The MHSAA Lower Peninsula Girls Track & Field Finals have showcased plenty of stars over the years, and Saturday’s meets will celebrate more with returning competitors owning a combined 22 individual championships won over the last three seasons.
But this season’s field also sticks out because of several hopefuls who appear on the verge of greatness as well, many of whom we highlight below.
All four LP Finals will again be contested at Grand Rapids-area schools, with pole vault and long jump beginning at 9 a.m., race semifinals and the 3,200 relay at 10 a.m. and the rest of the running finals starting at noon. Tickets cost $11 and are available digitally only via GoFan.
MHSAA.tv will live-stream all four meets beginning at 10 a.m., viewable with subscription.
Following is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all four divisions:
LP Division 1 at Rockford
Team forecast: After winning three straight LPD1 team titles, Oak Park finished second last season to Detroit Renaissance – which had finished second twice in a row before claiming its first title since 2007. Those two are the likely favorites again, and Renaissance won their Regional matchup two weeks ago 135½-108 as they combined to post the top two times in three relays from all LPD1 Regionals. Oak Park continues to surge with one of the top hurdler groups in recent memory, while Renaissance’s depth in elite sprinters has been unmatched despite graduating one of the all-time greats last spring. All of that said, keep an eye on Ann Arbor Huron too. The River Rats finished third last season, are paced by an elite sprinter and have the potential to pick up points in a variety of events.
Jayla Dace, Detroit Renaissance sophomore: After qualifying in the 200 and running on the winning 800 relay last season, Dace enters this weekend after running the fastest 100 (11.91) and fourth-fastest 200 (24.95) at LPD1 Regionals while also slated to run on two contending relays.
Arianne Olson, Holland West Ottawa senior: Last season’s 3,200 champion and 1,600 runner-up enters with the third-fastest 3,200 (10:48.40) from LPD1 Regionals and also again will run the 1,600 and on a contending relay.
Mackenzie Robinson, Ann Arbor Huron senior: She finished second in the 100 and 200 last season and ran on champion and runner-up relays, and she could be in for an even bigger finish after posting the second-fastest LPD1 Regional 100 (12.11) and 200 (24.74) and running on the third-fastest 400 relay two weeks ago.
Morgan Roundtree, Oak Park junior: Her sophomore-year Finals included a 300 hurdles title and runner-up finishes in the 100 hurdles and 800 relay. She enters this weekend with the fastest LPD1 Regional time in the 300 (41.86), third-fastest in the 100 hurdles (14.14) and running on two contending relays again.
Abigail Russell, Allen Park junior: She swept the throws as a sophomore and could be in line to do the same this weekend with the top LPD1 Regional throw in discus (148-3) by more than 12 feet and the second-farthest shot put (42-5) behind only Howell senior standout Sophie Daugard.
Kamryn Tatum, West Bloomfield freshman: She enters her first Finals having run the fastest 200 (24.70) and 400 (56.08) times in any LPD1 Regional, with those times fast enough to have finished third in those races at last year’s Finals.
Nonah Waldron, Oak Park senior: She’s finishing a career that’s included the last two 100 hurdles championships and a 300 hurdles title as a sophomore. She enters this weekend with the fastest LPD1 Regional time in the 100 hurdles (13.61), second-fastest to Roundtree in the 300 (42.70) and likely to run on the same two contending relays as that teammate.
LP Division 2 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Team forecast: The last five Finals have seen five schools win Division 2 once and three more schools finish second at least once. East Grand Rapids nearly doubled up the field last year, however, and power in distance races and relays could have the Pioneers on track again. New Boston Huron was fourth last season behind the scoring of Elizabeth Anderson and could follow her into contention, and Dearborn Divine Child has qualifiers in all but pole vault and a pair of relays expected to do exceptionally well.
Elizabeth Anderson, New Boston Huron senior: She won the 200 and 400 and was runner-up in the 100 last season to score 28 of her team’s 29 points, and she could take that over 30 this weekend entering with the fastest LPD2 Regional times in the 200 (24.93) and 400 (56.62), the second-fastest in the 100 (12.34) and as part of one of the fasted 1,600 relays.
Camryn Bodine, East Grand Rapids senior: Last season’s 800 champion ran the fastest LPD2 Regional time in that race (2:13.14) two weeks ago by nearly four seconds and will also run on two contending relays after helping hers to first, second and seventh places in 2022.
Janae Hudson, Marysville junior: She could move up substantially after placing third in discus and 10th in shot put last season, coming off the top LPD2 Regional shot put (41-4½) and second-longest discus toss (125-5).
Ella Jenkins, Warren Regina senior: The reigning champion in the 300 hurdles and runner-up in the 100 hurdles ran the fastest LPD2 Regional time in the 100 hurdles (15.14) and second-fastest in the 300 (47.55).
Drew Muller, East Grand Rapids junior: The reigning 1,600 champ and 800 fifth-place finisher – and LPD2 cross country champion in the fall – ran the fastest 1,600 LPD2 Regional time (5:03.32) and fourth-fastest 800 (2:17.88) and will also run on two contending relays after hers finished first and second last year.
Keyanna O’Tey, Sturgis sophomore: She qualified for the 100 in LPD1 as a freshman and could play a starring role Saturday entering with the fastest LPD2 Regional time in the 100 (12.10), second-fastest in the 200 (25.49) and as part of two contending sprint relays.
