Oak Park senior – Track & Field
Jefferson this weekend will finish one of the finest careers in recent Michigan high school track & field history. She’s won two individual MHSAA Finals championships and run on four title-winning relays over the last three seasons and holds the Lower Peninsula Division 1 and all-Finals record in the 400 meters of 53.50 seconds, which she set as a sophomore. She shined again in her final local meet Friday, winning both the 400 (54.93) and 100 hurdles (14.10) at the Oakland County Championships to earn the Michigan National Guard Performance of the Week.
Jefferson’s times Friday either set or tied her lowest in those events this season, and she’ll enter Saturday’s Finals having run the second-fastest LP Division 1 Regional times in both races. After winning the 400 as both a freshman and sophomore, Jefferson finished second in both that race and the 200 at the 2015 Finals. She decided to take up hurdles again this spring to help her improve her 400 time, and her fastest 200 (24.27) and 300 hurdles times this season (43.89) according to Athletic.net also would have placed her among the fastest Regional finishers in those races across the division this spring.
She also ran on winning 400 (47.78) and 800 (1:38.74) relays at the Oakland County meet as Oak Park won the team title. Her 400 relay enters this weekend with the top Regional time in the division, and her 800 relay posted the second-fastest. Jefferson has signed to continue her track career this fall at University of Virginia; she is undecided on a major but carries a 3.6 grade-point average. She also has run cross country at Oak Park throughout her varsity career.
Coach Brandon Jiles said: “Anna has so many great qualities that make her a special athlete. A few of the things that stand out are her commitment, reliability, leadership and how quickly she adapts and learns. Throughout her high school career, Anna has been a major team player, not only in just track but also cross country, going above and beyond to help the team score points. In this day and age it’s rare for an athlete to sacrifice individual glory for team success; Anna has done that. She also has handled business academically, being an honor roll student every semester of high school. She has been a major part of the success and growth of Oak Park High School track and field. We are going to miss her.”
Performance Point: “(Oakland County) was one of the toughest meets I’ve had this season, with the exception of Regionals. It really gave me insight into how I need to perform at states, what I need to work on, and my strong points and weak points. I learned I have to have a better recovery, take one race at a time, (learned) small things I need to critique in hurdles. I need to keep working harder in the 400, and (improve) some small things in my relays.”
Jumping hurdles (again): “I did hurdles in middle school. I really wanted to get my 400 time down, or just in general get my times down, and in middle school I noticed running hurdles made me faster. I’d see other people (who added hurdles) run open events a lot quicker than they used to be, and my mom wanted me to go back to running hurdles – I was like, why not? It wasn’t too hard, but it was a little tough. I had to learn to adjust to hurdle workouts; they do longer workouts than sprinters and quarter-milers. The one thing I learned that comes with hurdles is your muscles need to adjust to hurdles. My body got used to it, and it got easier to adjust now.”
Lasting legacy: “I just want to be remembered as a person that worked hard, was team-oriented, and whenever it came down to crunch time and I had to perform, that I tried my best and was a dependable teammate. I’d love to win the 400, but my dream scenario for this weekend is to come home knowing I ran my races the best I could, like I was supposed to, and that my coaches are proud of me and I’m proud of myself for running the type of races I have.”
Home at Virginia: “I really felt comfortable there. Comfort is a really big thing to me. … It has an old feel but a modern feel to it also. The whole track team is like one family; there aren’t cliques like distance runners with distance runners, sprinters with sprinters. Everyone mingles together, everyone from different sports, and the coaches were really welcoming and everything was just beautiful. It was kinda like falling in love with a school at first sight.”
Questions & Answers: “I know I really like science class, and I also like math too. With science, you get to explore a lot of different things, and a lot of things about the human body interest me – I have a lot of questions about it, like what makes this work like that, how it reacts to something else. Math, it’s numbers, and numbers don’t lie. With math there are a bunch of equations and calculations to go through, but (there’s nothing) more accurate than numbers, and you can’t get better than that.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
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
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) Oak Park's Anna Jefferson clears a hurdle during Friday's Oakland County Championships at Waterford Mott. (Middle) Jefferson leads the competition during one of her four individual or relay wins at the meet. (Photos by Dave McCauley/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.)