An extraordinary 16 individual champions from last season’s Upper Peninsula Girls Track & Field Finals will return to Kingsford this weekend seeking the same success and more. And only six of them are seniors.
The star-studded meet will feature the final high school races for standouts like three-time champion Landry Koski from Rock Mid Peninsula and Houghton distance star Ingrid Seagren. But the Division 2 meet easily could be dominated by sophomores, and the Division 3 Finals return nine of last year’s 13 individual winners including five sophomores and juniors.
Below is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all three divisions.
Team forecast: Marquette solidly won its ninth championship over the last 10 seasons (not counting canceled 2020) last spring, but at last month’s Regional edged Sault Ste. Marie by just five points. The Blue Devils were last season’s Finals runner-up as well, and Negaunee in 2018 is the only team other than Marquette to claim a UPD1 championship over the last decade. The Miners had winners in three relays at their Regional and swept hurdles and throws to hold off star-powered Houghton.
Claire Erickson, Sault Ste. Marie junior: The top-seeded contender in the 300 hurdles (50.52) ran the race eight tenths of a second faster than anyone else at a UPD1 Regional. She was third in the 300 at last season’s Finals and ran on two placing relays.
Alyssa Hill, Negaunee senior: She’s seeded first in the discus by nearly 19 feet with a Regional throw of 123-4, and second in shot put at 34 as one of only two (with teammate Eliana Juchemich) who tossed farther than 31-1 in UPD1 qualifying.
Julia Ott, Marquette junior: She’s seeded second in two events – the 100 and 200 behind teammate Baux Truckey – and tied for the top seed in high jump (5-0) after winning that event last year. She’ll also run on the top-seeded 800 relay and being part of the winning 400 relay in 2021.
Ingrid Seagren, Houghton senior: The reigning 1,600 champ is seeded first in that race (5:30.23) by 13 seconds, the 800 (2:30.43) by six seconds and the 3,200 (12:34.34) by six seconds as well. She won the UPD1 cross country championship in the fall.
Baux Truckey, Marquette junior: She entered the mix in a big way last season winning the 100 and 200, and she’s seeded first in both at 12.86 and 26.73 seconds, respectively. She’ll also run on top-seeded 400 and 800 relays after helping both to wins in 2021.
Team forecast: West Iron edged Ishpeming by 3½ points at last season’s Final and can match star power with any of the contenders with three-event champion Danica Shamion returning. Ishpeming with another returning three-event champ in Lola Korpi should be in the mix again despite just a third-place Regional finish. Bark River-Harris especially in relays and field events and St. Ignace across the board have enough potential scorers to make this a close meet.
Mckenzie Hoffmeyer, Bark River-Harris sophomore: Her Finals debut last season included the long jump championship and second places in the 100 and 200. She’s seeded first in long jump (15-11½), second in the 200 (27.99) and third in the 100 (13.57) this weekend, and also could run on the top-seeded 800 relay.
Lola Korpi, Ishpeming sophomore: This fall’s UPD2 cross country champion also is the reigning track champion in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. She’s seeded first in those three in 2:31.91, 5:47.79 and 13:09.59, respectively, but in the 3,200 she’ll have to hold off UPD3 cross country champion Kaylen Clark from Newberry. Korpi also is slated to run on the top-seeded 3,200 relay.
Danielle Lund, Manistique sophomore: She placed sixth in shot put in UPD1 last season, and she enters this weekend seeded first in shot put (33-4) and discus (96-0) in UPD2. She’s also slated to run on the top-seeded 1,600 relay.
Chloe Maycroft, Iron Mountain junior: She’s set to compete in the high jump, long jump and run on two third-seeded relays after winning high jump last season. She’s seeded second in that event (4-8) this time.
Danica Shamion, West Iron County sophomore: She burst onto the scene with championships in the 100, 200 and 400 last season, and she’s seeded first in all three this weekend in 13.2, 27.01 and 1:01.23, respectively. The 200 and 400 meet records could be hers with major performances. She’ll also compete in high jump.
Team forecast: Ontonagon broke Lake Linden-Hubbell’s three-season Finals winning streak last spring, and won a closely-contested Regional two weeks ago that saw the top five teams all finish less than 11 points from each other. Relay strength and qualifiers throughout the meet should have the Gladiators in the mix, with Pickford’s potential for a number of meet champions make it another favorite.
Lucy Bennin, Pickford senior: Last season’s 200 champion will run that race again and also is seeded second in long jump (14-3¼) and expected to run on the top-seeded 800 relay and second-seeded 400 relay.
Abi Codere, Lake Linden-Hubbell sophomore: The reigning champion in the 100 hurdles is seeded first in that event (17.45) and also will compete in pole vault.
Ellie Delene, Baraga sophomore: The reigning high jump champion is among 10 qualifiers who went between 4-6 and 4-8 at Regionals. She’ll also run both hurdles races.
Daisy Grinsteiner, Stephenson junior: The returning pole vault champion is seeded first (8-6) by a foot, and she’ll also run on two relays.
Emily Jokela, Lake Linden-Hubbell freshman: She’s set up for a major debut seeded first in the 200 (28.48) and 400 (1:03.00), fourth in the 100 (14.01) and second in the 300 hurdles (52.52).
Landry Koski, Rock Mid Peninsula senior: One of the finest distance runners in the peninsula during her career, she’ll look to add to two 1,600 championships and a 3,200 title she’s won over her first two Finals. She’s seeded first in the 800 (2:39.04), 1,600 (5:44.73) and 3,200 (12:56.05), and third in the 400 (1:04.79).
Lilly McIntyre, Ontonagon junior: She won the 100 last season and will run that race again as well as three relays, including as part of the top-seeded 400 and 1,600 groups.
Tristin Smith, Rudyard senior: Last season’s 400 champion will run that race again, is seeded second in the 1,600 (5:48.64) and will run on two relays including the second-seeded 3,200.
Lizzie Storey, Pickford senior: The reigning 300 hurdles champ is seeded first in that race (50.07) and second in the 100 hurdles (18.18) and also will run on the top-seeded 800 and second-seeded 400 relays.
Makennah Uotila, Ontonagon junior: Last year’s long jump champ is seeded first (14-10½) in that event and fourth in the 400 (1:05.19) and will also run the 800 and potentially as part of the top-seeded 1,600 relay.
PHOTOS Ishpeming's Lola Korpi (1) takes the early lead in the 1,600 at the May 13 Negaunee Lions Invitational, with Negaunee's Marlee Plaxco (3) following close behind. (Middle) Marquette's Julia Ott wins the 200 that afternoon. (Photos 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.)