Marysville Thrower Hudson Dancing Into Record Books, Finals Contention

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

April 12, 2023

If you see Janae Hudson doing the “Cotton Eye Joe” dance near a shot put or discus pit this spring, don’t be surprised.

Bay & ThumbBut do pay attention, because a Marysville school record may be about to fall.

“I used to get really stressed out before meets, and it would definitely impact my throws,” the Marysville junior said. “I thought that maybe I need a specific routine to not freak me out or anything, and I kind of have it with volleyball, as well. I like to just go off in my own space. When I’m in the hole, I like to kind of just dance around and get all the jitters out before I throw. It’s kind of like a line dance, something I can do in a single space and not bump into other people. I did it last year, and it started to work.”

Hudson, who placed third at the 2022 Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in the discus, has already danced and thrown her way into the Marysville record books. She holds the school record in the discus with a throw of 135 feet, 7 inches. Her sights are now set on the shot put record of 40-10, which is about a foot and a half better than her personal best of 39-2¼.

“She’s such a competitor,” Marysville coach Brian Gwisdala said. “She’s already set high expectations for herself. Track is one of those sports where she’s got distances she wants to hit this year. And I think it’s the sign of a mature kid, even though she wants to finish first at states, her big thing right now is she wants that shot put record at the school. She threw 29-2¼ at Saginaw this year. She’s getting there.”

While Hudson showed potential as a freshman, qualifying for the Division 2 Finals and finishing 10th in the shot put, breaking school records certainly wasn’t the expectation at that point.

In fact, when she entered high school, she figured volleyball would be her main focus. While she still plays and is a major contributor for the Vikings volleyball program, throwing has emerged as the sport she wants to pursue collegiately.

Hudson prepares to let the discus fly.“I was really nervous and timid to actually go to my first track practice,” she said. “But that’s when I fell in love with it. I wasn’t expecting to get this serious with it at the beginning of my freshman year.”

During her freshman year, Hudson began working with throwing coach Michael Hale of Kaizen Throws, and saw immediate results.

She continued to work with Hale through the offseason, and that combined with adding some strength – and a dance routine – helped her take off as a sophomore. In her second season, she added more than two feet to her shot put personal record, and nearly 30 in the discus.

“I think a huge part of it was that she kind of grew into her body,” Gwisdala said. “She’s always been a tall kid, and that coordination and everything caught up to her. I saw it with her in volleyball, too, how much she improved athletically. She really worked hard and put in the time. She throws during the indoor season in the winter. She’s got her private throwing coach that she goes to. All of those factors, and she had the determination and drive to go and do it.”

All of that has put Hudson in a strong position heading into her junior season, not only to further one school record and chase down another, but to improve upon her places at the Division 2 Finals.

Her personal-best discus throw would have tied for first at the 2022 Finals, while her personal best in the shot put would have placed fourth.

“I would love to go to states in both events, and to place first in both would be an ideal situation,” she said. “But if I could finish top three in both, I would walk out happy.”

Helping Hudson chase that ideal situation of winning a Finals title is having watched a teammate do it just two years ago, as Reese Powers won the 400 meters as a junior at the 2021 Division 2 Finals.

“That’s huge,” Gwisdala said. “Just the fact that it was somebody from our school. And it wasn’t someone that necessarily just did one thing, either. Reese and (all-state runner Hannah Fisher) both were multi-sport athletes. The other huge part, and I would say this about Janae right now, too, with Reese was just her work ethic. You would see it every day in practice.”

All of that resonated with Hudson.

“It was a wild moment,” she said. “She’s a junior in high school and can do that; I can do that, too. It would probably mean the world to me.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Marysville’s Janae Hudson unwinds while putting the shot during a meet. (Middle) Hudson prepares to let the discus fly. (Photos by Rodney Thomas/Thomas Sports Photography.)

Lake Linden-Hubbell, Stephenson Share in UPD3; Jokela Joins Elite Club

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 4, 2023

KINGSFORD – Lake Linden-Hubbell got to the top with first-place power. Stephenson won only two events. 

But there are multiple ways to win an MHSAA Finals championship in track & field. And the Lakes and Eagles tied for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 girls title Saturday. 

Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. Lake Linden-Hubbell got a little assist from two-time reigning champion Ontonagon in the final event, the 1,600 relay. The Lakes led in the standings by eight points, but they didn’t have a 1,600-meter relay team. Stephenson could have won the team title with a win in that event, but Ontonagon’s relay team proved solid again and forced the Eagles to settle for the runner-up spot in the race and the eight points that come with it.

The Lakes last won team Finals titles during a three-year run from 2017-19. For Stephenson, it had been since 1993 when the team competed in Class C. The Eagles were runners-up last year.

Lake Linden-Hubbell sophomore Emily Jokela entered with the fastest Regional times in all four of her events, and she won all four of them Saturday – the 100, 200, 400 and 300 hurdles. She became just the sixth female to win four individual events at an MHSAA Finals.

The only one she didn’t win a title in last year was the 100 dash; she has that now. The only school record she didn’t have going into Saturday was in the 200; she has that now as well. She broke it by one tenth of a second.

“It feels great,” Jokela said. “I was very worried about running today because it was so hot.”

Her 300 hurdles time of 45.63 seconds set a UPD3 Finals record. Ontonagon’s Lori Wardynski had the record before (47.27).

Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay.Teammate Abi Codere repeated in the 100 hurdles, and their 400 relay team (Codere, Rebecca Lyons, Isabella Tampas and Cleo Milkey) also won.

Stephenson’s wins came in the 3,200 relay (Faith Cappaert, Joelle Beaudo, Kayela Putnam and Jada Kuntze) and the long jump (Sarah Labs).

Ontonagon also won the 800 relay (Lilly McIntyre, Alli Bobula, Kylee Uotila and Makennah Uotila).

“I’m sad we didn’t get a title this year, but the past two back-to-back U.P. titles we had made my entire career,” senior Makennah Uotila said. “I’ve enjoyed it so much. The relays were a big part of our U.P.  titles, so to still have strong relays is very important.”

Newberry’s Kaylen Clark won the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. She was the runner-up at the UPD3 cross country meet in the fall and in both events at the UPD2 track meet last season. Taylor Adams of Norway won the 800.

In the field, Mariska Laurila of Carney-Nadeau was the champion in the discus, Rudyard’s Alicia Cheney won the high jump, Dollar Bay’s Nora Keranen won the pole vault after winning long jump in 2022, and Brimley’s Grace Hill repeated in the shot put.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Lake Linden-Hubbell's Emily Jokela, second from right, wins the 400 on Saturday. (Middle) Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. (Below) Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay. (Photos by Cara Kamps/