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.
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.)