By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
With power programs shifting into different divisions and the next contenders emerging, Saturday’s MHSAA Girls Track & Field Finals appear full of opportunities to shake up the standings and watch a new batch of champions shine.
Click for meet information including all qualifiers. Check out MHSAA.TV for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription, and come back Saturday night for results as they come in and coverage of all seven meets on Second Half.
The MHSAA Track & Field Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard. (All times/measurements referenced below were achieved during Regional competition.)
LP Division 1 at East Kentwood
Top Regional scores: 1. Rockford 204, 2. East Kentwood 190 2/3, 3. Northville 177.
Oak Park won three straight LPD1 titles from 2014-16 and finished runner-up four points back a year ago. Lansing Waverly won the last two LPD2 championships but moved into LPD1 this season. East Kentwood was third and Rockford fourth a year ago, and both figure to be in the mix again this weekend as well.
Lansing Waverly: Senior Malin Smith and sophomore Priscilla Trainor provide plenty of star power for the Warriors. Smith is seeded second in both the shot put (46-8½) and discus (135-9), and Trainor is seeded second (tied) in the 100 (12.15), first in the 200 (24.77) and fifth in the 400 (57.35).
Oak Park: The Knights have the top-seeded 800 (1:38.6), 1,600 (3:56.7) and 3,200 (9:23.2) relays, plus the second-seeded 400 relay (47.68). Oak Park won the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays at last year’s Finals. Senior Miyah Brooks (57.06) and freshman Jada Rountree (57.08) ran the two fastest 400 Regional times in the division, and senior Doriann Coleman posted the second-fastest in the 800 (2:13.52) and won that race at the 2016 Finals. Sophomore Aasia Laurencin is seeded second in the 100 hurdles (14.28) and 200 (24.87).
Rockford: The Rams’ power will come in distance and relay events. Junior Ericka VanderLende is seeded first in the 1,600 (4:45.85) and 3,200 (10:29.10). The 800 relay (1:42.4) is seeded third, the 1,600 relay (4:00.6) fourth and the 3,200 relay (9:23.3) second and only a tenth of a second behind Oak Park.
East Kentwood’s Corinne Jemison: The reigning champion in the discus is seeded first in both that event (151-9) and the shot put (46-10½) as a senior.
Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Anne Forsyth: Entering her last Finals, the Pioneers’ senior is seeded third in the 1,600 (4:57.01) after winning that event a year ago and second in the 3,200 (10:32.75) after coming in runner-up in that race in 2017.
White Lake Lakeland’s Grace Stark: Another senior star will look to improve on last year’s runner-up finishes in the 100 hurdles and dash; she’s seeded first in both at 13.58 and 12.12 seconds, respectively.
LP Division 2 at Zeeland
Top Regional scores: 1. Dearborn Divine Child 212, 2. South Lyon East 119, 3. Frankenmuth 118½.
The championship is open with two-time reigning winner Waverly in LPD1 this weekend. Divine Child will look to return to the top for the first time since winning three in four seasons in 2010, 2012 and 2013. Zeeland East finished only a point behind Waverly a year ago and might be the favorite. Detroit Country Day and Holland Christian should be able to ride relay successes into the hunt.
Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets tied for sixth last season and are keyed by senior sprinter Alexis Officer, who is seeded fourth in the 100 (12.59) and third in the 200 (25.92), and sophomore Ahvon Mitchell, who has the top seed in the 100 hurdles (14.71). Country Day also carries the top seeds in the 400 (49.68) and 800 (1:47.1) relays.
Holland Christian: Last season’s third-place team has the top seeds in the other two relays – 4:04.9 in the 1,600 and 9:24.4 in the 3,200 – and one of the state’s best distance runners in senior Kayla Windemuller. She’s seeded first in the 1,600 (4:54.6), third in the 3,200 (11:07.3) and sixth in the 800 (2:18.2).
Zeeland East: The Chix should have one of the day’s biggest stars in any division – senior Suenomi Norinh has the top seeds in both the high jump (5-5) and long jump (18-0¼) and won the former the last two seasons, and also is seeded second in the 100 hurdles (14.99) and third (tied) in the 300 (46.08). The throws also will be big; junior Aliyah Boeve is the top seed in discus (138-6) and fifth in shot put (38-8¾), and junior Taylor Waterway is the fourth seed in the discus (128-3).
Grand Rapids South Christian’s Mariel Bruxvoort: The reigning champion in both hurdles races will try for two more titles in her final high school meet, seeded fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.08), first in the 300 (44.44) by a second and also fifth in the 200 (26.07).
Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis: The Cougars’ senior has risen to national prominence this year for her cross country times, and she also won the 1,600 and 3,200 in LPD3 a year ago; she’s seeded second in the 1,600 this weekend (5:04.6) to Windemuller, second in the 3,200 (10:58.6) to sophomore sister Jaden and fourth (tied) in the 800 (2:17.6).
Bridgeport’s Payten Williams: After finishing fourth in the 100 and 200 a year ago, Williams is set to move up as a junior seeded first in the 100 (12.27) and tied for first in the 200 (25.80).
LP Division 3 at Comstock Park
Top Regional scores: 1. Ida 194, 2. Pewamo-Westphalia 186, 3. Saugatuck 149.
Adrian Madison went from runner-up in 2016 to champion last spring, and Pewamo-Westphalia has won two titles and finished runner-up once over the last five seasons. Ida is in the mix after competing in LPD2 last year, and Hillsdale, Shepherd and Onsted are other hopefuls in what could be a wide-open meet.
Adrian Madison: The Trojans still have their share of standouts after winning last season by 15½ points. Junior Kaiya Wall is seeded third (tied) in high jump (5-2) and fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.69), and won the latter in 2016. Senior Kiarah Horn is third-seeded in pole vault (10-6), and freshman Carly Anschuetz also is among those seeded in high jump at 5-2. The team’s 1,600 relay (4:08.9) is seeded second and was the champion a year ago.
Onsted: The Wildcats should make a big jump from 10th a year ago, based solely on their possible relay successes. The 400 relay (51.18) is seeded third, the 800 relay (1:47.7) is seeded second and the 1,600 relay (407.6) is seeded first. Senior Harlie Sweet is seeded first as well in long jump (17-9½), and sophomore McKenna Russell is seeded second in 300 hurdles (47.41).
Pewamo-Westphalia: The Pirates tied for fifth last season and have potential scorers all over the lineup, led by the top-seeded 800 relay (1:47.3). Senior Grace Trierweiler is seeded fourth in pole vault (10-4) and junior Amelia Thelen is tied for fifth (10-0), and sophomore thrower Katie Lehman is seeded fourth in discus (115-9) and could make a run at a top-eight placing in shot put as well.
Shepherd’s Amber Gall: The champion in the 800 last season as a sophomore, she’s seeded first in that race (2:16.9) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:10.7).
Grass Lake’s Ella Suliman: She will look to repeat in the long jump as a senior and is seeded second in that event (17-4¾), third in the 200 (26.27) and fifth in the 400 (59.96).
Clinton’s Amanda Schaare: The reigning discus champion enters her final high school meet as the top seed in that event (144-6) by nearly 25 feet; she’s also seeded second in shot put (40-7).
Parchment’s Shiyon Taylor: She won the 100 and 200 last season as a junior and will run those races one more time, seeded first in the 100 (12.58) and fourth in the 200 (26.52).
LP Division 4 at Hudsonville
Top Regional scores: 1. Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 185, 2. Deckerville 175, 3. Lutheran Westland 174.
Fowler is a regular at the top with recent championships in 2011, 2012 and 2016 and runner-up finishes in 2015 and last spring. Pittsford could be a strong challenger as it goes for its first title after finishing fourth last season. After that, it’s a tougher call with lots of individual standouts that could carry teams in the standings. Hillsdale Academy is an intriguing possibility to contend.
Fowler: The Eagles are all over this meet again, starting with top-seeded relays in the 400 (50.90), 1,600 (4:13.43) and 3,200 (10:14.12) and second-seeded 800 relay (1:49.29). Junior Alyssa Vandegriff is the top seed at high jump (5-3) after taking first a year ago, and senior Ciara Weber is the top seed at pole vault (10-0); both run hurdles as well, Vandegriff seeded second in the 100 and third in the 300. Junior Morgan Goerge brings another high seed, third in the 800 (2:24.66).
Hillsdale Academy: The Colts have a handful of individual qualifiers, most notably junior Katie Vanhavel seeded fourth in long jump (16-7½). But the key will be the fourth-seeded 800 relay (1:51.23) and second-seeded 1,600 (4:17.26) and 3,200 (10:14.61) relays.
Pittsford: The Wildcats may have enough to topple Fowler with a combination of high seeds individually and in relays. Starting with the latter, Pittsford is seeded first in the 800 relay (1:47:57), second in the 400 (52.11) and fourth in the 3,200 (10:24.11). Junior Alison Toner is seeded fourth in the 100 hurdles (16.14) and second in the 300 (46.77). Sophomore Rachael Patterson leads three contenders in the pole vault, seeded second (9-9).
Southfield Christian’s Chika Amene: As a junior, she played the biggest part in Southfield Christian’s team title with wins in the 100, 200 and 400; she’s seeded first in the 100 (12.56), fifth in the 200 (26.68) and second in the 400 (59.67).
