Health Challenges Can't Ground Dobies

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

May 18, 2016

MACOMB TOWNSHIP – Look at Kayla Dobies and one can see a vibrant young woman with an engaging personality that locks on to those around her.

Look at Dobies’ accomplishments, athletically and academically, and one will marvel at her ingenuity and perseverance.

Hidden are ailments that would prevent a lesser person from achievements that flow from Dobies in a variety of forms.

Dobies, 18, is a senior at Macomb Dakota and has been accepted to Princeton University. In addition to her studies, Dobies plans on competing collegiately in cross country and track and field. The high jump is her best event – her best is a jump of 5 feet, 7 inches. But she is also a fine distance runner. Dobies placed eighth in Lower Peninsula Division 1 her freshman season in the high jump and was all-state again her junior season as she placed fourth in the 800-meter run.

Her best cross country time is 18:27, a school record. She qualified for the MHSAA Finals in cross country her junior and senior seasons but failed to place. The reasons will become obvious later.

For six years she practiced taekwondo and holds a first and second degree black belt in the sport.

As a junior she started a robotics team at Dakota, but did not compete. Although Dakota did not fare well in the state competition this year, the team competed at the world championships, a four-day event held in late April, in St. Louis, and won. The name of the team is the Thunder Chickens, and among Dobies’ responsibilities was as an assistant mechanic. When one of the machines broke down, she would assist in fixing it, thus earning the nickname, ‘Baby Chicken’.

Dobies has a 4.07 grade-point average entering her final semester and scored a 33 on her ACT. She was named a winner this winter of the MHSAA/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Award and was one of six finalists for the recently-awarded Detroit Athletic Club Female High School Athlete of the Year.

She plans on entering the pre-med program at Princeton and possibly majoring in neuroscience.

As impressive as is her list of accomplishments, Dobies often has had to miss competing because of her illnesses. Every day Dobies confronts them. She tries to hold them off with daily medication, and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

Topping this list, Dobies is an asthmatic. Offshoots are the allergies from which she suffers. She’s also anemic and suffers from hypoglycemia, a blood sugar disorder. She can’t eat candy. She can only consume pure sugar. And she can’t eat fast food or pizza, or other like fatty foods because of their trans-fatty acids.

It’s the pizza part that upsets Dobies most, even as that seems like one of the lesser obstacles she continuously must hurdle.

“I have every type of asthma you can imagine,” she said. “I use a breathing machine at night and two inhalers every day. I get allergy shots. I’m allergic to mites. I have to have special sheets on my bed to help prevent an attack.”

The attacks continue to occur. The reason she did not compete in robotics her junior year was her health. Most days, Dobies is fine. The medication she takes helps combat her diseases, but it’s not foolproof. When the seasons change, Dobies suffers most.

A leg injury kept Dobies from possibly making all-state in cross country her junior year, and this past November she suffered an asthma attack at the MHSAA Finals. Though cross country and running in general is one of her favorite sports, fall changing to winter is the worst season for Dobies.

“When others are improving their times, my times get worse,” she said. “I was in the hospital a couple of days during the cross country season. When I have an asthma attack, it’s not fun.”

Because of her condition, Dobies prefers to run in warm weather – the hotter the better. That’s why she’s hoping for warm weather, at least warmer weather, Saturday when Dakota competes at the Division 1 Track & Field regional at Warren Mott.

The spring didn't start well for Dobies. She suffered a pulled quadriceps (right leg) in the first meet of the season, and it wasn’t until three weeks ago that she could run the way she knows she can.

“I’m better now,” she said. “I’ve just got to get my times to drop.”

No one will doubt that she will. Dobies has always been highly motivated. This comes from her parents, Jeff and Jody Dobies, and she’s received a push from others including Dakota assistant track coach Tom Zarzycki. Jeff Dobies introduced his eldest daughter to soccer when she was 2 years old, and sports has been a big part of her life ever since.

