KINGSFORD — The Negaunee girls were ranked third coming into the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Track & Field Finals here Saturday.
Apparently, the Miners didn’t pay much attention to that as they captured their first title in four years with 119½ points. They were followed by two-time reigning champion Marquette with 98 and Sault Ste. Marie at 86.
“They outperformed their ranking,” said Negaunee coach Vickie Paupore. “Every single girl stepped up. I’m so proud of their grit and determination. Endla (Harris) was ranked eighth and placed second in the 1,600 (5:43.82) and Madison Pekrul winning the 100 hurdles (17.35) and taking second in the 300s (50.32) is an example of a freshman stepping up. We have good senior leaders, and they got the job done today. I appreciate the effort of all the assistant coaches. They make my job so much easier.”
In the weight events, Negaunee grabbed the top three places in shot put and senior Alyssa Hill, who plans to continue her track & field career at Bemidji (Minn.) State University, won discus at 120 feet.
“I had hoped to throw a little farther in disc,” said Hill, who set the school record at 123-4 in the Regional at Negaunee on May 19. “There was a little bit of wind, and I probably started thinking about it a little too much. I thought I had pretty good technique.
“A lot of girls on our team had PRs (personal records) today. Our 3,200 relay had its best time by about 30 seconds, and Natalie Bell had a PR in shot. We were ranked 1-2-7-8 in shot and got 1-2-3-5. We moved up a little.”
Junior Eliana Juchemich took shot put with a personal-best throw of 36-3¼. Hill was runner-up (32-5½) and Bell took third (31-6½).
“This is awesome,” she said. “I think my speed was pretty good in the circle, but I had to fix my angle before my release. You want to go with a 45-degree angle. You want to get good enough elevation and yet not too much. If you throw too high, you might not get the distance you want. That was an awesome thing today because everybody wants to win. Our team is real good. We push each other in practice, and it showed today.”
Aubrey Johnson provided Negaunee with an additional first in the 800-meter run (2:30.44).
Marquette showed its speed with Beax Truckey and Julia Ott placing 1-2 in the 100 and 200.
Truckey took the 100 (12.98) and 200 (26.51) and Ott was clocked at 13.01 and 26.59, respectively. The Redettes also captured the 400 (51.99) and 800 relays (1:48.37).
Sault Ste. Marie’s Claire Erickson won the 300 hurdles (49.55) and Cassandra Gallagher took the 3,200 (12:36.83).
Houghton senior and Michigan Tech recruit Ingrid Seagren, who led the entire 3,200 until the final home stretch, was runner-up (12:37).
“This is a real heartbreaker,” said Seagren, who helped the Gremlins win the 3,200 relay (10:19.08). “I’m disappointed in my finish.
“(But) we ran a decent time in our relay. I’m proud of our team.”
Escanaba senior Ciara Ostrenga won the 400 in a personal-best 1:00.22 and helped the winning 1,600 relay (4:16.27).
“After we got fourth in the 3,200 relay, I just wanted to work hard and try to leave here with an individual medal,” she said. “I think our relay did pretty good. All the girls worked and tried hard.”
Houghton's Maria Velat competed in the first-time adaptive events in the 100 (26.56), 200 (51.15), 400 (1:35.96) and shot put (10-0).
PHOTOS (Top) Negaunee’s Aubrey Johnson charges toward the finish on the way to winning the 800 on Saturday. (Middle) Marquette’s Julia Ott (5) and Baux Truckey (4) have a close finish in the 200, with Truckey edging her teammate by eight hundredths of a second. (Click for more from Cara Kamps/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.)