Harbor Springs Finishes 1st Title Run

May 30, 2015

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.

Click for full results.

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.)

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

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

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).]