Preview: Line-ups Loaded for Girls Finals

May 29, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Few things are guaranteed during this, the busiest weekend of the high school sports calendar in Michigan.

But here’s something to count on – attend an MHSAA Girls Track & Field Final, and you’re sure to see at least one record-setting talent if not a field loaded with standouts.

See below for some of the teams and individuals who should be among those in the championship mix at seven girls meets Saturday. Click for meet information including all qualifiers and come back Saturday night for results as they come in, and check out MHSAA.TV for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription.

LP DIVISION 1 at Rockford

Top Regional scores: Grosse Pointe South 231, Oak Park 186, Rockford 160.71.

Oak Park – The sprinters and hurdlers who played major roles in last season’s championship run are back, making Oak Park a major favorite. Junior Anna Jefferson is coming off setting a meet record in the 400; she’s seeded third in that race (55.68) and third in the 200 (24.84). Junior Brianna Holloway is seeded third in the 100 hurdles (14.62) and first in the 300 (43.33), senior Kailsi Latta-Thompson is seeded seventh in the 100 hurdles (15.12) and 11th in the 300 (46.61), senior Jayla Fleming is fifth in the 800 (2:16.52) and sophomore Tamea McKelvy is seeded second in the 100 (12.23). Senior Ersula Farrow adds a top seed in the 800 (2:08.88) after winning that event in 2014, and all four relays also are seeded first: 400 (48.34), 800 (1:40.82), 1,600 (3:49.06) and 3,200 (9:06.01).

Northville – The reigning runner-up should be in contention again with a handful of standouts contending in multiple events. Senior Lauren Rodriguez is seeded second in the 100 hurdles (14.44) and seventh in the 300 (45.50), junior Chloe Abbott is second in the 400 (55.49) and fourth in the 200 (24.88) and junior Lexa Barrott is second in the 1,600 (4:58.69) and ninth in the 3,200 (10:55.16). The 1,600 relay (3:53.89) also is seeded second, and the 800 relay (1:42.11) is seeded third.

East Kentwood – The Falcons finished third last season in part because of multiple championships won by Sekayi Bracey; now a junior, she’s top-seeded in the 100 (12.17), 200 (24.61) and long jump (18-3). She also runs on the second-seeded 400 relay (48.88). Senior Briana Nelson could add big points in throws; she’s seeded third in the discus (127-6) and first in shot put (44-2).

Birmingham Seaholm’s Audrey Belf – One of the top distance runners in recent MHSAA history will try to finish her high school career with a repeat in the 3,200 (10:10.28). She could approach the record of 10:08.23 run by West Bloomfield’s Erin Finn two seasons ago.

Ann Arbor Skyline’s Charde Madoula-Bey – Reigning shot put champion and discus placer will throw both again as a junior and had the eighth-best shot put (39-4½) for LPD1 Regionals.

Rockford’s Sammy Cuneo – After finishing third in both the 100 and 200 last season as a junior, should challenge Bracey again in the 200 with the second seeded time (24.64) and has the top Regional time in the 400 (55.44).

Rockford’s Maegan McCarthy – Last season’s runner-up in the shot put and discus as a junior has the third-seeded shot put (42-4½) and top discus throw (141-9) heading into this weekend.

Flushing’s Bre Perry – Only a sophomore, Perry completed a Regional jump of 5-8 that was just an inch off the LPD1 Finals record.

Port Huron Northern’s Mackenzie Shell – Won pole vault last season as a junior and is a major favorite to repeat with her Regional vault this month nine inches higher than the current all-Finals record set in 2009.

LP DIVISION 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional scores:  Warren Regina 180, Ortonville-Brandon 139, Grand Rapids South Christian 134.

Flint Southwestern – Fifth place but only 6.5 points off the lead last season, Southwestern has the scorers to push to the top. The 400 (49.50) and 800 (1:43.62) relays are seeded first, and senior Miaisha Blair runs on both and also has the sixth-seeded 200 time (26.16) and fourth-best long jump (17-5¼). Senior Mildrenae Young also runs on both of those relays and is seeded first in the 200 (25.83) and ninth in the 100 (12.65). Both were on the 400 team that won last season’s Final.  

