KINGSFORD — It was bit of a challenge at times, but the Ishpeming girls captured their first MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 track and field title in eight years Saturday by scoring 151 points.
Iron River West Iron County was runner-up for the second straight second with 126, followed by Manistique at 59.
Ishpeming’s Khora Swanson won the 800-meter run in two minutes, 28.53 seconds and took second in the 1,600 (5:45.62) on this partly sunny and breezy day.
Hematites senior Jessica Spencer was runner-up in the 100 hurdles at 17.97, edging teammate Katie Loman by one hundredth of a second. She also took third in the 300 (53.15) and helped the winning 400 and 800 relays.
“We worked on handoffs a lot in practice and those were a key for us,” said Spencer, who will attend Northern Michigan University this fall. “We just focused on doing the best we could, and our team showed its true potential. I’ve been to the Finals all four years, and this was the best. The energy was contagious.
“Everybody just supported each other. This is a great way to end my senior year.”
Ishpeming’s Marissa Maino swept the weight events with tosses of 35 feet, one inch in shot put and 109-4 in discus. Nassi Thomas added a first in long jump (14-10½) and seconds in the 100 (13.4) and 200 (27.5).
The Hematites also won the 3,200 relay, with West Iron taking the 1,600.
West Iron took the top three spots in the 400, which was won by Emmy Kinner (1:02.18). She was followed by Elizabeth Pellizzer (1:04.01) and Erin Angeli (1:05.22).
Kinner also finished first in the 100 (13.19) and 200 (27.16).
West Iron senior Tori Harris placed second in the 800 in a school-record 2:28.77 and the 3,200 (12:42.27) and placed third in the 1,600 (5:50.29).
“I was not happy with the 1,600, but felt better during the 800,” Harris said. “The 800 is my favorite race, and I’m very pleased to get the school record. I started weight training, and I think it helps a lot.”
Keeley Nolingberg provided the Wykons with a second in shot put (30-7¾), with Rachel Tefft third (29-6½). Pellizzer added a third in the 200 (28.53).
Westwood junior Katie Etelamaki won the 1,600 (5:32.91) and 3,200 (12:02.45) and placed third in the 800 in a personal-best (2:29.54).
“I’m not quite where I want to be,” Etelamaki said. “I just tried to find someone to draft off of and had enough left to kick it in at the end. We haven’t had many windy meets this year, but the temperature is pretty good (mid 50s). I really can’t complain about the weather.”
Manistique made its strongest showing in pole vault, which was won my Katie Davis at eight feet. Josie Price was runner-up (7-6) and Brittney Zellar took fourth (7-0).
Hancock’s Mary Jarvis was a double-winner, taking the 100 hurdles (16.76) and 300 (49.21).
PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming's Jessica Spencer crosses the finish line during one of her four events Saturday at the U.P. Division 2 Final. (Middle) The Hematites' Khora Swanson, right, works to stay ahead of West Iron County's Tori Harris; the two raced each other in the 800 and 1,600. (Photos courtesy of Cara Kamps.)
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.)