KINGSFORD — The Marquette High School girls have dominated their competition throughout this track and field season.
That held true again Saturday as the Redettes captured their sixth consecutive Upper Peninsula Division 1 title with 169 points. Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie shared runner-up honors with 61 apiece on a day during which rainy conditions eventually gave way to partly sunny skies at Flivver Field.
“This was a great day for our whole team,” said Marquette coach Natalie Messano. “I’m real proud of their effort. I was a little nervous at first about the weather, but the girls didn’t let it get to them. We have an excellent program and (former coach) John Peterson did a great job building it. It’s going to be hard to lose our seniors, but we have a lot of strong juniors coming up.”
The Redettes grabbed four of the six places in the 1600 and 3200-meter runs.
Senior Lindsey Rudden had a hand in four firsts, taking her fourth straight title in the 800 at two minutes, 16 seconds and 1,600 (5:03.31) and anchoring the winning 1,600 (4:05.4) and 3,200 (10:12.92) relays.
“I was a little slow today,” said Rudden, who set the U.P. 1,600 record at 4:55.28 two years ago as a sophomore. “It felt like I pushed hard. I’m pleased with the victories, but I’m definitely disappointed I didn’t break five (minutes) in the 1,600. Although, it’s still fun. A lot of our girls qualified, and I’m happy our team did so well.”
Senior Holly Blowers led off both relays and was runner-up in the 800 (2:22.69) and 1,600 (5:16.1).
“I think our handoffs went well, and we still have pretty solid times after losing Shayla (Huebner) to graduation last year,” said Blowers. “This is a real emotional day. It’s hard to believe it’s over.”
Marquette’s Izzie Peterson won the 100 (12.6), 200 (26.9), and helped the winning 400 relay (52.59) and runner-up 800 relay (1:49.28).
Junior Amber Huebner, also part of Marquette’s 1,600 and 3,200 relays, placed second in the 3,200 run (11:57.47) and third in the 1,600 (5:18.43).
Escanaba junior Jeny Brandt won discus at 108 feet, 10 inches. Negaunee’s Caylee Dempsey was runner-up (100-1), with Escanaba senior Haile Waters third (97-0).
Sault Ste. Marie senior Brenna James captured the 300 hurdles (47.11) and placed second in the 100 dash (13.03) and fourth in the 200 (27.55).
“My times improved a lot from last year,” said James. “My first 200 in the hurdles was solid, then I really had to fight through the last 100. I have to give credit to my opponents, too. That’s a tough race. Early in the meet, it was hard to stay warm with all the rain we were getting. We had to wear a lot of layers.”
James was followed by Marquette’s Jacquie Cammarata in 48 seconds flat and the Redettes’ Hannah Detmers (48.11) in the 300 hurdles.
Menominee senior Paiton Plutchak won the 100 hurdles (15.95), followed by Escanaba senior Sunny Martineau (16.42) and Cammarata (16.79).
“I felt pretty good,” said Plutchak, who finished with three straight victories in the 100s. “I hadn’t practiced all week because of my hip, but I felt the whole thing went well. My goal was to not hit any hurdles. I had kind of a mental block before the Regionals. I needed to get a few wins to get my confidence up.”
Kingsford’s Olivia Allen took the 400 (1:01.22), and helped the winning 800 relay (1:49.1) and runner-up 1,600 relay, which was clocked in a school-record 4:10.13.
PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Lindsey Rudden leads the pack during the 1,600 at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Menominee's Paiton Plutchak outpaces Escanaba senior Sunny Martineau (left) and Marquette’s Jacquie Cammarata in the 100 hurdles. (Photos by 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.)