Grand Rapids South Christian – The Sailors have enough contributors to also do well in a low-scoring meet. The 1,600 relay is seeded first (3:59.38) and the 800 relay (1:46.69) sixth. Senior Alexis Miller could provide distance points, entering 10th in the 1,600 (5:16.78) and 11th in the 3,200 (11:43.33), while freshman Mariel Burxvoort is expected to do big things seeded second in the 300 (46.04) and seventh in the 100 hurdles (15.51). Junior Abbie Porter is seeded sixth in the 400 (59.15) and senior Laura Grasman is eighth in discus (118-9).

Lansing Waverly – Two relay championships placed Waverly second last season and only three points behind champion Remus Chippewa Hills. The 400 relay this season is seeded second (49.82) running three freshmen and a sophomore, and the 800 is seeded third (145.44) with the same group. Freshman Tra’chele Roberts is seeded fifth in the 200 (26.10) and the sophomore, Teaghan Thomas, is among those seeded 12th in high jump (5-2).

Battle Creek Harper Creek’s Charley Andrews – Reigning high jump champion is seeded second as a sophomore (5-6) and also ninth in the 800 (2:22.63) to go with running three relays.

Spring Lake’s Carlyn Arteaga – Last season’s 800 champ as a junior is seeded fourth in that race (2:20.36) and third in the 1,600 (5:08.47).

Mount Morris’ Gabriella Collins – Won long jump in 2014 by more than five inches and should score even more as a senior with the eighth seed in that event (17-1¼), second seed in the 100 hurdles (15.10) and top seed in the 300 (45.30).

Marine City’s Hannah Coverdill – Seeded only eighth in the 100 hurdles (15.59) and 12th in the 300 (47.30) but won the 300 and was fourth in the 100 as a sophomore at last season’s Final.

Carleton Airport’s Zoe Eby – After claiming last season’s 400 title by less than a second, Eby could add a few wins as a sophomore. She's seeded seventh in the 100 (12.64), third in the 200 (25.83), second in the 400 (58.21) and seventh in long jump (17-2½).

St. Johns’ Karrigan Smith – The Redwings senior set the 1,600 meet record last season at 4:51.53 and has the top seed time this weekend at 5:00.76. She’s also seeded second in the 800 (2:18.71).

East Grand Rapids' Kaela Theut – Last season’s 3,200 champion isn’t running that race, but is seeded third in the 800 (2:19.82) and sixth in the 1,600 (5:11.36).

LP DIVISION 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: Macomb Lutheran North 276, Pewamo-Westphalia 179, Frankenmuth 157.

Frankenmuth: The Eagles are competing for their third title in four seasons and fifth over seven led by one of last season’s Finals standouts – Sydney Bronner tied the LP Division 3 Final high jump record, won the 100 hurdles and ran on a record-setting 800 relay. She’s seeded second in the 100 hurdles (15.87), third in the 300 hurdles (47.48) and among those second in high jump (5-2). The 800 relay is seeded second (1:47.99) and the team’s 400 relay is second as well (51.49). Sarah Beulla, last season’s 200 runner-up, is seeded fifth in that race (26.51) and sixth in the 100 (12.95). There’s scoring to come from field events as well, with Stephanie Lambeth seeded first in pole vault (12-3) with a top Regional height three inches higher than the LP Division 3 Finals record, and Kerri Frahm seeded seventh in discus (114-11).

Macomb Lutheran North – After scoring big at its Regional, Lutheran North will pursue its first MHSAA title. Gina Patterson has been one of the state’s top distance runners over the last few seasons and is seeded first in the 3,200 (10:49.81). Nicole Ignasiak was fourth in shot put at last season’s Finals and is seeded third in that event (38-2½) and second in discus (119-6). Kristin Freeman is top-seeded in high jump (5-3) after finishing sixth last year, Emily Matkin is seventh in the 100 (12.98), and the 400 relay (51.55) is seeded third.

