Newberry Claims Close Race in UPD3

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 31, 2015

KINGSFORD — Prior to Saturday, the Newberry girls track program had gone 24 years without an Upper Peninsula championship.

The Indians, competing in Class C at that time, ended that drought by edging Brimley 64-58 for their first Division 3 title. Ontonagon and Lake Linden-Hubbell tied for third with 48 points apiece.

Newberry junior Natalie Beaulieu won the 800-meter run in a school-record 2 minutes, 26.63 seconds and the 1,600 (5:23.45), and was runner-up in the 3,200 (12:09.09).

“I gave it my all in the 800 and 1,600,” said Beaulieu, who won the U.P. Division 2 title in the 3,200 last year. “I really focused on those races. When I heard that I had a 1:10 in the first lap of the 800, I felt I had a chance. I was really tired in the 3,200. It still went okay, but I didn’t have much left. I’m happy overall.”

Newberry’s Taylor Bryant won the 100 in 13.6 seconds, edging Stephenson’s Haley Truitt by one hundredth of a second, and placed fourth in the 300 hurdles (50.04). Bridget Stoetzer took second in the 400 (1:03.42) and fifth in the 800 (2:34.67).

Cedarville sophomore Emma Bohn took first in the 3,200 in a U.P. and school-record 11:49.16, topping the previous U.P. meet record (11:51.06), set by Erica Johnson of North Dickinson in 2011.

“My goal was to stay with Natalie as long as I could (in the 3,200),” said Bohn. “The pace was pretty good for me, and I passed her in the sixth lap. I thought about passing her a few times before that, but I wasn’t sure it would work out. You try to pace yourself for the whole meet, although that can be a pretty big challenge. I felt good today and ended up running two of my best times. The weather was perfect.”

Bohn placed second in the 1,600 (5:30.3) and third in the 800 (2:32.11).

Brimley’s runner-up finish was unexpected, according to coach Joyel Hyrvainen.

“This is a nice surprise for us, especially after placing extremely low at the (Superior) Dome at the beginning of the season,” she said. “Our weight events gave us some big points, and our hurdler (Kerri Chartrand) is a big part of our sprint relays. I’m very proud of the effort our girls gave today.”

Brimley junior Alyssa Hyrvaninen captured shot put at 35 feet, six inches and discus with a season-best toss of 104-8. Teammate Anne Archambeau placed second in shot (35-4) and third in disc (97-8).

“I just tried to stay relaxed,” said Alyssa. “I was pretty nervous before the meet. I just prayed about it and calmed down. I had good speed in the circle today. I’m more motivated now. I’m going to work hard at it all summer. This was one of the colder meets this year. I’m pleased with my distances, considering.”

Chartrand was runner-up in the 300 hurdles (48.77) and helped the Bays place third in the 400 relay.

Ontonagon junior Paige Blake won the 400 in a personal-best 1:03.1 and long jump (14-11¾), took fourth in the 200 (28.32) and fifth in the 100 (13.68). Classmate Lori Wardynski was runner-up in 100 hurdles (16.89) and third in the 300 (48.8).

“I wanted to get the school record in the 400,” said Blake. “I came up short today, but still have another year. Having so much competition here really helped me today. The Lake Linden girls are good competition, which really helps push me to the times I’m getting. It’s not always about yourself. I couldn’t do it without them. Having Lori here also helps. We push each other in practice. Otherwise, you’d never know what you could really do.”

Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Sarah Audette and Munising sophomore Michaela Peramaki both cleared a U.P. meet-record 10 feet, ¼ inch in pole vault, with Audette getting the victory on a tie-breaker. Their efforts topped the previous best (10-0) set by Lauren Marshall of Rapid River in 2007.

St. Ignace freshman Linnee Gustafson qualified for high jump only, but won that at 5-1.

“I cleared 5-2 last week (at the Eastern U.P. Conference meet at Pickford on May 21). Our school record is 5-2½. I’ve attempted 5-3, but it hasn’t worked out for me yet. I mostly had to keep telling myself that I can do it. I went for 5-3 again today. I was able to get over the bar, but I kept hitting it on my way down.

“I really don’t think this is different from any other meet. There’s just more competition here.” 

Bessemer’s Valerie Rowe was a double winner, taking the 100 hurdles (16.51) and 300 (48.09). She added a second in the 200 (28.1) and third in pole vault (9-0).

Click for full results.

East Kentwood Friends Continuing to Excel as NCAA Champ, Pro Soccer Keeper

By Steve Vedder
Special for

August 8, 2022

Maia Perez and Gabriela Leon saw it coming.

In fact, the two 2017 East Kentwood all-staters each predicted remarkable post-high school success for each other long before graduation.

Perez was a four-year letterwinner as a soccer goalkeeper who led the Falcons to the Division 1 Semifinals as a sophomore and now plays professionally in Los Angeles. Leon, an all-state pole vaulter in high school, recently became University of Louisville's first NCAA champion in that event.

The two say the success doesn't come as a surprise to either, that part of that success can be explained because they continually pushed each other athletically at East Kentwood.

"Obviously there are a lot of good athletes at East Kentwood, and she was one of those amazing athletes," Perez said of Leon. "When she accomplished something, I wanted to do something big, too. I was all-state in soccer, she was all-state in track, and it was nice to have someone push you, even on days when you didn't feel like being pushed."

