ADA – After four years, Chaniya Madison knew she was out of tomorrows.
The Bridgeport sprinter accepted that the odds of capturing a rare third Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals title in the 100-meter dash depended largely on health. And if that was the case, Madison admitted a mysterious knee that has baffled doctors for four years would have much to say about the final result.
There were dark times because of the injury when Madison thought about giving in to the pain, calling it a career and moving on to something else.
But after Saturday's Finals at Forest Hills Eastern, Madison is glad she didn't.
She won her third championship in the 100 with a time of 12.07. The title comes after winning the event in both her freshman and junior seasons and caps four seasons of ignoring knee pain that nearly ended her career several times. It took nearly four years for doctors to determine Madison suffered from fluid of the knee, first in her left and then in her right knee. Madison said doctors tried since her freshman year to diagnose the problem, which they guessed could have been anything from arthritis to a torn muscle.
Even after the knee was finally drained, Madison said she considered herself only 85-percent healthy.
"I lost my will to participate, my mental health and my will to stick to it," Madison said. "But I took a few days off and decided I didn't care how much pain there was. This is a big relief. After being so tired, I just wanted to cry. This is so emotional for me."
Madison also helped the Bridgeport 800 relay finish first (1:44.14).
While Madison headed the individual winners, East Grand Rapids captured the team title with 66 points to 37.6 for runner-up Grand Rapids Christian. Zeeland East was third with 29 points, Hudsonville Unity Christian fourth with 23.6 and Allendale and New Boston Huron tied for fifth with 21.
The team title was the 146th state championship for the East Grand Rapids athletic program, but first for the girls track & field team. That's a fact coach Mike Dykstra said he carefully passed along to his athletes this season.
"Maybe it's a bit overwhelming," Dykstra said of joining the Pioneers' lengthy history of state championships. "We thought this was a chance to make history, and they bought into it. It was definitely a goal of ours. We have that as a goal at the start of every year. This was a pretty special year."
The Pioneers collected individual titles by Camryn Bodine in the 800 (2:12.46) and Drew Muller in the 1,600 (4:51.41) while also winning the 3,200 relay, which included Muller and Bodine (9:25.89).
Ludington senior RyAnn Rohrer had a big day winning the shot put (41-11) and discus (135-07). Like Madison, Rohrer had to overcome injury to win her titles. She suffered a leg injury after just two meets this spring and had to focus on getting healthy for the next two months. Rohrer not only had to overcome injury, she added the discus this season after a string of prior successes in the shot.
“I had to do a lot of work to improve, a lot of reps," said Rohrer, whose parents were both involved in throwing events in college. "I got very frustrated, so this is a relief. I knew I could do it, but sometimes it takes time and a mental ability. I had goals as a senior in the discus and I thought, ‘Why not take on a new challenge?’ I'm open to new things.”
Warren Regina junior Ella Jenkins won the 300 hurdles (44.99) and nearly won the 100 hurdles, finishing second (14.97) to Chelsea sophomore Leila Wells (14.96).
Jenkins was a Finals qualifier in the 100 hurdles a year ago and was seeded first in both events this season.
"I thought I had a shot," Jenkins said of winning the 100. "I always want to get out strong and finish with what I have left. I compete to win; I have a passion to win."
Grand Rapids Christian senior Madelyn Frens won the 3,200 (10:44.24). She said comparing Saturday's title with winning last fall's Division 2 cross country championship is not a stretch. Both, she said, involved mental strength. She also competed in the 1,600, where she was second, and the 3,200 relay, which finished runner-up to EGR.
"I like cross country because it's a little harder mentally, and it's longer," she said. "But this is more competitive, and it feels like there is more pressure with expectations. You have to push yourself mentally through both."
Elizabeth Anderson of New Boston Huron was a double winner in the 200 (25.07) and 400 (56.28).
Other champions included Linden in the 400 relay (49.41) and Dearborn Divine Child in the 1,600 relay (4:00.83).
In the field events, Natalie Christnagel of Grosse Ile won the high jump (5-4), Jordyn Wright of Tecumseh took the pole vault (12-0) and Lindsay Girard of Marine City took first in the long jump (17-7).
PHOTOS (Top) Bridgeport's Chaniya Madison, middle, crosses the finish line first in the 100 meters Saturday at Forest Hills Eastern. (Middle) East Grand Rapids celebrates its first girls track & field Finals championship. (Click for more from Dave McCauley/Run Michigan.)
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.)