Pewamo-Westphalia – Brenna and Marissa Wirth played leading roles in last season’s runner-up finish and should be key again; Brenna is seeded third in the 100 (12.74), second in the 200 (26.04) and fifth in the 400 (59.41). Marissa is seventh in the 200 (26.72) and runs on the fifth-seeded 800 relay (1:49.36). Both run on the third-seeded 1,600 (4:09.34) relay.

Traverse City St. Francis’ Holly Bullough – Won the 800 and 1,600 and was second in the 400 at last season’s Division 4 Finals, and matches up well in Division 3 with the second-fastest times in the 800 (2:10.14) and 1,600 (4:54.79) and fourth-fastest in the 400 (59.21).

Manistee’s Annie Fuller – Won the 1,600 and 800 at last season’s Final, resetting her meet record in the latter, and her 1,600 seed time of 4:52.95 is nearly half a second faster than the LP Division 3 Finals record. Her 800 seed time of 2:09.02 would set that record again as well.

Adrian Madison’s Meagan Rosales – Placed in a relay last season, but enters this weekend with higher expectations thanks to top seeds in the 400 (56.5) and 300 hurdles (46.28).

Charlevoix’s Amber Way – Like Patterson and Fuller, Way has been one of the state’s top distance runners of late and owns the meet record in the 1,600 of 10:35.33. Her seed time of 11:24.21 is fifth.

Napoleon’s Kaniya Weatherspoon – Last season’s long jump champ also placed in the 200 and on two relays, and should repeat if not surpass that this weekend. Her long jump (16-11½) seeds her fourth in that event, while she’s third in the 400 (59.03) and 17th in the 200.

LP DIVISION 4 at Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School

Top Regional scores: Saugatuck 181, Deckerville 178.5, Fowler 178.

Pittsford – A talented group of sophomores could key Pittsford’s first championship run. Three provide value in field events – Maddie Clark is seeded second in discus (123-9), Katie Clement is third in pole vault (9-3) and Merenda Ayers is fourth in shot put (34-2½). Sophomore Jaycie Burger adds a sixth seed in the 800 (2:26.23) to go with senior Ruth Letherer's seven seeds in the 1,600 (5:26.78) and 3,200 (12:07.74). But the deciding points could come in the relays, where Pittsford has a second seed in the 800 (1:48.94), third in the 1,600 (4:14.19) and third in the 3,200 (10:07.34).

Reading – The reigning champion graduated meet record-holder Michelle Davis, but senior sister Jennifer Davis is seeded first in the 100 (12.59) and 200 (25.94) and third in the 400 (59.48). Freshman Baleigh Irelan is seeded second in the 100 hurdles (16.03) and fourth in the 300 (48.55), while junior Terasa Eidenier is sixth in the 1,600 (5:26.75) and fourth in the 800 (2:25.59), and freshman McKenzi Bassage is ninth in the 1,600 (5:26.81) and third in the 3,200 (11:54.19).

Fowler – The back-to-back champion in 2011 and 2012 was third last season but could move back into the top spot with strong relays and at least a pair of scoring individuals. The 1,600 relay is seeded first at 4:11.88 and the 400 is third at 52.16. Senior Allison Hufnagel runs on the 1,600 and also is among those seeded first in high jump (5-1) while running third in the 300 (48.30). Junior Julie Thelen is seeded eighth in the 400 (1:00.94) and also runs on the 1,600.

Mason County Eastern’s Jordan Goodman – Won the 100 last season as a freshman and is seeded fourth in that race (12.86), fourth in the 400 (1:00.19), 10th in the 200 (27.28) and 11th in long jump (15-6½).

Battle Creek St. Philip’s Ava Strenge – The Tigers sophomore won the LP Division 4 cross country title in the fall and is seeded first in the 3,200 (11:36.12) and second in the 1,600 (5:18.14) after taking second in both last season.

