Preview: Watch These Stars Shine Again

June 3, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With so many athletes competing at each of the five sites of Saturday's MHSAA Track & Field Finals, it's easy to lose track of who is competing where until they reach the starting blocks. 

But fans will want to be sure to focus on a number of familiar standouts who could dominate girls meets this weekend. 

Read on for some of the teams and individuals to watch at Saturday's girls meets. 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 Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School

Top Regional scores: Grosse Pointe South 195½, East Kentwood 176, Ann Arbor Pioneer 164½.

East Kentwood: The Falcons have never won an MHSAA title in girls track & field, but did finish second last season to Oak Park. East Kentwood could trim the margin significantly if not eliminate it this time. Senior Sekayi Bracey is the reigning champion in the long jump, 100 and 200 and total has won eight individual titles over her first three seasons; she’s seeded third in long jump (17-9¾) second in the 100 (12.0) and sixth in the 200 (24.84) plus runs on the third-seeded 400 relay (48.47). She’ll have help especially in the field events from sophomore Corrinne Jemison, who is third in discus (133-6) and also will toss shot put, and junior Gabriela Leon is second-seeded in pole vault (12-6).

Oak Park: The two-time reigning champion will say good-bye to one of Michigan’s top talents of this decade with senior Anna Jefferson running her last high school races and looking to add to two individual and four relay championships. She’s seeded second in the 100 hurdles (14.10) and 400 (55.15). Junior Tamea McKelvy is seeded first in the 100 and 200 dashes (11.89 and 23.97), and another outstanding senior, Brianna Holloway, is third in the 100 hurdles (14.37) and first in the 300 (43.84) after winning the latter last season. The 400 relay (47.15) also is seeded first, and sophomore Dorriann Coleman is seeded third in the 800 (2:15.53).

Ann Arbor Pioneer: The Pioneers have the kind of star power necessary to win this meet, led by sophomore Britten Bowen. She’s seeded first in the 100 hurdles (14.02) and second in the 300 (44.56) and runs on the second-seeded 400 relay (47.87) and top-seeded 800 relay (1:39.99). Another sophomore, Anne Forsyth, is seeded first in the 1,600 (4:56.30) and second in the 3,200 (10:43.94), and junior teammate Alice Hill is seeded first in the 800 (2:10.45); both also run on the top-seeded 3,200 relay (9:03.86). Senior Torisa Johnson has top-four seeds in the 100 and 200 and also will be key.

Grosse Pointe South’s Kayli Johnson: After taking fifth in shot put as a junior, she enters as the fourth seed in that event (39-9) but top seed in the discus (136-8) and also runs on the 400 relay.

Farmington’s Maddy Trevisan: She took fifth in the 3,200 last season as a junior and has the top seed (10:38.62) by more than five seconds this time, as well as the sixth seed in the 1,600 (5:01.82). 

LP Division 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional scores: Dearborn Divine Child 182½, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 146½, Detroit Country Day 124½.

Flint Powers Catholic: Only 36 points won this meet a year ago, which makes someone like reigning shot put champion Nikole Sargent even more valuable; she’s seeded first in the shot put (47-7¼) and discus (137-4). Senior Tyra Hunter could score as the sixth seed in the 100 hurdles (15.3), as could junior Lyndsey Braman coming in as the fourth seed in the 800 (2:19.52) and junior Julia Vanitvelt running the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and being seeded seventh in the 1,600 (5:14.41). She and Braman run on a 3,200 relay seeded third (9:32.77).

Lansing Waverly: The Warriors tied for ninth last season and would get a huge boost by justifying their top seeds in the 400 (49.38) and 800 (1:45.31) relays. Sophomore Tra’chele Roberts runs on both and also is seeded third in the 100 (12.44) and 14th in the 200 (26.42). Junior Teaghan Thomas runs on both relays as well and is tied for sixth in high jump (5-2). Sophomore Malin Smith also could contribute big points in field events, entering seeded third in shot put (43-1½) and seventh in discus (121-3).

Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets are seeking their first title since sharing in 2012. Junior Michaiah Thomas is the reigning champ in the 100 hurdles and seeded first in that race (14.42), second in the 300 (45.23), seventh in the 100 dash (12.68) and fourth in the 200 (25.80). She alone could put Country Day into contention.

Battle Creek Harper Creek’s Charley Andrews: The reigning high jump champ is seeded first in that event (5-8) and also will run on the 3,200 relay after helping it to an eighth-place finish a year ago as a sophomore.

