East Kentwood senior – Track & Field
Jemison, the reigning Lower Peninsula Division 1 champion in discus and runner-up in shot put, earned the opportunity to compete for those titles again with a pair of Regional championships May 18 at Lansing Waverly while also earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Jemison won discus by 16 feet with a throw of 151-9, and shot put by two inches with a personal record 46-10½.
In both events, Jemison also finished just ahead of Waverly’s Malin Smith, a top-three placer in LP Division 2 in 2017 and owner of the longest shot put in the state (48-1) this season. Jemison has the longest discus throw – 158-11 – and they will see each other again at the June 2 LPD1 Finals at her home track. Jemison has surpassed both of her best throws from last season, when she won the discus with a 151-0 and threw a season-best 40-9 in the shot put at the 2017 MHSAA championship meet as well. She’s finished first every time she’s thrown this spring but once, when she finished second in discus to a thrower from Ohio in early April. East Kentwood as a team won last week’s Regional by 100 points and should contend for the Finals championship again after coming in third a year ago.
The 6-foot-3 Jemison is capping an outstanding three-sport career at East Kentwood, where she played four years of varsity volleyball and basketball as well. She earned Division 1 all-state honorable mention in volleyball in the fall and made the Class A all-state second team in basketball this winter. She has graduated with a 3.2 grade-point average and will continue her volleyball career at Miami University of Ohio, where she’ll study kinesiology and physical therapy – and hopes to pick up a second sport when she’s a fifth-year senior. In taking her athletic career to the next level, she’ll also be continuing to follow in the footsteps of her parents, Erica Westbrooks-Jemison and Darin Jemison, who both played basketball collegiately at Louisiana Tech.
Coach Stephanie Stephenson said: “Corinne is an exceptionally gifted athlete. She has chosen volleyball as her college sport, but she could have been a force in college basketball or could have gone on to compete at the highest levels of track & field in college and beyond. Her physical gifts are truly unparalleled. She has really been dialed in this season at practice. Her hard work has obviously paid off in her incredible performances. She is also a very fun person to have on the team. She brings joy and laughter wherever she goes. We will miss her next year, but know that she will have many successes in her future.”
Performance Point: “It was kind’ve scary, especially going against (Smith),” Jemison said of the Regional. “Seeing what her PR (personal record) was and being seeded second in shot, I was kinda nervous. (But) I was excited, especially when I heard that obviously she’s the real deal. I’m always up for a challenge. … I learned that I could shock myself. I didn’t think I was going to PR by that much (in the shot put).”
A natural, but with work: “It took a lot of practice. I spent a lot of time with my coach, Coach Mak (John Makinen), and I spent a lot time with Coach (Tyler) Pettit, and they just really (emphasized) the basics with me. For a while, my first year, I didn’t even touch an implement. It was all footwork. Sophomore year, I was picking up things more.”
Three-sport standout: “Obviously volleyball is my favorite sport, but track and basketball are neck and neck. As a junior, I wasn’t going to play (basketball); I was going to try to focus on travel volleyball in the winter. But I was like, ‘Mmmm … I miss it too much.’ So then I went back. … I don’t know how I balanced (three sports). I don’t know how I made it this far, doing homework in the car, staying up late night to study. But I enjoyed it though.”
Falcon pride: “I enjoy being a part of the track team at EK. It’s a really big deal at our school. I think it’s one of our best sports. It’s really incredible walking through the halls, hearing people like, ‘Oh yeah, she’s in track.’ Especially with our track jackets on, everybody just stops and stares.”
Listen to Mom and Dad: “(Their experiences) helped me a lot when I was younger. … Both my parents played in college, so when they (could) help you with sports, I was like ‘I should listen, because they know what they're talking about.’ They've really helped me on my athletic journey thus far.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2017-18 honorees:
May 17: Reagan Wisser, Richland Gull Lake soccer - Read
May 10: Clayton Sayen, Houghton track & field - Read
May 3: Autumn Roberts, Traverse City Central tennis - Read
April 26: Thomas Robinson, Wyoming Lee track & field - Read
March 29: Carlos Johnson, Benton Harbor basketball - Read
March 22: Shine Strickland-Gills, Saginaw Heritage basketball - Read
March 15: Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian swimming - Read
March 8: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County wrestling - Read
March 1: Camree' Clegg, Wayne Memorial basketball - Read
February 23: Aliah Robertson, Sault Ste. Marie swimming - Read
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City West golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) East Kentwood's Corinne Jemison begins her windup for a discus throw. (Middle) Jemison stands atop the awards podium at last year's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Top photo courtesy of the East Kentwood athletic department; bottom photo by RunMichigan.com.)
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.)