Shepherd sophomore – Track & Field
Midway through her high school career, Gall already is nearly the fastest cross country runner in Shepherd history, and she’s also on the cusp of rewriting the Bluejays’ track & field record book as well. She achieved her first all-time best on April 19, running the 800 meters is 2:14.83 on her home track to break the former school record, set in 1980, by more than a second – earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Shepherd’s girls won both duals that day, against Alma and Standish-Sterling, and Gall also won the 1,600 (5:36.64), 3,200 (13:20.37) and was part of the winning 1,600 relay (4:15.16) with seniors Rachel Mathers, Kylie Hutchinson and Katelyn Hutchinson. Two days later, on Friday, Gall again won the 800 1,600 and as part of the 1,600 and 3,200 relays at Ithaca’s Blue and Gold Invitational, posting a 5:15.28 in the individual 1,600. She’s won every race she’s competed in this season but two, taking second in a 400 and also as part of the 1,600 relay on Wednesday in a league quad meet.
Gall finished third and then fifth, respectively, at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals for cross country her first two seasons, and her personal-best time of 17:50 in the fall is only two seconds shy of Nora Green’s school record run from 1978. Gall finished LP Division 3 Track & Field Finals runner-up in the 3,200 last spring, running 10:52 to approach another school record run by Green (10:48). Gall also is the third-fastest 1,600 runner in school history with a best of 5:05, seven seconds off the record set in 2013 by Kaylie Rhynard – and both track milestones could be hers by the end of this spring. Last week's success gave Gall some ideas about how the 800 might fit into her plans – the time she ran to break the record would’ve put her second in that race at the Division 3 Finals last season. Gall also carries a 4.0 grade-point average, serves on her school’s student council and is active in a number of other school and church activities.
Coach Carey Hammel said: “She is a super kid who works extremely hard and is also a great student. She is very determined to be the best she can be and is a huge running fan. Getting to coach an athlete like that for two seasons (Hammel also coaches girls cross country) is very special because you always know what you are going to get out of her. She is also an incredible teammate in both sports and encourages both the boys and girls on our team to be their best. This year she is on the 3,200 relay with three seniors, and they are very close and she is very proud of what they are able to accomplish in that relay.”
Performance Point: “Beforehand, I was like OK, I want to go after this. I’ll run as hard as possible,” Gall said. “I started out the first lap a little slower than I normally do in 800s, and I was pretty nervous going into the second lap. But with 300 to go, I heard a voice, like God almost, that said, ‘Hey, you can do this. Just push.’ From there, I gave everything I had. I planned on starting faster; I don’t know if my legs were tight that first lap. I was nervous. I knew at a lap that I was slow, and when I finished I was a little shocked.”
Plenty of motivation: “I think that in the offseason, and even last year coming so close in the top five in cross country, being so close in track, it motivates me to work as hard as possible to get (to first). I’m gunning for one, a title, and I’ll work as hard as possible. My teammates motivate me so much. They’re always there right beside me, helping me with everything and the ups and downs of running.”
Following faith: “I believe I don’t do any of this by myself. I believe God is right there helping me though this. I wouldn’t be running, I wouldn’t be doing all of the things I’m doing if not for the gifts given me when I was born.”
Finding inspiration: “I'm one who loves motivational quotes, motivational videos, all of that. I decided one day to try to write a motivational essay for myself; I wanted to see if I could do it. I started writing those, and I actually really like it, just to read, by myself. The 2015 cross season, (I thought) maybe I’ll share this for the team. On overnights I’d always print one off, share it with the team, give them extra motivation to get through races. It was pretty nerve-wracking the first time – I thought maybe they wouldn’t be OK with a freshman doing that. I just took the chance, and I think my teammates like them.”
Mentoring and mentored: “I know a lot of the middle schoolers. They are speedy, and they’re just great people, and I just want them to become the best they can be. Because as a middle schooler, I had as my coach B.J. Tomanek. As a sixth grader, I didn’t know what to run, and he took me in. He expects me to do my best all the time, and he continues to motivate me today. We still run together, we talk, and he’s super motivational along with (coaches Rick) Cahoon and Hammel. They are strong people in my life I took up to, and (coach Wyatt) LeClear gets me through in tough times.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 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 2016-17 honorees:
April 20: Sloane Teske, East Grand Rapids tennis – Read
March 30: Romeo Weems, New Haven basketball – Read
March 23: Jaycie Burger and Maddie Clark, Pittsford basketball – Read
March 16: Camden Murphy, Novi swimming & diving – Read
March 9: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central wrestling – Read
March 2: Joey Mangner, Chelsea swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 23: Isabelle Nguyen, Grosse Pointe North gymnastics – Read
Feb. 16: Dakota Hurbis, Saline swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 2: Foster Loyer, Clarkston basketball – Read
Jan. 26: Nick Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling – Read
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball – Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball – Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football – Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball – Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Shepherd's Amber Gall surges during one of her races last week against Alma and Standish-Sterling. (Middle) Gall rounds a curve during a race at Friday's Ithaca Invitational. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.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.)