsknecht and freshmen McKenzie Feldpausch and Sidney Horak.
Mason County Eastern sophomore Jordan Goodman won the 100 for the second year in a row, and in record time.
Goodman raced to a narrow win by clocking a 12.40, which tied the LP Division 4 Final record set by Pewamo-Westphalia’s Abbey Hengesbach in 2010.
“I was nervous at the beginning, but then I thought, ‘this is my favorite race’,” Goodman said. “I’m a sophomore, I need a scholarship and this is my race. I like being out there, and I feel strong in that event. I feel like I can run really fast.”
Goodman held off Concord’s Lindsey Lehman by two hundredths of a second.
“I felt a little bit of pressure, and I was worried because I know Lindsey and (Reading’s) Jennifer Davis were running some pretty good times,” Goodman said. “I just got in the right frame of mind. I ran a 12.1 this year, so I thought if I could do that again then I would be all right.”
Goodman also placed sixth in the 200 and sixth in the long jump.
Lehman recovered to edge Davis in a photo finish in the 200 by clocking a 25.92.
PHOTO: Salix Sampson (middle) and teammate Charlotte Cullip race to the top two places in the 400 during Saturday's LP Division 4 Final. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com. Photo by Janina Pollatz.)
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.)