Birmingham Roeper’s Akwia Tilton – Placed in the long jump and 200 last season as a sophomore; she’s seeded first in the long jump (17-9), third in the 200 (26.63) and seventh in the 100 (13.10).

UP DIVISION 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Marquette 77, Negaunee 63, Houghton 52.5.

Marquette – The Redettes are seeking their fifth straight championship and are anchored by one of the top distance runners in Upper Peninsula history. Junior Lindsey Rudden (2:14.8) won her Regional 800 and 1,600 (5:06.20) after winning both last season. Reigning 3,200 champion Amber Huebner is a sophomore and won that race at her Regional in 11:50, and senior Hunter Viitala won the high jump (4-10) at her Regional after winning 300 hurdles at last season’s Final.

Negaunee – The runner-up in 2012 and 2013, Negaunee’s hopes may lie in the strength of its middle and distance runners. Ashley Tresseder won the Regional title in the 400 (1:03.25), while Aleda Johnson was first in the 800 (2:33.52) and Clara Johnson won the 1,600 (5:39.39) and 3,200 (12:50.83). Hailee Richards added a first in the discus (92-9½) after winning that event at last season’s Final.

Calumet’s Chelsea Jacques – The reigning 100 and 200 champion dominated those races at her Regional, winning the 100 (12.9) by more than half a second and the 200 (26.86) by nearly a full second.

Menominee’s Paiton Plutchak – Last season’s 100 hurdles champion by nearly half a second finished second in that race at her Regional (16.10) and fourth in the 200 (28.0).

Gladstone’s Jamie Snowaert – Last season’s pole vault champion finished only second at her Regional (8-6), but went 9-6 to win that 2014 title.

Calumet’s Hailey Wickstrom – Tied for third at her Regional with a high jump of 5-0 but won the Finals championship last season at the same height.

UP DIVISION 2 at Kingsford

Top Regionals scores: Ishpeming 94, Iron River West Iron County 71, Ishpeming Westwood 50.

Ishpeming – The Hematites dominated their Regional winning three field events, five individual races and all four relays. Marissa Maino placed third in shot put at last season’s Final and won shot put (33-8¼) and discus (91-2) at the Regional. Nassi Thomas also could dominate – she won the long jump (15-4), 200 (28.59) and 400 (14.33) at the Regional. Khora Swanson added wins in the 800 (2:36.31) and 1,600 (5:46.51).

Iron River West Iron County – Reigning 400 champion Emmy Kinner leads last season’s team runner-up, and she won that race (1:03.46), the 100 (13.59) and 200 (28.19) at the Regional.

Manistique’s Katie Davis – Finished third in pole vault at last year’s Final and is the top returning competitor in that event. She won her Regional in 8-6, last season’s winning Final height.

Ishpeming Westwood’s Katie Etelamaki – Placed in the top four in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at last season’s Final, and won the 1,600 (5:44.28) and 3,200 (12:15.38) in dominant fashion at her Regional.

Hancock’s Mary Jarvis – Swept the hurdles races in her Regional, winning the 100 in 17.13 and 300 in 50.12.

UP DIVISION 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Munising 70, Lake Linden-Hubbell 60.33, Stephenson 56.

Munsing – Seeking its first team championship since 2009, Munising can rely on distance ace Marissa Immel and pole vaulter Michaela Peramaki. Immel won the 1,600 (5:52.51) and tied for first in the 3,200 (14:03.17) at her Regional after taking second in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800 and 3,200 at last year’s Final, when Munising finished fifth as a team. Peramaki is the reigning pole vault Final champion and won that event at her Regional (9-0), where she also was third in long jump and fourth in both the 100 and 200.

Lake Linden-Hubbell – Carli Ongie claimed the team’s lone individual title in 2014, in the 800, and she’ll run for the repeat despite finishing second at her Regional (2:35.65). Lake Linden-Hubbell nearly doubled the field in winning that Regional despite not winning a race; the Lakes dominated field events, however, winning four with Sarah Audette finishing first in long jump (15-11), pole vault (9-6) and high jump (5-0). She was second in pole vault at last season’s Final.

