Preview: New Crew of Girls Set to Dominate
May 30, 2014
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The MHSAA Girls Track and Field Finals bid farewell in 2013 to one of the most impressive and accomplished senior classes in recent memory.
But those departures have opened up plenty of opportunities for the standouts still competing and a new group of talented athletes to step up the podium.
See below for some of the teams and individuals who could be standing on top when their events are done Saturday in the Grand Rapids area and Kingsford High School. 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: 1. Grosse Pointe South 245, Oak Park 163, Northville 154.2.
Grosse Pointe South: The Blue Devils have won the last three LP Division 1 titles, but graduated two of the top distance runners in the nation after last season. Junior Ersula Farrow and senior Kelsie Schwartz have moved into the top spots in those races and could get help from sophomore thrower Kayli Johnson in the shot put and discus.
Oak Park: Keyed by sophomore Anna Jefferson – last year’s champion in the 400 – Oak Park’s sprinters should carry the team into contention. She ran the fastest Regional 400 (54.81) and 200 (25.06) in this division and could make a run at the LP Division 1 Final record in the 400 of 54.29. Sophomore Brianna Hollaway has the sixth-seeded 100 hurdles (14.76) and second-seeded 300 hurdles (44.66) times, and the 1,600 (3:53.48), 400 (48.05) and 800 relays (1:39.89) are all top-seeded. Freshman Tamea McKelvy (second seed in the 100 at 12.26) and junior Jayla Fleming (third seed in the 800 at 2:15.05) also should contribute.
Saline: Last season’s runner-up should be in the hunt again on the strength of its relays – all four are seeded among the top six of their respective events and the 3,200 relay (9:08.55) is the top seed. Senior Kennedy Beazley is the top seed in the 800 (2:11.21) and also runs on two of those relays.
East Kentwood’s Sekayi Bracey: After winning the 100 and 200 as a freshman last season, Bracey has the top seed time in the 100 (12.01), the second-fastest to Jefferson in the 200 (25.11) and had the fourth-farthest long jump (17-0) at Regionals.
Harrison Township L’anse Creuse’s Jaevyn Wortham: The reigning discus champion had the top Regional toss in that event of 135-9 and is seeded 11th in the shot put (37-7).
Novi’s Kerri McMahan: The returning high jump champion won her Regional at 5-6 after jumping the same to win the MHSAA Final in 2013.
Southgate Anderson’s Breanna Luba: The reigning champion in the 300 hurdles returns with the top seed (44.04) plus the seventh in the 100 hurdles (14.93).
Sterling Heights Stevenson’s Jailah Mason: A senior, she’s raised her jumping another level in her final season and enters with the top seed of 5-8 – only an inch from tying the LP Division 1 Final record.
LP DIVISION 2 at Grand Rapids Houseman Stadium
Top Regional scores: 1. Warren Regina 192.5. 2. St. Joseph 181.66, 3. Remus Chippewa Hills 164.32
Dearborn Divine Child: The two-time reigning champion (Divine Child tied with Detroit Country Day in 2012) is seeking its fourth title in five seasons. But this will be more of a challenge. All four relays are seeded among the top nine, but the Falcons will need strong individual finishes. Junior Hannah Korpics is seeded sixth in the 300 hurdles (47.8) and also is running the 100 hurdles, and senior Lindsey Brewis is seeded sixth in the 1,600 (5:19.6) and also is running the 3,200.
Lansing Waverly: Sprint strength could vault the Warriors into contention. They enter with top seeds in the 800 relay (1:44.46) and 1,600 relay (4:05.73) and have the top two seeds in the 200 with freshman Taylor Manson (25.42) and senior Chante Roberts (25.52). Roberts also is seeded second in the 400 (58.84).
