ZEELAND – Petoskey went the distance again Saturday at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Track & Field Finals.
After claiming the Division 2 cross country championship in the fall, with senior Emma Squires the individual race winner, the Northmen were bolstered by Squires again in winning their first Finals title on the track.
Squires won the 800 (2:14) and 1,600 (4:55.05), finished second in the 3,200 and anchored the winning 3,200 relay (9:27.33) at Zeeland, which added up to 38 of Petoskey’s total 48 points. Parma Western was second with 29.
The Northmen’s only other top-two Finals finish had come in 1992, when they finished Class B runners-up.
“It definitely was a really hot, windy day, definitely not the best conditions, but we just had to gut through it,” Squires said. “It was definitely the hardest race and meet ever this season.
“The past two weeks definitely we’ve all been stressing about it. But we tried to sleep well and eat well and train well, and it definitely worked out well. We all peaked at the right time.”
Squires was joined the on the 3,200 relay by senior Sarah Liederbach and juniors Noel Vanderwall and Caroline Farley. Vanderwall also joined Squires finishing fourth in the 1,600 and sixth in the 3,200, and Farley was right there with a seventh in the 3,200 as well.
“The distance girls won the state championship in cross country, and that’s where all of our points came from today,” Petoskey coach Karen Starkey said. “Throughout the year they worked hard, and we had some not-so-good weather, but everybody just worked together and it was positive. … They have a lot of guts, desire, and they’re a good group of girls and we’re going to miss them.
“I was pretty confident they would perform (Saturday) as they did all season long. It’s unusual to have goose bumps on an 88-degree day. And that happened several times today.”
Bridgeport junior Chaniya Madison was among those who powered through as well, as she won the 100 (12.36) and 200 (25.96) to score 20 of third-place Bridgeport’s 26 points. She previously had won the 100 as a freshman in 2019. Allegan senior Hannah Antkoviak was another double champ, claiming the titles in the 100 hurdles (14.94) and 300 (44.69).
Big Rapids’ senior Erika Beistle also gave a two-title good-bye to her high school career with a 20-foot win in the discus (147-5) while claiming the shot put championship (42-10) as well.
Belding freshman Brook Simpson, meanwhile, debuted by setting the LPD2 meet record in the high jump at 5-10, besting the 5-9 jumps by Sara Jane Baker of Mattawan in 2001 and Christine Krellwitz of Big Rapids in 2004.
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior Kaya Freeman won the long jump (17-4), and Grand Rapids West Catholic senior Katie Clifford won the pole vault (12-0). Simpson also finished second in the 400 to Marysville junior Reese Powers, who crossed first in that race in 57.71 seconds. Linden won the 400 relay (50.36), Hudsonville Unity Christian won the 800 relay (1:47.14) and Dearborn Divine Child won the 1,600 relay (4:04.32).
PHOTOS: (Top) Petoskey’s Emma Squires outpaces the field during one of her championship runs Saturday at Zeeland. (Middle) Allegan’s Hannah Antkoviak, middle, works to stay just ahead of Cranbrook’s Kaya Freeman (left) and Stevensville Lakeshore’s Lynea Slayback. (Below) Bridgeport’s Chaniya Madison powers through the final strides of one of her sprint victories. (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.)