Leon credits Perez for helping her grasp the difference between toiling as an ordinary athlete and rising to an elite status as early as the ninth grade.

"When you see high-caliber athletes in the state finals, I think you see the struggles that others don't see," Leon said. "I saw what she was doing, and I learned from that. I learned, and I think she did too, that you have to work hard to be good, to achieve your goals. There is definitely mutual respect between us."

East Kentwood track & fieldThe two met as freshmen and quickly became friends. They originally had soccer in common as both played junior varsity as freshmen before Perez was promoted to varsity later that spring. The teammates began hanging out together off the field, be it at the beach or while taking the school's advanced physical education class together. By the time they were sophomores, however, it had become apparent that Perez's future – despite being a good basketball player – would remain in soccer, while Leon – who had also lettered in volleyball and cross country – narrowed her focus to track.

Both excelled after leaving East Kentwood. Leon had earned her first top-eight MHSAA Finals places as a sophomore, and as a senior placed fourth in pole vault, third in long jump and ran on the fourth-place 400 relay and third-place 1,600 relay as East Kentwood finished third in Lower Peninsula Division 1. Her high school personal records were 13 feet in pole vault and 18-11 in long jump (with a wind-aided 19-7). She broke Louisville's indoor and outdoor records in the pole vault as a sophomore and never looked back. She won the 2022 NCAA outdoor championship in June with a jump of 15-feet, one inch (4.6 meters) while becoming just the fourth collegian ever to amass three clearances over 4.6 meters.

Perez was a three-time Ottawa-Kent Conference Red soccer pick in high school who helped the Falcons in 2015 to their best postseason finish, when they lost to 1-0 in a Semifinal to eventual Division 1 champ Saline. She went on to play at University of Hartford after attracting interest from other programs including Western Michigan, Coastal Carolina and Pittsburgh. She wound up playing every minute of all 37 of her starts as a sophomore and junior while missing just 45 minutes over 19 games as a freshman. COVID-19 wiped out the program's season when Perez was a senior. Still, she is eighth on the school's all-time saves list with 206 while ranking 10th in shutouts with 12.

Following college, Perez was signed by the Los Angeles-based Angel City FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. While she wasn't drafted by any NWSL club, Perez impressed coaches enough during a tryout to land a spot on the team's "Discovery List" as the youngest of three goalkeepers.

"Things have been going real well for me there," Perez said. "I feel like I've improved a ton."

While Perez credits Leon with pushing her as an athlete, she said the two didn't necessarily dwell on what they accomplished in high school. They did, however, compare notes on the similarities it took for both to succeed, both physically and mentally.

"We didn't necessarily talk about (honors) a lot," Perez said. "We both knew what each other accomplished, and I don't think we need to talk about it. But I just knew one day she would be really good in track."

East Kentwood soccerLeon said the trait which stuck out about Perez in high school was her competitive drive. She hated to lose, Leon said.

"She was always a very impressive athlete," Leon noted. "She always had (success) in her because she was a real hard worker. Going into high school you could see her work ethic. We had a mutual friendship, and I saw what a work ethic and being humble could do for you."

As for herself, Leon, like many athletes, explored playing many sports. But she always came back to track.

"I always wanted to be the best athlete I could be," she said. "I was never just satisfied with just doing something. I always had this deep desire to perform to the best of my ability."

Perez remembers the first sport which interested her was skateboarding. In fact, the first time Perez met then-East Kentwood coach John Conlon, she told him she was only marginally interested in soccer. Conlon, who led East Kentwood’s girls and boys programs to a combined 654 wins and the boys varsity to five Division 1 championships, quickly made a convert of Perez.

"It's funny how things work out," Perez said. "I was looking for something that I could really be a part of, and now it's my job and I'm so happy I can say I'm getting paid for something I really like."

2021-22 Made in Michigan

Aug. 3: 3-Time Finals Champ Cherishes Memories, Considering Golf Future - Read
Aug. 1: 
Lessons Learned on Track Have Jibowu's Business Surging to Quick Success - Read
July 28: 
Running Set Life's Stage for Grosse Pointe South's Record-Setting Meier Sisters - Read
July 25: 
2005 Miss Basketball DeHaan Cherishing Newest Title: 1st-Time Mom - Read
July 21: 
Championship Memories Still Resonate with St. Thomas Star Lillard - Read
July 14:
Portage Central Champ Rolls to Vanderbilt, Writing Next Chapter in Alabama - Read
July 12: Coaching Couple Passing On Knowledge, Providing Opportunities for Frankfort Wrestlers - Read
June 30: Hrynewich's Star Continuing to Rise with Olympic, Pro Sports Arrivals - Read

PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from left, Gabriela Leon competes for the East Kentwood and University of Louisville track & field teams, and Maia Perez plays soccer for East Kentwood and trains for the NWSL's Angel City FC. (Middle) Leon holds up her NCAA championship trophy in June. (Below) Perez is one of three keepers for Angel City FC. [Photos courtesy of East Kentwood's athletic department (2017 soccer), Run Michigan (2017 track & field), the Louisville athletic department (2022 track & field) and Will Navarro/Angel City FC (2022 soccer).]