Remus Chippewa Hills: The Warriors could push for their first MHSAA team championship thanks to three relays seeded among the top three and a reigning champion in two events. Senior Megan O’Neil won the 800 and 1,600 in 2013 and has the second seed in the 800 (2:19.98) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:13.61) this weekend. Sophomore Jennifer McNeal has the third seed in the 400 (58.89) and tied for the fifth-best high jump (5-2) at Regionals, while senior Erin Drouillard enters with the fourth-best Regional pole vault (10-6).
Cedar Springs Kenzie Weiler: The standout junior is the top seed in the 3,200 (10:46.86) and should make a run at the meet record of 10:40.22.
DeWitt’s Josie Yesmunt: Last season’s 100 champ has the third-seeded time of 12.56 and also the eighth-seeded time in the 200 (26.29).
Grand Rapids Christian’s Ade Ayoola and Eaton Rapids Kathryn Mills: Mills won the high jump in both 2011 and 2012 and enters with the top Regional jump this season, 5-7. But Ayoola emerged as the champion last season and is one of many who also cleared 5-0 in qualifying.
Zeeland East’s Brittany Casey: The reigning shot put champion had the top Regional throw of 44-0 and the second-longest discus toss (125-1).
LP DIVISION 3 at Comstock Park
Top Regional scores: 1. Macomb Lutheran North 247, 2. Pewamo-Westphalia 185, 3. Frankenmuth 172.
Charlevoix: Led by reigning 3,200 champion and meet record holder in that race Amber Way, Charlevoix has a shot to contend after tying for ninth a year ago. The Rayders qualified in three relays and are seeded third in the 3,200 (9:54.11). Way is again top-seeded in the 3,200 (10:42.63; she set the record in 2013 at 10:48.48) and second in the 1,600 (4:58.66). Senior Caroline Boss is the third seed in the 800 (2:22.38).
Frankenmuth: The Eagles are looking to claim their second title in three seasons and fourth in six years and enter with six tops seeds and a number of others in position to score big. Senior Angie Ritter is seeded first in the 100 (12.24) and 200 (25.75) and also runs on the top-seeded 800 (1:44.51) and 1,600 (4:11.14) relays; the 800 relay could approach the meet record of 1:43.49. Junior Sydney Bronner owns the other two top seeds, in the 100 hurdles (15.6) and high jump (5-4), and she’s seeded third in the 300 hurdles (47.89) and also runs on that 800 relay. Junior Stephanie Lambeth is seeded second in pole vault (11-0).
Pewamo-Westphalia: The reigning champion enters this weekend seeded among the top three in three relays, with the top seed in the 400 (51.08). Senior Kenzie Wieber runs on that team and is the reigning champion in pole vault; she’s the top seed again in that event (11-1) and the fifth seed in the 100 (12.76). Freshman Brenna Wirth could also be a key contributor, entering as the sixth seed in the 400 (1:00.72) and third in the 200 (26.45).
Bridgeport’s Ce’Aira Richardson: The Bearcats senior could cap her career with another title or two to go with her win in the 400 last season. She’s seeded first in that race (58.85) and fourth in the 200 (26.47).
Elkton-Pigeon-BayPort’s Kayla Deering: Last season’s shot put champion is set to close her career with another title or two as well, entering as the top seed in the shot put (45-1½) and tied for sixth in discus (114-6).
Manistee’s Annie Fuller: The reigning champion in the 800 and 1,600 last season also set the meet record in the 800 (2:11.77). She's seeded first in that race (2:12.42) and the 1,600 (4:56.05).
LP DIVISION 4 at Hudsonville Middle School
Top Regional scores: 1. Beal City 174, 2. Fowler 170, 3. Saugatuck 165.5.
Pittsford: A mix of strong individuals and relays should put Pittsford in the hunt for its first top-two finish since 1994 and perhaps its first title. The 1,600 relay is top-seeded (4:17.69) and the 800 relay (1:50.21) is seeded second. Senior Bethany Kuenzer could play a huge part; she’s second-seeded in the 100 hurdles (15.97) and pole vault (9-9) and fifth-seeded in the 300 hurdles (49.23).
