Performance: Oak Park's Anna Jefferson

June 2, 2016

Anna Jefferson
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 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/ 

Lake Linden-Hubbell, Stephenson Share in UPD3; Jokela Joins Elite Club

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 4, 2023

KINGSFORD – Lake Linden-Hubbell got to the top with first-place power. Stephenson won only two events. 

But there are multiple ways to win an MHSAA Finals championship in track & field. And the Lakes and Eagles tied for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 girls title Saturday. 

Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. Lake Linden-Hubbell got a little assist from two-time reigning champion Ontonagon in the final event, the 1,600 relay. The Lakes led in the standings by eight points, but they didn’t have a 1,600-meter relay team. Stephenson could have won the team title with a win in that event, but Ontonagon’s relay team proved solid again and forced the Eagles to settle for the runner-up spot in the race and the eight points that come with it.

The Lakes last won team Finals titles during a three-year run from 2017-19. For Stephenson, it had been since 1993 when the team competed in Class C. The Eagles were runners-up last year.

Lake Linden-Hubbell sophomore Emily Jokela entered with the fastest Regional times in all four of her events, and she won all four of them Saturday – the 100, 200, 400 and 300 hurdles. She became just the sixth female to win four individual events at an MHSAA Finals.

The only one she didn’t win a title in last year was the 100 dash; she has that now. The only school record she didn’t have going into Saturday was in the 200; she has that now as well. She broke it by one tenth of a second.

“It feels great,” Jokela said. “I was very worried about running today because it was so hot.”

Her 300 hurdles time of 45.63 seconds set a UPD3 Finals record. Ontonagon’s Lori Wardynski had the record before (47.27).

Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay.Teammate Abi Codere repeated in the 100 hurdles, and their 400 relay team (Codere, Rebecca Lyons, Isabella Tampas and Cleo Milkey) also won.

Stephenson’s wins came in the 3,200 relay (Faith Cappaert, Joelle Beaudo, Kayela Putnam and Jada Kuntze) and the long jump (Sarah Labs).

Ontonagon also won the 800 relay (Lilly McIntyre, Alli Bobula, Kylee Uotila and Makennah Uotila).

“I’m sad we didn’t get a title this year, but the past two back-to-back U.P. titles we had made my entire career,” senior Makennah Uotila said. “I’ve enjoyed it so much. The relays were a big part of our U.P.  titles, so to still have strong relays is very important.”

Newberry’s Kaylen Clark won the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. She was the runner-up at the UPD3 cross country meet in the fall and in both events at the UPD2 track meet last season. Taylor Adams of Norway won the 800.

In the field, Mariska Laurila of Carney-Nadeau was the champion in the discus, Rudyard’s Alicia Cheney won the high jump, Dollar Bay’s Nora Keranen won the pole vault after winning long jump in 2022, and Brimley’s Grace Hill repeated in the shot put.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Lake Linden-Hubbell's Emily Jokela, second from right, wins the 400 on Saturday. (Middle) Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. (Below) Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay. (Photos by Cara Kamps/