“I watched the Olympics at Beijing and I saw the high jump,” she said. “I said, I can do that. So I asked my dad, what’s that? And he told me it was the high jump.”

Ever the inquisitive child, Dobies was inspired after viewing the Disney animated film “Mulan” to try martial arts.

“I’ve always liked sports,” she said. “I’m really, really passionate about everything. Take robotics and martial arts. I figure if you’re going to do something, do your best.

“Like running. I love to run. High jump is the reason I got into running. It gets down to a deep level. I just love running. I love running with my friends. I love running to compete.”

Whatever the task, whatever the challenge, anything Dobies dives into she gives it her best.

Her most recent project is experimenting with rats. It’s a class project, one she must complete to earn a grade. What she’s attempting to prove, with the aid of the rats, is that fear is innate.

“I’m still working on it,” she said. “I don’t expect to change the world.”

But she might.  

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Macomb Dakota's Kayla Dobies (14) rounds the bend ahead of three competitors during the 800 at last season's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. (Middle) Dobies stands with other Scholar-Athlete Award winners in March at the Breslin Center. (Top photo by Carter Sherline/ 

Preview: LP Girls Finals Welcome Back Stars, Hopefuls Ready to Join Them

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 1, 2023

The MHSAA Lower Peninsula Girls Track & Field Finals have showcased plenty of stars over the years, and Saturday’s meets will celebrate more with returning competitors owning a combined 22 individual championships won over the last three seasons.

But this season’s field also sticks out because of several hopefuls who appear on the verge of greatness as well, many of whom we highlight below.  

All four LP Finals will again be contested at Grand Rapids-area schools, with pole vault and long jump beginning at 9 a.m., race semifinals and the 3,200 relay at 10 a.m. and the rest of the running finals starting at noon. Tickets cost $11 and are available digitally only via GoFan. will live-stream all four meets beginning at 10 a.m., viewable with subscription.

Following is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all four divisions:

LP Division 1 at Rockford

Team forecast: After winning three straight LPD1 team titles, Oak Park finished second last season to Detroit Renaissance – which had finished second twice in a row before claiming its first title since 2007. Those two are the likely favorites again, and Renaissance won their Regional matchup two weeks ago 135½-108 as they combined to post the top two times in three relays from all LPD1 Regionals. Oak Park continues to surge with one of the top hurdler groups in recent memory, while Renaissance’s depth in elite sprinters has been unmatched despite graduating one of the all-time greats last spring. All of that said, keep an eye on Ann Arbor Huron too. The River Rats finished third last season, are paced by an elite sprinter and have the potential to pick up points in a variety of events.

Jayla Dace, Detroit Renaissance sophomore: After qualifying in the 200 and running on the winning 800 relay last season, Dace enters this weekend after running the fastest 100 (11.91) and fourth-fastest 200 (24.95) at LPD1 Regionals while also slated to run on two contending relays.

Arianne Olson, Holland West Ottawa senior: Last season’s 3,200 champion and 1,600 runner-up enters with the third-fastest 3,200 (10:48.40) from LPD1 Regionals and also again will run the 1,600 and on a contending relay.

Mackenzie Robinson, Ann Arbor Huron senior: She finished second in the 100 and 200 last season and ran on champion and runner-up relays, and she could be in for an even bigger finish after posting the second-fastest LPD1 Regional 100 (12.11) and 200 (24.74) and running on the third-fastest 400 relay two weeks ago.

Morgan Roundtree, Oak Park junior: Her sophomore-year Finals included a 300 hurdles title and runner-up finishes in the 100 hurdles and 800 relay. She enters this weekend with the fastest LPD1 Regional time in the 300 (41.86), third-fastest in the 100 hurdles (14.14) and running on two contending relays again.

Abigail Russell, Allen Park junior: She swept the throws as a sophomore and could be in line to do the same this weekend with the top LPD1 Regional throw in discus (148-3) by more than 12 feet and the second-farthest shot put (42-5) behind only Howell senior standout Sophie Daugard.