Reading: Last season’s runner-up is keyed by senior Michelle Davis, who is top-seeded in the 100 hurdles (15.62) and 400 (59.22) and third seeded in the 300 hurdles (47.56) after winning that race last season. The 800 relay (1:50.21) is seeded first and the 3,200 relay (10:09.09) and 1,600 relay (4:17.95) are seeded second. Junior Jennifer Davis runs on the 800 relay and is the top seed in the 100 (12.72) and 200 (26.89).
Traverse City St. Francis: The reigning champion has enough star power to score big again. Sophomore Holly Bullough won the 800 and 1,600 last season and is top-seeded in both with times of 2:15.65 and 5:09.94, respectively, and she's also third-seeded in the 400 (1:00.56). Senior Erin McDonnell is seeded third in the 800 (2:26.42), with junior Grace Meachum seeded fourth in the 200 (27.12) and junior Chandler Tarrant tied for third in the pole vault (9-6).
Beal City’s Addie Schumacher: The high jump champion the last two seasons is tied for the fifth seed at 5-1 and also will shot put and throw discus and run on the 800 relay.
Breckenridge’s Kirsten Olling: One of the most accomplished cross country champions in MHSAA history, she can add to her four track titles and win the 3,200 for a fourth time. She’s the top seed in that race with a time of 11:25.92, best by nearly 16 seconds.
Coleman’s Amanda MacDonald: The reigning pole vault champion is top-seeded in that event (9-10) and also will run the 100 and 400.
New Buffalo’s Jade Madison: Last season’s discus champion looks like a possibility to break the meet record in shot put, entering with a top Regional throw of 43-2 – the meet record is 42-7. She’s seeded second in the discus (117-7) and will also run both hurdles races.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford’s Miranda Johnson: She’s already won three MHSAA championships, including last season in the 200 and long jump. She’ll compete in those two events one more time in high school and is seeded highest, fourth, in the 100 (12.87).
UP DIVISION 1 at Kingsford
Top Regional scores: 1. Marquette 83.5, 2. Negaunee 79, 3. Calumet 43.
Marquette: The Redettes have won three straight and five of the last six Division 1 championships, and have one of the top track athletes in Upper Peninsula history. Sophomore Lindsey Rudden owns meet records in the 800 and 1,600 and also won the 3,200 last season; she’s top-seeded in the 400 (1:01.19), 800 (2:23.97) and 1,600 (5:10.04) this weekend and also will run on the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:19.03). The 3,200 relay (10:36.15) and 800 relay (1:53.15) also are top-seeded. Junior Hunter Viitala runs on the 800 and 1,600 relays and is the reigning high jump champion; she’s seeded first in that event (5-0) and the 300 hurdles (48.12). Junior Kirsten Iwanski is the reigning champ in shot put and top-seeded in that event (34-9½) and third-seeded in discus (96-2), and freshman Izzy Peterson is top-seeded in the 100 (13.07).
Escanaba: The Eskymos are seeded second in three relays and third in the fourth relay and have key individuals including sophomore Sunny Martineau – she’s seeded third in the 300 hurdles (50.49) and second in the 100 hurdles (17.37).
Calumet’s Chelsea Jacques: The reigning champion in both the 100 and 200, she’s seeded third in the 200 (27.76) this time and fifth in the 100 (13.64).
Sault Ste. Marie’s Corina Armstrong: Last season’s pole vault champion as a sophomore is tied with the best Regional vault (9-0) with Gladstone’s Jamie Snowaert.
UP DIVISION 2 at KINGSFORD
Top Regional scores: 1. Iron River West Iron County 97, 2. St. Ignace 80, 3. Newberry 46.
