KINGSFORD — The Ontonagon girls withstood the challenge of retaining the Upper Peninsula Division 3 track & field title here Saturday, winning for the second straight year with 74 points.
Stephenson edged Munising 62-60 for the runner-up trophy.
“When you come to the Finals, everybody can do something special,” said Ontonagon coach Brian Amos. “This is our third title in six years. We have a bunch of good kids who do what’s asked of them. We’re super proud of the girls. That’s a team effort.”
The Gladiators won the 400-meter relay in 52.84 seconds, 800 (1:52.68) and 1,600 (4:28.41) on a sunny and warm day.
“We’re pretty excited right now,” said senior Kiirsa Kolpack, who anchored the 400 relay. “Our handoffs and chemistry are real good. Being in sync with each other makes a big difference. We had a breeze kind of drifting on the south end of the field, which kind of cooled us off a little.”
Ontonagon’s Lilly McIntyre won the 100-meter dash in 13.7 seconds, edging Dollar Bay’s Ashlea Datto by one tenth of a second.
Kolpack was runner-up in the 100 hurdles (17.36), and Violet Amos placed second in the 400 (1:01.58).
Stephenson’s Jada Kuntze took high jump at 4 feet, 10 inches, and second in the 800 (2:34.99), and Daisy Grinsteiner added a first in pole vault (8-0).
“This is our first U.P. trophy since 1993,” said Stephenson coach Kate Kuntze. “This is a young team, and these girls like winning. Hopefully, we can take the next step next year. We have work to do.”
Munising opened with a victory in the 3,200 relay (11:23.25), and Monique Brisson took second in the 3,200 (13:15.72).
Purdue Northwest recruit and Rock Mid Peninsula senior Landry Koski gained her third straight 1,600 title in a season-best 5:31.74 and added firsts in the 800 (2:32.19) and 3,200 (12:52.73).
“The weather was nice all day, then it got hot in the 3,200,” she said. “The wind definitely swirled throughout the day – although, I’m real happy with how today turned out. The 400 could have been a little better. That’s not really my race, but it’s good speedwork. I’ll take the three firsts any day, and my times were real good. This is a good stepping stone for collegiate running. Running is such a mind game. It can be so stressful.”
Lake Linden-Hubbell freshman Emily Jokela won the 400 in a school-record 1:00.45 and 300 hurdles (47.78), and placed third in the 100 (13.78).
Teammate Abi Codere added a first in the 100 hurdles (17.19) and second in pole vault (8-0).
Brimley’s Grace Hill took shot put (34-10) and second in disc (101-1).
PHOTOS (Top) Ontonagon's Alli Bobula approaches the finish line first in the 800 relay Saturday. Other members of the winning team were Lilly McIntrye, Kiirsa Kolpack, and Senia Kolpack. (Middle) Rock Mid-Peninsula's Landry Koski celebrates crossing the finish line just ahead of Rudyard's Tristin Smith in the 1,600. (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.)