Natalie VanOtteren, Grand Rapids Christian junior: She finished seventh in the 3,200 and ran on a runner-up relay a year ago and enters this weekend with the fastest LPD2 Regional time in the 3,200 (11:09.76) and second-fastest in the 1,600 (5:07.06).
Jordyn Wright, Tecumseh senior: The reigning pole vault champion by a foot posted the top LPD2 Regional height (11-9) two weeks ago and is expected to run two relays as well.
LP Division 3 at Kent City
Team forecast: Hart and Pewamo-Westphalia both have won two championships over the last five seasons, and Hart was first and P-W second a year ago. Hart again has the mix of sprint, distance, field event and relay standouts to finish first, and P-W has nearly the same amount and variety. But they’ll have company. Lansing Catholic has strong contenders in five races and two relays, Olivet could score big in relays, field events and hurdles; and Onsted could jump up with a handful of potential winners as well.
Ryan Finstrom, Grayling junior: Last season’s discus champion and fourth-place shot put finisher returns this weekend looking for a discus repeat after throwing the fourth-farthest LPD3 Regional toss (119-1).
Addison Hovey, Hart sophomore: She played a big role in last year’s title run with runner-up finishes in high jump and as part of the 400 relay, and she’ll return this weekend with the top LPD3 Regional time in the 100 (12.38) and top high jump (5-3) plus as part of two relays.
Heidi Newhouse, Lawton junior: The reigning high jump champion also finished just outside scoring range in the 400 last season, and she’ll enter this weekend tied for the second-best LPD3 Regional high jump (5-1) and third-fastest 400 (59.76).
Ally Olszewski, Grand Rapids West Catholic senior: She won the pole vault last season by half a foot and her 10-3 LPD3 Regional vault two weeks ago was half a foot better than the field. She also posted the fourth-best LPD3 Regional long jump (15-9½) and will run the 200 and again on the 800 relay after helping the latter to fourth place a year ago.
Madison Osterberg, Jackson Lumen Christi junior: After finishing 800 runner-up and seventh in the 1,600 a year ago, plus running on the runner-up 800 relay, Osterberg enters with the fastest LPD3 Regional times in the 1,600 (4:59.62) and 3,200 (11:01.05), the second-fastest in the 800 (2:16.56), and she will also run on a contending 3,200 relay.
Emmry Ross, Onsted sophomore: Her Finals debut included championships in the 400 and as part of the 1,600 relay and a runner-up finish as part of the 800 relay. She returns with the top LPD3 Regional times in the 400 (57.07) and 800 (2:15.03) and as part of contenders in the 800 and 3,200 relays.
Gloria Stepanovich, Benzie Central senior: The reigning long jump champion will return seeking a repeat after placing second at her Regional but only 1¼ inches off the lead.
LP Division 4 at Hudsonville
Team forecast: A close race came down to just a few points last season, with Muskegon Western Michigan Christian edging 2021 champion Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart by four. This could be close again – but with a different collection of contenders. Fowler, fourth last season, may be back in the mix with elite relays leading the way. Frankfort is back after finishing third and bolsters a strong field events group to go with relay strength. Hillsdale Academy could follow a strong distance group into contention, and Buckley should put up some points with a pair of stars. Portland St. Patrick is another interesting possibility with runners all over the meet and three contending relays.
Molly Brown, Addison sophomore: She had an impressive debut last season with two top-five relay finishes, a 10th in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles. But this could be even better as she brings in the top LPD4 Regional times in the 100 hurdles (16.03) and 300 hurdles (46.82), the second-fastest in the 100 dash (12.98) and the seventh-best long jump.
Olivia Findlay, Marlette junior: Last season’s runner-up in the high jump and fifth-place finisher in the long jump is a favorite in both with the top LPD4 Regional performances in both at 5-5 and 16-11¾, respectively. She also posted the sixth-fastest 100 hurdles time (17.12) to qualify.
Aiden Harrand, Buckley junior: She’s won the 1,600 the last two seasons, the 800 last year and finished fourth in the 3,200 as well, and was the LPD4 cross country champ in the fall. Her LPD4 Regional times in the 800 (2:19.15), 1,600 (5:06.52) and 3,200 (11:26.04) all topped those lists.
Anna Plum, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart senior: She’s the reigning champion in the 300 hurdles and was part of winning and runner-up relays as well as a qualifier in the 100 hurdles last season. She could put up plenty of points again entering with the fourth-fastest LPD4 Regional times in the 100 (13.06) and 200 (26.75) and the third-fastest in the 300 hurdles (48.46).
Megan Roberts, Hillsdale Academy senior: After missing last season’s Finals with an injury, Roberts will get another chance to build on a sophomore debut that included a relay championship, two relay runner-up finishes and a sixth place in the 800. She will run on two relays that posted the fastest LPD4 Regional times in their respective races and also the 400 after racing to an LPD4 Regional-best 59.85 two weeks ago.
Natalie Wandrie, Indian River Inland Lakes senior: She finished seventh in the shot put and 11th in the discus last season but could be set for a big finish with the top LPD4 Regional discus toss of 124-3½ and the third-longest shot put (37-3). She’ll also run a relay.
PHOTO Oak Park’s Nonah Waldron leaps a hurdle during last season’s LPD1 Finals. (Click for more from 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.)