Iron River West Iron County: The Wykons won last season with 2012 champion St. Ignace moving to Division 3, but could repeat with four individual champions returning. Megan Miatech is again the top seed in shot put (36-5¼) after winning last season and also is third seed in the discus (87-3). Alexis Golfis will try to repeat in long jump and leaped 13-8½ at the Regional; she’s also seeded fifth in the 300 hurdles (52.74). Reigning 200 champ Carli Johnson is seeded third in that race (28.44), fifth in the 100 (14.14) and runs on the second-seeded 800 relay (1:57.74) and top seeded 400 relay (55.44). Cassilyn Pellizzer is the reigning champ in 300 hurdles and seeded first in that race (49.54) and the 100 hurdles (17.14) and runs on the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:24.84). She’s also tied at 4-10 for the top high jump coming out of Regionals. Freshman Emmy Kinner is seeded first in the 100 (13.74), 200 (27.84) and 400 (1:03.34).
St. Ignace: Last season’s title came in Division 3, but the Saints also won Division 2 from 2010-12 and in 2008. They are loaded in field events with a combined 10 entries despite none in pole vault. Three relays are among the top three seeds in those events, with the 800 relay seeded first (1:57.44). Senior Rachel Hetherington is seeded second in the 400 (1:05.04), 200 (28.14) and 100 (13.84).
Hancock’s Olivia Rouleau: Last season’s discus champion is again the top seed (91-1) entering the weekend.
Ironwood’s Rachel Hudacek: In addition to running two relays, Hudacek is the reigning high jump champion and seeded tied for third this time at 4-8.
Manistique’s Holly Blowers: She won the 800 last season and will run that race (2:47.44), the 400 (1:06.34) and 1,600 (6:01.94) and on the 1,600 relay.
Newberry’s Natalie Beaulieu: The reigning champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 is seeded first in three races, those two in 5:39.24 and 12:19.24, respectively, and the 800 (2:37.14).
UP DIVISON 3 at Kingsford
Top Regional scores: 1. Crystal Falls Forest Park 73, 2. Brimley 56, 3. Munising 51.
Brimley: The Bays have dominated this division of late with four championships over the last six seasons and a runner-up finish last spring to St. Ignace, which is back in Division 2. Brimley has eight top-two seeds and three relays among the top three seeds in their races. Kerri Chartrand is the top seed in the 300 hurdles (52.08) and second seed in the 100 hurdles (18.04) and long jump (14-8¼). Emily Chartrand is the third seed in the 800 (2:45.74) and second in the 3,200 (13:13.84), and Anne Archambeau is the top seed in the discus (103-11) and second in the shot put (34-10½).
Crystal Falls Forest Park: The Trojans finished runners-up to Brimley in both 2009 and 2011 but haven’t won a team title since 1975. They have no entries in field events, but do have four top seeds including the favored 800 (1:58.64) and 400 (56.04) relays. Senior Kendra Campell is the top seed in the 100 hurdles (17.94) and third in the 300 (53.24), and classmate Mary Grandahl is the top seed in the 400 (1:07.54) and second-seeded in the 200 (29.04) and 100 (13.64, tied for seed).
Eben Junction Superior Central’s Teslyn Tyner: She’s seeded first in the long jump (15-4½) by six inches after winning that event last season, and tied for second in the 100 (13.64).
Pickford’s Kim Cruickshank: She’s seeded third in the 100 hurdles (18.14) looking to repeat as champion in that event and fourth in the long jump (14-1), and also will run two relays.
Rock Mid Peninsula’s Kelsey Shope: The reigning high jump champion is tied for the third seed in that event (4-4) and also fourth in the 400 (1:08.64) and will run two relays.
Rudyard’s Savannah Dugan: The reigning shot put champion is seeded first ahead of Archambeau in that event (36-2½) and second behind Archambeau in the discus (98-0).
PHOTO: Bridgeport’s Ce’Aira Richardson (middle) won the 400 at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final and will run that race and the 200 on Saturday. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)
East Kentwood Friends Continuing to Excel as NCAA Champ, Pro Soccer Keeper
By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com
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."
The 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."
Leon 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).]