CONCORD – Lindsey Lehman was just 4 years old when the family dog went on a full-speed run – with her trying to hold on – and she did a good job of keeping up with it.
“Those little legs kept up with that dog, and I thought then about how fast she ran across the yard,” Lehman’s mother, Kathy, remembered.
The speed was no mirage. It was an early flash of athletic ability. Lehman, a senior at Concord High School, won the Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship in the 200 last spring and was runner-up in the 100. But running fast isn’t Lehman’s only talent, and it doesn’t nearly tell her story or reflect what is ahead of her athletically.
Lehman has been a three-sport standout at Concord. She is a two-time Jackson Citizen Patriot Player of the Year in volleyball, and last week she signed to play basketball at nearby Spring Arbor University. And, obviously, she’s a track MHSAA Finals champion.
Despite the early flash of speed, track was not an initial priority for Lehman, whose mother is the volleyball coach at Concord. Her father Matt coached boys basketball and now is the principal at the K-8 school.
“Track was kind of an afterthought,” Matt Lehman said. “She really wasn’t that interested in softball, although she did a little bit growing up. It was mainly basketball and volleyball. We kind of convinced her – I was coaching middle school track – and I said, ‘Why don’t you give track a try? It’s a great sport to keep you in shape.’
“She found out she was good at it, and it might have been her best sport.”
Is track her best sport? Possibly. Is it her favorite sport? Well, her answer was, “whatever sport is in season.”
That is one reason why she had such a difficult decision to make about college. Some of the bigger schools like Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley State looked at her for track. Other schools looked at her for volleyball.
Ultimately, Lehman chose basketball and Spring Arbor, a mere 5 miles from Concord.
“It was a really difficult decision,” she said. “I’ve played basketball and AAU my entire life, and my dad was a coach and I was a manager, and that was a reason why I wanted to play basketball.
“At Spring Arbor, my parents and the community can come watch me play on the college level. I was looking at the bigger cities, and that’s why I liked Grand Valley. I love Grand Rapids. But I decided to stay close to home.”
Athletics have been a part of Lindsey’s life practically from the day she was born. And her mother says even before that.
“She’s been on the court since I was pregnant with her,” Kathy Lehman said.
Kathy was a very good athlete at Concord some 30 years ago. But Lindsey hasn’t exactly duplicated her mother’s trail.
“It’s been kind of an honor to watch her follow me, but she’s taken her own path,” Kathy Lehman said. “I was a hitter in volleyball, she’s a setter. I was a forward in basketball, she’s a guard. She handles the ball 20 times better than I could ever dream of, and she’s much faster. I played softball, she ran track, so she has laid out her own path, but it’s been nice that it’s at the same school.
“She is the fifth or sixth generation of Snows (her mother’s maiden name) to graduate from Concord. It’s a tradition that is handed down. Her great-grandfather’s picture is hanging up on the wall, and he played basketball here.”
Lindsey was the rare setter who not only led her team in assists, she also led the team in kills. As a junior, she led the Yellow Jackets to the MHSAA Quarterfinals, and this season, with most of last year’s team absent due to graduation, the team still won its fifth consecutive Big Eight Conference title.
In fact, Lindsey said it was during volleyball season that she had what might have been her proudest moment, even including the championship in track.
“Last year in volleyball, when we beat Bronson,” she said of defeating the eventual Class C champion. “Bronson beat us twice that year, and we beat them the third time. That was a great feeling.
“I like achieving goals on my own, but as a team, it just feels better because you can share it with teammates and friends. This year, we were such a young team in volleyball, and we did so well, and it was a great feeling to watch everybody get better.”
It is hard to imagine that feeling being any better than how she must have felt last spring when she barely edged her good friend to win the Division 4 championship in the 200 after finishing a close second in the 100. The race was so close that the finish was not immediately posted.
“It seemed like it took forever,” Lindsey said. “The both of us really had no idea who had won.”
Lehman’s winning time was 25.92 seconds. Jennifer Davis of Reading also was clocked in 25.92. Lindsey’s mom watched as her daughter paced in anticipation of the announcement of the final result.
“She was going back and forth, and just watching the anticipation and then seeing her face when she realized that she had won was fantastic,” Kathy Lehman said. “Just seeing her face light up at that moment was my proudest moment.”
