Norinh Fueled for Final HS Title Chase

May 24, 2018

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

ZEELAND – Suenomi Norinh was disappointed when she didn’t qualify for the MHSAA Track & Field Finals as a freshman.

It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to the Zeeland East standout.

Norinh used it as motivation, and it helped create an inner desire to excel through the remainder of her high school career.

“It definitely opened my eyes to see that I needed to work a little harder at it,” Norinh said. “I think it shaped me into the person I am today.”

And that person is now an accomplished and versatile track star who has won back-to-back Lower Peninsula Division 2 titles in the high jump and is headed to the University of Missouri.

Zeeland East coach Josh Vork said Norinh’s absence from the 2015 Finals was a major turning point in her development.

“She had a really rough day at Regionals that year, and I could tell that really motivated her,” he said. “She wasn’t going to let that happen again, so her sophomore year she came in ready to attack every single practice and not take any days easy.

“Now that she has grown and matured and gotten stronger, she continues to push and push and wants to see the most she can get out of herself.”

Norinh, 18, will compete in her final high school meet next Saturday on her home track at Zeeland.

She’ll take part in four events: high jump, long jump and the 100 and 300-meter hurdles.

Norinh hopes to again repeat in the high jump while avenging a pair of narrow losses from a year ago.

“It will be special to be running at home for the last time, and the high jump event means a lot to me,” Norinh said. “I’m going to do everything I can to defend that, but if it’s not meant to be then it’s not meant to be and that’s OK, too. But I really want that one.”

Norinh took second in the long jump last season, as well as in the 100 hurdles. The latter is an event she’s been eyeing since last year’s painstakingly close finish.

She was runner-up in the 100 by the narrowest of margins to South Christian’s Mariel Bruxvoort – Bruxvoort edged Norinh by two thousandths of a second. Norinh also took sixth in the 300 as Bruxvoort, now a senior, won that race as well.

“She’s been looking forward to going against Mariel again this year, and all year she asked me if there were any meets the same as South Christian,” Vork said. “She really wants to go against Mariel, and it will be a good match-up.”

“She beat me by one thousandth of a second, and that pushes me because one thousandth of a second is nothing,” Norinh said. “It’s crazy, and it’s like a hair crossing the finish line before someone else. She pushes me to be even better, and that’s a good thing. We talk all the time, and we’re friendly rivals.

“I kept asking coach if she was going to be at one of our meets because I was excited for some competition. I don’t get that very often.” 

Norinh won four Regional championships last weekend in preparation for the Finals as the Chix edged Holland Christian for the overall team title.

Vork said she possesses all the physical abilities, and the work ethic, to cap her career in style.

“She’s incredibly physically gifted, and you don’t get to this point without having great physical tools, but she is, and has always been, the hardest worker on our team,” he said. “Nobody pushes themselves more than Suenomi does, and no one wants to be great more than Suenomi does – and that shows every day at practice.

“There have been days where she asks for more to do at practice because she doesn’t feel like she got a good enough workout, and I think that’s the kind of mentality that creates the champion that she is.”

Norinh’s martial arts background, as well as support from her parents, helped stir her competitiveness.

“I’ve done sports all my life, and my parents always drive us to work as hard as we can and give our all in everything,” Norinh said. “Martial arts taught me a lot, and I’m super competitive. No one likes to lose, and if I lose, I’m not going to give it to you easily.”

Norinh will be the catalyst in Zeeland East’s bid to win the team Division 2 championship as well. The Chix finished runner-up to Lansing Waverly by a single point last season.

“If things go our way, we have a good chance at it,” Vork said. “It’s a tough field, but I expect us to be in the mix.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Zeeland East’s Suenomi Norinh clears the bar on the way to repeating as Division 2 high jump champion last spring. (Middle) Norinh sprints toward the finish during the 300 hurdles championship race in 2017. (Click for more from

Blissfield's Miller Set for Senior Success After 3 Junior-Year Finals Trips

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

August 15, 2023

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. 

Southeast & BorderAs 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.” 

Miller pulls up for a jumper during last season’s basketball postseason run.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 DonnellyDoug 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.)