Kamryn Tatum, West Bloomfield freshman: She enters her first Finals having run the fastest 200 (24.70) and 400 (56.08) times in any LPD1 Regional, with those times fast enough to have finished third in those races at last year’s Finals.

Nonah Waldron, Oak Park senior: She’s finishing a career that’s included the last two 100 hurdles championships and a 300 hurdles title as a sophomore. She enters this weekend with the fastest LPD1 Regional time in the 100 hurdles (13.61), second-fastest to Roundtree in the 300 (42.70) and likely to run on the same two contending relays as that teammate.

LP Division 2 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern

Team forecast: The last five Finals have seen five schools win Division 2 once and three more schools finish second at least once. East Grand Rapids nearly doubled up the field last year, however, and power in distance races and relays could have the Pioneers on track again. New Boston Huron was fourth last season behind the scoring of Elizabeth Anderson and could follow her into contention, and Dearborn Divine Child has qualifiers in all but pole vault and a pair of relays expected to do exceptionally well.

Elizabeth Anderson, New Boston Huron senior: She won the 200 and 400 and was runner-up in the 100 last season to score 28 of her team’s 29 points, and she could take that over 30 this weekend entering with the fastest LPD2 Regional times in the 200 (24.93) and 400 (56.62), the second-fastest in the 100 (12.34) and as part of one of the fasted 1,600 relays.

Camryn Bodine, East Grand Rapids senior: Last season’s 800 champion ran the fastest LPD2 Regional time in that race (2:13.14) two weeks ago by nearly four seconds and will also run on two contending relays after helping hers to first, second and seventh places in 2022.

Janae Hudson, Marysville junior: She could move up substantially after placing third in discus and 10th in shot put last season, coming off the top LPD2 Regional shot put (41-4½) and second-longest discus toss (125-5).

Ella Jenkins, Warren Regina senior: The reigning champion in the 300 hurdles and runner-up in the 100 hurdles ran the fastest LPD2 Regional time in the 100 hurdles (15.14) and second-fastest in the 300 (47.55).

Drew Muller, East Grand Rapids junior: The reigning 1,600 champ and 800 fifth-place finisher – and LPD2 cross country champion in the fall – ran the fastest 1,600 LPD2 Regional time (5:03.32) and fourth-fastest 800 (2:17.88) and will also run on two contending relays after hers finished first and second last year.

Keyanna O’Tey, Sturgis sophomore: She qualified for the 100 in LPD1 as a freshman and could play a starring role Saturday entering with the fastest LPD2 Regional time in the 100 (12.10), second-fastest in the 200 (25.49) and as part of two contending sprint relays.

Natalie VanOtteren, Grand Rapids Christian junior: She finished seventh in the 3,200 and ran on a runner-up relay a year ago and enters this weekend with the fastest LPD2 Regional time in the 3,200 (11:09.76) and second-fastest in the 1,600 (5:07.06).

Jordyn Wright, Tecumseh senior: The reigning pole vault champion by a foot posted the top LPD2 Regional height (11-9) two weeks ago and is expected to run two relays as well.

LP Division 3 at Kent City

Team forecast: Hart and Pewamo-Westphalia both have won two championships over the last five seasons, and Hart was first and P-W second a year ago. Hart again has the mix of sprint, distance, field event and relay standouts to finish first, and P-W has nearly the same amount and variety. But they’ll have company. Lansing Catholic has strong contenders in five races and two relays, Olivet could score big in relays, field events and hurdles; and Onsted could jump up with a handful of potential winners as well.

Ryan Finstrom, Grayling junior: Last season’s discus champion and fourth-place shot put finisher returns this weekend looking for a discus repeat after throwing the fourth-farthest LPD3 Regional toss (119-1).

Addison Hovey, Hart sophomore: She played a big role in last year’s title run with runner-up finishes in high jump and as part of the 400 relay, and she’ll return this weekend with the top LPD3 Regional time in the 100 (12.38) and top high jump (5-3) plus as part of two relays.

