Oak Park, Returning Individual Champs Lead Chase Again at Star-Filled Finals

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

June 1, 2024

Abby Russell has no problem throwing as the favorite with everyone else hoping to catch her.

In fact, the Allen Park senior embraces summoning up her best efforts in both the discus and shot put every time she lines up to throw. Russell said she's never equated success with the pressure of being a state champion.

"To be honest, no," said Russell, who closed out a stellar career by winning those two events at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals at East Kentwood. "I just focus on myself. Going to see a sports psychologist has helped me a lot with that. We talk about the work you have to put in, and (success) being a consistency thing."

Whether it's pure talent or seeking professional guidance or the ability to deal with pressure, Russell finished off an outstanding career in winning the discus (156-6) and the shot (46-10) on Saturday. The two titles are added to a first as a sophomore and third as a junior in the shot. She's now a three-time champ in the discus.

The wins at East Kentwood were also personally rewarding to Russell, who didn't place in the shot as a freshman at Falcon Stadium. It's one of the few places where the University of Michigan-bound Russell figures she could have done better.

"I was real bad as a freshman, so I was happy to get back here again," she said. "I had a great time back then. I just didn't do what I wanted."

While Russell was among those dominating the individual meet Saturday, Oak Park was sweeping its way to a team title. The Knights finished with 88 points to easily outdistance runner-up Ann Arbor Pioneer's 42. Detroit Renaissance was third with 35 points, East Kentwood was fourth with 34 and Saginaw Heritage had 30.

Oak Park coach Brandon Jiles, whose team collected its eighth Finals title under his leadership, said he wasn't sure what type of showing a young team would make Saturday. Of the 35 athletes on the roster, just three are seniors.

Still, Jiles thought the team would be in the hunt along with Pioneer, Renaissance and Detroit Cass Tech. At least part of the success was winning the 800 (1:38.10), 400  (47.53) and 1,600 (3:47.99) relays. The other firsts were by senior Morgan Roundtree in the 300 hurdles (41.31), freshman Nevaeh Burns in the 400 (55.02) and senior Kylee King (2:10.53) in the 800.

Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Rachel Forsyth leads the pack in the 1,600. "We thought we had a shot. We just take it one event at a time and do what we have to do. We only have three seniors, but they're really good kids. We'll have some good girls back next year, and they know they'll have to step up and score," Jiles said.

"I'm a very competitive person when I see other teams that are good. I think the girls are like that too. We're ready when it comes to championship time."

Roundtree said her two chief goals at the meet were accomplished. She wanted to join a long list of successful Oak Park sprinters while also leading a young team to a championship.

"I want to motivate my teammates, and I think I was able to do that," said Roundtree, whose 300 time is ninth best in the country. "We've had some good sprinters here, and I really wanted to become one of them."

Among the other champions was Lena Cleveland of Rochester, who went from finishing fourth in the long jump a year ago to winning (18-2) that event Saturday. Cleveland is a former sprinter who traded the 100 and 200 for the long jump a couple of years ago.

"I wanted to try the long jump, and it's worked out," she said. "I put in a lot of hard work over the summer and in indoor. I also worked hard in strength training in the gym. I didn't used to have access to a (long jump) pit, but I was able to put in the work."

Rachel Forsyth of Ann Arbor Pioneer won the 1,600 (4:38.28) and 3,200 (10:15.57) to cap an outstanding four-year career. A two-time cross country Finals champ, Forsyth overcame illness to win the 1,600 a year ago. She was coming off a trip to the Trial of Miles meet in New York a couple of weeks ago, but said the Finals featured virtually no mental letdown.

"Maybe a little, but you can't control it," she said. "You can only control what you're doing that day. And I think I ran well. It was great because my sister was in the same three events I was in in 2017."

The other champions Saturday were Kamryn Tatum of West Bloomfield in the 200 (24.63), Brooke Bowers of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in the pole vault (12-9), Madison Morson of Salem in the high jump (5-10), Maya Rollins of Ann Arbor Pioneer (13.86) in the 100 hurdles, Willow Mason of Saginaw Heritage in the 200 (24.66) and Keyanna O'Tey of Sturgis in the 100 (12.08). West Ottawa won the 3,200 relay (9:00.27), and Fenton sophomore Molly Katic (100), Clarkston freshman Allison Thurman (200) and Sturgis freshman Vivian Massey (shot put) were the adaptive event champions.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Oak Park celebrates its latest LP Division 1 team championship Saturday at East Kentwood. (Middle) Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Rachel Forsyth leads the pack in the 1,600. (Click for more from John Brabbs/RunMichigan.com.)

Performance of the Week: Onsted's Emmry Ross

June 6, 2024

Emmry Ross headshotEmmry Ross ♦ Onsted
Junior ♦ Track & Field

Ross became just the third girl in Lower Peninsula history – and one of eight statewide – to win four individual events at an MHSAA Track & Field Finals, as she finished first in the 400 (56.25), 800 (2:10.74), 1,600 (4:57.81) and 3,200 (10:55.27) on Saturday at the LP Division 3 championship meet at Kent City. She was the only member of her team to qualify for the Finals, but her 40 points earned in those races placed Onsted second in the team standings.

Her 400 time was a season-best, and her 800 and 3,200 times were personal records – which is saying even more considering she also won the 400 and 800 as a sophomore and the 400 (and ran on the winning 1,600 relay) as a freshman in 2022. Ross also runs cross country and finished fifth at the LPD3 Final this past fall.

@mhsaasports 🏃‍♀️‍➡️POW: Emmry Ross #trackandfield #onsted #letsgo #champion #running #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

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Past 2023-24 Honorees

May 31: Isaac Sturgess, Flint Powers Catholic baseball - Report
May 30:
Abby Russell, Allen Park track & field - Report 
May 23:
Isabel Thelen, St. Johns tennis - Report
May 16:
Ally Katinas, Novi lacrosse - Report
May 9:
Peter Roehl, Rochester Adams golf - Report
May 2:
Lilah Smith, Richland Gull Lake soccer - Report
April 25:
Mason Mayne, Lawton track & field - Report
April 18:
Alli Wright, Jenison softball - Report
April 11:
Chloe Wishart, Trenton soccer - Report
March 28:
Jenna Maki, Ishpeming basketball - Report
March 22:
Jaremiah Palmer, Niles Brandywine basketball - Report
March 15:
Leah Hodge, North Farmington gymnastics - Report
March 8:
Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Report
March 1:
Rylee Smith, Zeeland West bowling - Report
Feb. 22:
Caleb Lewandowski, Traverse City West skiing - Report
Feb. 15:
Jadin Mix, Onaway basketball - Report
Feb. 8:
Onalee Wallis, Cadillac skiing - Report
Feb. 1:
Abbey DeGraw, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer - Report
Jan. 25:
Ewan Todd, Riverview swimming - Report
Jan. 18:
Ashley Weller, Jackson Northwest basketball - Report
Jan. 11:
Michael Baldwin, Saginaw Arthur Hill wrestling - Report
Dec. 15:
Jena Fijolek, Fenton bowling - Report
Dec. 8:
Sophia Wagner, Escanaba gymnastics - Report
Dec. 1:
Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24:
Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17:
Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10:
Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27:
Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20:
Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13:
Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5:
Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29:
MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22:
Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15:
Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

(Photo by Jamie McNinch/RunMichigan.com.)