East Kentwood senior – Track & Field
Bracey capped off one of the most celebrated careers in MHSAA track & field history Saturday with two more individual championships at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals at Hudsonville. Bracey won the long jump (18 feet, 10 inches) and 100-meter dash (12.08) to give her 10 championships total over her four-season high school career and earn her the Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Bracey has come a long way since catching a gym teacher’s attention at elementary school field day and then running her first kids track meet in a leotard and water shoes. The 100 title was her fourth at MHSAA Finals, and the long jump victory – by 4½ inches – was her third straight. Bracey also won the 200 as a freshman, sophomore and junior before finishing fourth this time as that race was won by Northville’s Chloe Abbott, Bracey’s future teammate at Purdue University.
East Kentwood finished fourth as a team and also took third twice and runner-up once at MHSAA Finals during Bracey’s championship-laden career. She finished with five school records: long jump (19-6½), 100 (11.68 seconds), 200 (23.98), 400 (56.4) and as part of the 400 relay (47.62).
Coach Stephanie Stephenson said: "Sekayi is obviously an exceptional athlete. We will miss her performances during meets, but more than that she is a wonderful person. She is humble and kind. She is very coachable. She has developed great leadership skills over the last four years. She is just a joy to be around. We will miss her presence much more than her performances."
Performance Point: I got out fast (in the 200). I’m the type of person who gets tired, so I try to burn out all my energy completely. I don’t even know what happened. I was so frustrated when they were all coming up on me. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ I never had that in my life. It was confusing. … (But) I had a good day, great competition. The 200 was the best competition. Pretty much, I had a great last state meet, honestly. Taking home two state titles is a blessing, even though I wanted better. It was good.”
Great start … great finish: “I didn’t really understand it (when I was a freshman). I was just running. I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m doing good.’ I wasn’t paying attention. I just got state titles. I was just running because it was something I love to do. … (Ten titles) means a lot. I’m just really thankful and grateful for it.”
Opponent, now teammate: “(Chloe Abbott) is going to be my roommate. We’re going to Purdue together. We’ve raced our whole lives pretty much. Chloe is a great runner. I’ve seen her become great over time and her fighting through.”
Be the example: “I really started to focus on my grades (in high school), because that’s what was going to get me into the college I wanted to get into. I’m the oldest of all my siblings, and I want to leave an example on the track and academically to show them how important it is.”
Just like Flo Jo: I really look up to Flo Jo (late Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner, who died in 1998), even though she died. I’m inspired by her. I watch her videos all the time, just because she motivates me so much the way she runs. … Long term, my goal is to go to the Olympics. I’m going to work hard to do that. Hopefully in college, with training, I’ll see great improvement.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor,
and Bill KIhan, correspondent
Every week during the 2015-16 school year, Second Half and the Michigan 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 protecting lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2015-16 honorees
June 1: Anna Jefferson, Oak Park girls track & field - Read
May 25: Connor Bandel, Oxford boys track & field - Read
May 18: Kalyn Breckenridge, Birch Run girls soccer - Read
May 11: Morgan Beadlescomb, Algonac boys track & field - Read
May 4: Abby Krzywiecki, Farmington Hills Mercy softball - Read
April 27: Mike Mokma, Holland Christian baseball - Read
April 20: Abby Divozzo, Cadillac girls soccer - Read
March 30: Cassius Winston, Detroit U-D Jesuit boys basketball - Read
March 23: Kierra Fletcher, Warren Cousino girls basketball - Read
March 16: Jacob Montague, Grosse Pointe South swimming & diving - Read
March 9: Kyle Tuttle, St. Charles boys bowling - Read
March 2: Brittney Schnicke, Caledonia girls bowling - Read
Feb. 24: Kamari Newman, Detroit East English boys basketball - Read
Feb. 17: Jason Whitens, Powers North Central boys basketball - Read
Feb. 10: Rachel Hogan, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Read
Feb. 3: Nehemiah Mork, Midland Dow swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 27: Mardrekia Cook, Muskegon girls basketball - Read
Jan. 20: Sage Castillo, Hartland wrestling - Read
Jan. 13: Rob Zofchak, Dexter swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 6: Tyler Deming, Caro wrestling – Read
Dec. 15: Jordan Weber, East Jordan boys basketball – Read
Dec. 8: Kaitlyn Geers, Kent City girls basketball – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Sekayi Bracey holds off the pack during the 100 at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. (Middle) Bracey launches during the long jump competition. (Photos 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.)