Ubly’s Haili Gusa: The reigning champion in the 800 is seeded fourth (2:26.80) in that race.
Addison’s Ally McLouth: The long jump champion last year as a freshman is seeded first (17-1) in that event and fourth in the 300 hurdles (47.63).
Concord’s Samantha Saenz: The senior is the reigning champion in the 1,600 and seeded first in that race (5:10.37), the 800 (222.28) and second in the 3,200 (11:36.29).
UP Division 1 at Kingsford
Top Regional scores: 1. Negaunee 71, 2. Marquette 57½, 3. Sault Ste. Marie 57.
Marquette has won seven straight U.P. Division 1 championships, last year’s by 27 points ahead of runner-up Negaunee. Negaunee won its Regional two weeks ago, but Marquette was at a different site – where it barely fended off Sault Ste. Marie.
Marquette: Junior Ahnika Puskala is the reigning champion in the 100 hurdles and is seeded fifth in that race (17.75). The Redettes have the top seeds in two more events but a host of other competitors who should keep the team running for another title.
Negaunee: Senior Clara Johnson won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and ran on the winning 3,200 relay last season. That 3,200 relay is seeded first (10:26.21), while she’s seeded second in the 800 (2:26.43) and 1,600 (5:30.03) both times to sophomore teammate Emily Paupore (2:22.43 and 5:18.69, respectively). Johnson is seeded third in the 3,200 (12:11.44), where Paupore is again seeded first (11:29.76).
Houghton’s Kendra Monette: She’s the reigning champion in the 100 and seeded first (13.29) in her final meet, while also seeded first in shot put (37-1½) and fourth in the 200 (28.6).
Kingsford’s Olivia Allen: The reigning champion the 200 and 400 is now a junior and seeded second in the 100 (13.52), first in the 200 (27.77) and second in the 400 (1:01.79).
UP Division 2 at Kingsford
Top Regional scores: 1. St. Ignace 98, Iron Mountain 74, Ishpeming 49½.
St. Ignace broke Ishpeming’s two-year hold on Division 2 last season with its sixth championship over the last eight years. Iron Mountain is competing for its first team title since 2004. Together have the top seeds in all but two events.
St. Ignace: Reigning individual champions Linnie Gustafson and Libby Becker are back for the Saints. Gustafson, a senior, is seeded first in high jump (4-9), while the junior Becker is seeded first in the 800 (2:22.45), 1,600 (5:13.86) and 3,200 (12:38.13). St. Ignace has six other top seeds.
Iron Mountain: The Mountaineers were seventh in UPD1 last season. They have the top seeds in five events, with two standouts earning two apiece: senior Taylor Talerico in the 100 dash (13.35) and 300 hurdles (50.09) and senior Olivia Berutti in the 100 hurdles (17.12) and 200 (27.82).
UP Division 3 at Kingsford
Top Regional scores: 1. Lake Linden-Hubbell 94, 2. Brimley 61½, 3. Felch North Dickinson 54.
Coming off its first MHSAA championship in this sport since 1994, Lake Linden-Hubbell is undefeated this season and dominated its Regional. Additionally, nine athletes who won a combined 11 individual titles last year also will be back Saturday.
Lake Linden-Hubbell: The Lakes are loaded, led by three-time individual and two-time relay champion Laura Lyons. She’s seeded second in the long jump (15-3¾), fifth in the 100 (13.9), fifth in the 200 (28.69) and second in the 400 (1:04.48) after winning long jump and the 200 in 2017. Jamie Hendrickson is the reigning champion in the high jump and seeded first (5-0), Sienna Anderson the reigning champion in the 100 hurdles and seeded first in that race (17.78), and Mariah Willmer is the reigning champion in the 800 and also seeded first for her repeat attempt (2:32.99).
Engadine’s Ashtyn Buss: The shot put champion the last two seasons is seeded first in that event (36-6) and third in discus (96-5) as a senior.
Pickford’s Clare Cottle: Last season’s pole vault champion is among eight who vaulted 7-0 or better at their Regionals; she was a winner at hers.
Cedarville’s Mackenzie Barr: She won the discus last spring and is seeded sixth in that event (88-0) and ninth in shot put (29-9).
Bark River-Harris’ Hailee Demers: The reigning champion in the 100 dash and 300 hurdles will run both hurdles races this time as a junior, seeded sixth in that 100 (18.56) and first in the 300 (51.58).
Chassell’s Lela Rautiola: She won the 3,200 last season as a sophomore but Saturday will run the 400 and potentially on the top-seeded 3,200 relay.
PHOTO: Negaunee's Clara Johnson, right, here running during her Regional, was a three-time Finals champion in 2017 and will compete again Saturday. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)
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.)