It had to be especially sweet for Lindsey as she had lost the 100 in a race that was nearly as close as the 200. She was timed in 12.42 seconds, while the MHSAA title went to Mason County Eastern’s Jordan Goodman, who tied the LP Division 4 meet record at 12.40.
This year, Lehman has a goal of not only repeating as champion in the 200 but adding the title in the 100.
“I want to do better than I did last year,” she said. “I probably think more about the race that I lost than the one I won. I don’t like losing.”
Maybe the thought of losing is what drives her. Her parents both spoke highly of her work ethic and desire to be the best she can be.
‘She has always been a hard worker, but she has a drive that she doesn’t like to lose, and if she loses one time, she doesn’t quit,” Kathy Lehman said. “She is going to keep working to get there. Her brother is probably her best incentive because she hated losing anything to her brother.
“Sometimes it would be knock-down, drag-outs, but eventually she would sometimes best her brother. It’s always been a good competition between them.”
Lindsey still has most of the track season ahead of her, but she knows that it might be her last time in the sport. She isn’t sure if she will try to run track as well as play basketball at Spring Arbor. It hasn’t been addressed with the school, and while it has not been ruled out, it certainly is not the priority.
She also has developed a new respect for referees. This past year, Lindsey has served as a referee for sixth-grade games, and it was an enlightening experience.
“Last year, I never said anything, but I got mad at the refs sometimes,” she said, “but this year, I don’t because I know what they are going through. I don’t like being yelled at.”
Close to home
Although she had plenty of options, Spring Arbor made an offer that was too good to pass up.
“She had a chance to go to a four-year university and not have to pay nearly the amount of money she would have had to pay to go to other universities,” Matt Lehman said. “It’s an opportunity for the rest of her life.
“If someone had said at the beginning of the process that she was going to end up at Spring Arbor to play basketball, I would have said, ‘I’m not sure that would happen.’ I wouldn’t have bet on that.”
The transition to college basketball won’t be easy, but Spring Arbor coach Ryan Frost believes she has what it takes to possibly make an impact as a freshman.
“That is up to her,” he said. “You never know how a kid is going to adjust. She will have some really good seniors to learn the college game from. We have a nice group coming back. We’re excited to get her in the mix for that.
“Athletically she’s a super athlete. She has a lot of skill. She’s a competitor. She fits the mold of what we look for in a guard. She will be very similar to some of the guards we have and our style of play. We press a lot and get up and down the floor. She sees the floor real well as a point guard, and she can score, too.”
And, while her parents would have supported any decision that she made, having her at college just 5 miles away will allow them to attend most of her games.
“It has gone by so fast,” Matt Lehman said. “This is my little girl, my little gym rat who was by my side at practices and huddles with me. She’s graduating from high school and going on to college to play basketball.
“She was a gym rat from the get-go, and more than any of my children when I was coaching basketball, she was in the gym with me. She always wanted to come to practice. She was just 4 or 5, but she always wanted to be a part of it. She always had a ball in her hand, and she did the same thing with Kathy in volleyball.”
Lindsey is a pretty solid student, too, as she has a 3.85 grade point average.
“She’s a 3.85 student because of her work ethic,” Matt Lehman said. “She has balanced everything. She likes sports, she’s a good student, and she’s a good kid. I don’t have to worry about her.
“She’s a smart aleck in a good way, and she’s an easy kid to get along with. She knows how to talk to other students and how to talk to adults. She’s very well-rounded. I’m just proud of her because she didn’t accomplish this because her mom was a coach and her dad was a coach and an administrator. She accomplished it because she has talent and she worked her tail off. That’s on her.”
Chip Mundy served as sports editor at the Brooklyn Exponent and Albion Recorder from 1980-86, and then as a reporter and later copy editor at the Jackson Citizen-Patriot from 1986-2011. He also co-authored Michigan Sports Trivia. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Concord's Lindsay Lehman runs her leg of a relay for her track team. (Middle) Lehman signs her letter of intent with Spring Arbor, surrounded by father Matt, mother Kathy and younger sister Bradie . (Photos courtesy of the Lehman family.)
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.)