Heidi Newhouse, Lawton junior: The reigning high jump champion also finished just outside scoring range in the 400 last season, and she’ll enter this weekend tied for the second-best LPD3 Regional high jump (5-1) and third-fastest 400 (59.76).

Ally Olszewski, Grand Rapids West Catholic senior: She won the pole vault last season by half a foot and her 10-3 LPD3 Regional vault two weeks ago was half a foot better than the field. She also posted the fourth-best LPD3 Regional long jump (15-9½) and will run the 200 and again on the 800 relay after helping the latter to fourth place a year ago.

Madison Osterberg, Jackson Lumen Christi junior: After finishing 800 runner-up and seventh in the 1,600 a year ago, plus running on the runner-up 800 relay, Osterberg enters with the fastest LPD3 Regional times in the 1,600 (4:59.62) and 3,200 (11:01.05), the second-fastest in the 800 (2:16.56), and she will also run on a contending 3,200 relay.

Emmry Ross, Onsted sophomore: Her Finals debut included championships in the 400 and as part of the 1,600 relay and a runner-up finish as part of the 800 relay. She returns with the top LPD3 Regional times in the 400 (57.07) and 800 (2:15.03) and as part of contenders in the 800 and 3,200 relays.  

Gloria Stepanovich, Benzie Central senior: The reigning long jump champion will return seeking a repeat after placing second at her Regional but only 1¼ inches off the lead.

LP Division 4 at Hudsonville

Team forecast: A close race came down to just a few points last season, with Muskegon Western Michigan Christian edging 2021 champion Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart by four. This could be close again – but with a different collection of contenders. Fowler, fourth last season, may be back in the mix with elite relays leading the way. Frankfort is back after finishing third and bolsters a strong field events group to go with relay strength. Hillsdale Academy could follow a strong distance group into contention, and Buckley should put up some points with a pair of stars. Portland St. Patrick is another interesting possibility with runners all over the meet and three contending relays.

Molly Brown, Addison sophomore: She had an impressive debut last season with two top-five relay finishes, a 10th in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles. But this could be even better as she brings in the top LPD4 Regional times in the 100 hurdles (16.03) and 300 hurdles (46.82), the second-fastest in the 100 dash (12.98) and the seventh-best long jump.

Olivia Findlay, Marlette junior: Last season’s runner-up in the high jump and fifth-place finisher in the long jump is a favorite in both with the top LPD4 Regional performances in both at 5-5 and 16-11¾, respectively. She also posted the sixth-fastest 100 hurdles time (17.12) to qualify.  

Aiden Harrand, Buckley junior: She’s won the 1,600 the last two seasons, the 800 last year and finished fourth in the 3,200 as well, and was the LPD4 cross country champ in the fall. Her LPD4 Regional times in the 800 (2:19.15), 1,600 (5:06.52) and 3,200 (11:26.04) all topped those lists.

Anna Plum, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart senior: She’s the reigning champion in the 300 hurdles and was part of winning and runner-up relays as well as a qualifier in the 100 hurdles last season. She could put up plenty of points again entering with the fourth-fastest LPD4 Regional times in the 100 (13.06) and 200 (26.75) and the third-fastest in the 300 hurdles (48.46).

Megan Roberts, Hillsdale Academy senior: After missing last season’s Finals with an injury, Roberts will get another chance to build on a sophomore debut that included a relay championship, two relay runner-up finishes and a sixth place in the 800. She will run on two relays that posted the fastest LPD4 Regional times in their respective races and also the 400 after racing to an LPD4 Regional-best 59.85 two weeks ago.

Natalie Wandrie, Indian River Inland Lakes senior: She finished seventh in the shot put and 11th in the discus last season but could be set for a big finish with the top LPD4 Regional discus toss of 124-3½ and the third-longest shot put (37-3). She’ll also run a relay.

PHOTO Oak Park’s Nonah Waldron leaps a hurdle during last season’s LPD1 Finals. (Click for more from