Preview: Stars Say Good-Bye, Others Just Getting Started

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 4, 2021

The Upper Peninsula track & field community will say good-bye to some memorable standouts during Saturday’s Finals at Kingsford High School – but also welcome the start of what should be some dynamite championship runs over the next four years.

Six past individual champions will be concluding their careers, including UPD1 Finals shot put record holder Emily McLean of Sault Ste. Marie. But many will be watching intently as well as freshman favorites like Lola Korpi of Ishpeming and Danica Shamion of West Iron County make their debuts.

Events begin at 10 a.m. (EDT) and tickets to attend can be purchased online only at GoFan. The meets also will be broadcast on and viewable with subscription.

Below is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all three divisions.

Division 1

Top Regional scores: Houghton 69, Marquette 57, Sault Ste. Marie 51.

Team forecast: Marquette edged Sault Ste. Marie at their Regional and will be looking to add a second-straight Finals championship and 11th over the last 13 seasons. Houghton could be in for a historic finish as well as it has posted only one top-two Finals team placing, coming in as Class C runner-up in 1982. The story is similar for Sault Ste. Marie, which is seeking its first Finals title in this sport since 2001 and last finished among the top two in 2011. Marquette has the top seeds in seven events, but Menominee is right there with five top seeds and Sault Ste. Marie has the depth to match Marquette.

Emily McLean, Sault Ste. Marie: The senior thrower is seeded first both in the shot put (45-4) and discus (112-11) and set the UPD1 Finals record in the shot put of 39-2 as a sophomore. She also won that throw as a freshman in 2018.

Ingrid Seagren, Houghton: The Gremlins junior is seeded first in the 3,200 (12:28.29) by 16 seconds and second in the 1,600 after placing in both as a freshman in 2019. She finished third in UPD1 cross country in the fall (in a race won by teammate Paige Sleeman, who is seeded first this weekend in the 800 and third in the 1,600).

Baux Truckey, Marquette: She could be climbing the podium four times in her first Finals. The sophomore is seeded first in the 100 (13.4) and 200 (27.6) and is part of the top-seeded 400 and 800 relays detailed below.

Makenzie Wellner, Menominee: The Maroons’ senior standout also is lined up for four championships as the top seed in the 100 hurdles (16.5), 300 (47.3) and long jump (16-6) and as part of the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:12.89). She won the 100 hurdles as both a freshman and sophomore.

Marquette 400 and 800 relays: Both could make a run at meet records. Truckey anchors a 400 relay with juniors Ava Jones and Maria Millado and sophomore Julia Ott that ran 51.48 at the Regional – and the UPD1 Finals record is 51.22. She anchors Jones, Millado and senior Clarissa Remillard on an 800 relay that ran 1:49.87 at the Regional – with the UPD1 Finals record in that race 1:46.34.

Division 2

Top Regional scores: West Iron County 81, Ishpeming 59½, St. Ignace 50.

Ishpeming trackTeam forecast: St. Ignace won the last three Division 2 championships before COVID-19 struck last spring, and the Saints this weekend also will be seeking their 10th title over the last 12 seasons (with the 2013 championship coming in UPD3). West Iron county was the champ in 2013 and runner-up in 2014 and 2015, and Ishpeming also is regularly in the mix with back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 and the runner-up finish in 2019. The Wykons enter with top seeds in seven events; the Hematites have top seeds in five. The Saints don’t have a top seed but 16 individual entries and all four relays racing.

Lola Korpi, Ishepming: The Division 2 cross country runner-up in the fall as a freshman, Korpi heads into her first Track Finals as the top seed in the 800 (2:39.5), 1,600 (5:38.89), 3,200 (12:28.12) and as part of the top-seeded 3,200 relay (11:10.35).

Rebekah Loman, Ishepming: The Hematites senior won the discus in 2019 with a toss of 104-7 and is top-seeded in that throw this weekend at 106-9. She’s also the second seed in the shot put after finishing fifth in that event as a sophomore.

Ally Schultz, St. Ignace: Now a junior, Schultz is the reigning champion in the 200 and 400. She’s seeded second in the 100, third in the 200, fourth in the 400 and will run on the second-seeded 800 relay this weekend.

Jordan & Danica Shamion, West Iron County: The Shamion sisters could take this meet by storm. Jordan, now a senior, won the 100 hurdles in 2019 and is the top seed in that race (17.6), the 300 (50.7) and shot put (32-0¼) and will also run on the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:38.58). Danica, a freshman, also will run that relay and is top-seeded in the 100 (14.1), 200 (28.3) and 400 (1:02.2).  

Division 3

Top Regional scores: Stephenson 95, Rapid River 64, Pickford 63.

Team forecast: Lake Linden-Hubbell won three straight championships prior to COVID, and Stephenson could be next up as it seeks its first team title since 1993. The Eagles have 25 individual entries and all four relays running, with sophomore Daisy Grinsteiner and senior Paige Cappaert top seeds in field events. Rapid River has fewer entries but three tops seeds and two second seeds.

Camaryn Crouch, Lake Linden-Hubbell: The pole vault champion as a freshman in 2019 is second-seeded in that event and also will run on the second-seeded 400 relay, and as part of the 800 relay.  

Daisy Englund, Rock Mid Peninsula: She was part of two relay champions in 2019 and earned the Division 3 cross country titles this past fall and in 2017. She’s seeded third in the 100 this weekend, first in the 800 (2:34.6), fifth in the long jump and will run on the second-seeded 800 relay.

Ashton Hord, Felch North Dickinson: The Mountaineers junior sprinter is the top seed in the 100 (13.9) and 200 (28.8), the fourth seed in the 400, and also will compete in the long jump.

Jaylyne Lindemann, Baraga: The shot put champion in 2019 as a sophomore will attempt to add another championship in that event and should contend in the discus as well.

Landry Koski, Rock Mid Peninsula: She’ll look to add to 1,600 and 3,200 championships won in 2019 as a sophomore, competing this weekend in the 400, 1,600 and as the third seed in the 3,200, and she’ll also run on the second-seeded 800 relay. She was third in Division 3 cross country in the fall.

PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Maria Millado hands off to Clarissa Remillard in the 800 relay during the Marquette County Meet this spring. (Middle) Ishpeming’s Lola Korpi runs the 3,200 at the Marquette meet. (Phots by Cara Kamps.)

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).]