Brimley’s Anne Archambeau – Won discus and finished second in shot put at the 2014 Final; won discus (101-11) and finished third in shot (33-0) at her Regional.

Engadine’s Autumn Arseneau – Reigning 200 champion finished second in that race at her Regional (29.56) but won the high jump (4-6) after taking third in that event at last season’s Final.

Cedarville’s Emma Bohn – Last season’s 1,600 champ and 3,200 runner-up will go for three titles again after taking second in the 1,600 (5:47.14) and 3,200 (12:47.61) and third in the 800 (2:41.0) at her Regional.

Brimley’s Kerri Chartrand – Reigning 100 hurdles champ and 300 runner-up could turn into a three-time champ after winning the 100 hurdles (16.78) and taking second in both the 300 (49.0) and in the 200 (28.8) at her Regional.

St. Ignace’s Autumn Orm – Won Division 2 long jump last season and her Division 3 Regional by more than 15 inches in 14-8½.

Carney-Nadeau’s Sara Sivula – Last season’s long jump champion will have a chance at three individual titles after finishing runner-up in both long jump (14-8½) and high jump (4-6) and fourth in the 200 (29.6) at her Regional.

St. Ignace’s Sarah Smith – Won Division 2 shot put and placed in discus and high jump last season, but will only throw shot this weekend after taking second (33-3) in that event at her Regional.

Ontonagon’s Lori Wardynski – Didn’t win a Regional title this time to go with last season’s Final championship in the 300 and runner-up finish in the 100 hurdles, but did finish second in four events – 100 hurdles (16.85), 100 dash (13.59), 300 hurdles (50.04) and high jump (4-10).

PHOTO: East Kentwood's Sekayi Bracey (left) and Oak Park's Anna Jefferson race toward the finish of the 200 during last season's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. They posted two of the fastest times in the race in MHSAA Finals history.

East Kentwood Friends Continuing to Excel as NCAA Champ, Pro Soccer Keeper

By Steve Vedder
Special for

August 8, 2022

Maia Perez and Gabriela Leon saw it coming.

In fact, the two 2017 East Kentwood all-staters each predicted remarkable post-high school success for each other long before graduation.

Perez was a four-year letterwinner as a soccer goalkeeper who led the Falcons to the Division 1 Semifinals as a sophomore and now plays professionally in Los Angeles. Leon, an all-state pole vaulter in high school, recently became University of Louisville's first NCAA champion in that event.

The two say the success doesn't come as a surprise to either, that part of that success can be explained because they continually pushed each other athletically at East Kentwood.

"Obviously there are a lot of good athletes at East Kentwood, and she was one of those amazing athletes," Perez said of Leon. "When she accomplished something, I wanted to do something big, too. I was all-state in soccer, she was all-state in track, and it was nice to have someone push you, even on days when you didn't feel like being pushed."

Leon credits Perez for helping her grasp the difference between toiling as an ordinary athlete and rising to an elite status as early as the ninth grade.

"When you see high-caliber athletes in the state finals, I think you see the struggles that others don't see," Leon said. "I saw what she was doing, and I learned from that. I learned, and I think she did too, that you have to work hard to be good, to achieve your goals. There is definitely mutual respect between us."

East Kentwood track & fieldThe two met as freshmen and quickly became friends. They originally had soccer in common as both played junior varsity as freshmen before Perez was promoted to varsity later that spring. The teammates began hanging out together off the field, be it at the beach or while taking the school's advanced physical education class together. By the time they were sophomores, however, it had become apparent that Perez's future – despite being a good basketball player – would remain in soccer, while Leon – who had also lettered in volleyball and cross country – narrowed her focus to track.

Both excelled after leaving East Kentwood. Leon had earned her first top-eight MHSAA Finals places as a sophomore, and as a senior placed fourth in pole vault, third in long jump and ran on the fourth-place 400 relay and third-place 1,600 relay as East Kentwood finished third in Lower Peninsula Division 1. Her high school personal records were 13 feet in pole vault and 18-11 in long jump (with a wind-aided 19-7). She broke Louisville's indoor and outdoor records in the pole vault as a sophomore and never looked back. She won the 2022 NCAA outdoor championship in June with a jump of 15-feet, one inch (4.6 meters) while becoming just the fourth collegian ever to amass three clearances over 4.6 meters.

Perez was a three-time Ottawa-Kent Conference Red soccer pick in high school who helped the Falcons in 2015 to their best postseason finish, when they lost to 1-0 in a Semifinal to eventual Division 1 champ Saline. She went on to play at University of Hartford after attracting interest from other programs including Western Michigan, Coastal Carolina and Pittsburgh. She wound up playing every minute of all 37 of her starts as a sophomore and junior while missing just 45 minutes over 19 games as a freshman. COVID-19 wiped out the program's season when Perez was a senior. Still, she is eighth on the school's all-time saves list with 206 while ranking 10th in shutouts with 12.

Following college, Perez was signed by the Los Angeles-based Angel City FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. While she wasn't drafted by any NWSL club, Perez impressed coaches enough during a tryout to land a spot on the team's "Discovery List" as the youngest of three goalkeepers.

"Things have been going real well for me there," Perez said. "I feel like I've improved a ton."

While Perez credits Leon with pushing her as an athlete, she said the two didn't necessarily dwell on what they accomplished in high school. They did, however, compare notes on the similarities it took for both to succeed, both physically and mentally.

"We didn't necessarily talk about (honors) a lot," Perez said. "We both knew what each other accomplished, and I don't think we need to talk about it. But I just knew one day she would be really good in track."

East Kentwood soccerLeon said the trait which stuck out about Perez in high school was her competitive drive. She hated to lose, Leon said.

"She was always a very impressive athlete," Leon noted. "She always had (success) in her because she was a real hard worker. Going into high school you could see her work ethic. We had a mutual friendship, and I saw what a work ethic and being humble could do for you."

As for herself, Leon, like many athletes, explored playing many sports. But she always came back to track.

"I always wanted to be the best athlete I could be," she said. "I was never just satisfied with just doing something. I always had this deep desire to perform to the best of my ability."

Perez remembers the first sport which interested her was skateboarding. In fact, the first time Perez met then-East Kentwood coach John Conlon, she told him she was only marginally interested in soccer. Conlon, who led East Kentwood’s girls and boys programs to a combined 654 wins and the boys varsity to five Division 1 championships, quickly made a convert of Perez.

"It's funny how things work out," Perez said. "I was looking for something that I could really be a part of, and now it's my job and I'm so happy I can say I'm getting paid for something I really like."

2021-22 Made in Michigan

Aug. 3: 3-Time Finals Champ Cherishes Memories, Considering Golf Future - Read
Aug. 1: 
Lessons Learned on Track Have Jibowu's Business Surging to Quick Success - Read
July 28: 
Running Set Life's Stage for Grosse Pointe South's Record-Setting Meier Sisters - Read
July 25: 
2005 Miss Basketball DeHaan Cherishing Newest Title: 1st-Time Mom - Read
July 21: 
Championship Memories Still Resonate with St. Thomas Star Lillard - Read
July 14:
Portage Central Champ Rolls to Vanderbilt, Writing Next Chapter in Alabama - Read
July 12: Coaching Couple Passing On Knowledge, Providing Opportunities for Frankfort Wrestlers - Read
June 30: Hrynewich's Star Continuing to Rise with Olympic, Pro Sports Arrivals - Read

PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from left, Gabriela Leon competes for the East Kentwood and University of Louisville track & field teams, and Maia Perez plays soccer for East Kentwood and trains for the NWSL's Angel City FC. (Middle) Leon holds up her NCAA championship trophy in June. (Below) Perez is one of three keepers for Angel City FC. [Photos courtesy of East Kentwood's athletic department (2017 soccer), Run Michigan (2017 track & field), the Louisville athletic department (2022 track & field) and Will Navarro/Angel City FC (2022 soccer).]