Carleton Airport’s Zoe Eby: She took first in the 200 and third in the 400 in 2015 as a sophomore, and this season is seeded first in the 200 (25.02), second in the 100 (12.25) and also will long jump.

Saginaw Swan Valley’s Lauren Huebner: After winning the 300 hurdles as a junior, Huebner is seeded fourth in that race (45.65) and third in the 100 hurdles (15.0) and also will run on the fifth-seeded 800 and sixth-seeded 1,600 relays.

Spring Lake’s Gabriella LeRoux: She won pole vault as a sophomore and is seeded first by four inches at 12-3; she’ll also run the 100 and on the 400 relay.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern’s Camron Nelson: The reigning 100 champion is seeded 11th in that race (12.76) and 15th in the 200, and also will run on the second-seeded 400 relay (49.78).

Grand Rapids South Christian’s Abbie Porter: She’s the fourth seed as a senior in the 400 (58.32) after winning the race last season and also runs on the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:01.46). 

LP Division 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: Hopkins 154, Pewamo-Westphalia 153, Ithaca 150.  

Ithaca: The Yellowjackets have never won an MHSAA title in this sport but were fourth last season and on relays alone should be in the mix. The 400 relay is seeded third (51.26), the 800 fourth (1:48.31), the 1,600 also fourth (4:10.32) and the 3,200 relay second (9:34.12). Senior Erica Sheahan is perhaps most valuable among individual contributors; she’s the top seed in long jump (17-11¾) after winning last season, ninth in the 100 and second in the 200 (25.99). Junior Emily Foster comes in sixth-seeded in the 300 hurdles, and junior Courtney Allen enters third in the 800 (2:19.14) and also will run the 1,600.

Pewamo-Westphalia: The reigning champion Pirates are seeking their third title in four seasons and finished runner-up the off year. The talent is spread across a number of events; all four relays qualified for Saturday, with the 400 relay top-seeded (50.83), the 800 relay seeded seventh and the 3,200 relay seeded fourth. Senior Emma Schafer is seeded first in the 100 hurdles (15.53) and fourth in the 300 (47.11), and junior Emma Wirth has top-11 seeds in the 200 and 400 after taking fourth in the 100, second in the 400 and third in the 200 in 2015. Schafer also should help on the field event side, entering with the second-seeded shot put (38-1), while sophomore Claudia Heckman is seeded ninth in long jump.

Traverse City St. Francis: While the Gladiators don’t have a qualifier in field events, they do have senior Holly Bullough, a two-time runner-up last season who is seeded first in the 800 (2:17.36) and 1,600 (4:56.61) and also runs on  the top-seeded 1,600 (4:06.43) and 3,200 (9:31.18) relays. Junior Emmalyne Tarsa also could provide a boost; she’s seeded eighth in the 100 hurdles (16.23) and fourth in the 400 (1:00.03).

Manistee’s Emma Burns: The reigning high jump champion went 5-3 to win last season and is among a large group that cleared 5 feet at Regionals.

Byron’s Jessica Marvin: She won discus last season and is third-seeded in that event (123-4) and top-seeded in the shot put (38-5).

Adrian Madison’s Megan Rosales: She’s seeded third in the 300 hurdles (47.07) and runs on the eighth-seeded 800 relay and third-seeded 1,600 relay (4:09.89) after winning the 400 and coming in second in the 300 last season.

Sanford Meridian’s Hailey Stockford: The reigning champion in the 100 and 200 will look to cap her career with a couple repeats entering second-seeded in the 100 (12.54) and tops in the 200 (25.83). 

LP Division 4 at Grand Rapids Houseman Stadium

Top Regional scores: Saugatuck 242, Fowler 187½, Deckerville 152½.

Saugatuck: The Indians finished 14th a year ago and have never won an MHSAA title in this sport, but have a chance to make history with strong relays leading the way. All four qualified, with the 1,600 seeded third, the 400 and 3,200 fifth and the 800 relay seeded sixth. Sophomore Paisley Sipes could add points seeded second in the 3,200 (11:42.34), sixth in the 1,600 (5:21.93) and tied for 11th in the pole vault. A strong group of freshmen including Thea Johnson (800) and Lily Francis (300 hurdles) also could factor in.

Fowler: Last season’s runner-up would love to add a third title in six seasons and first since 2012. Their relays are ranked even higher than Saugatuck’s as a group, with the 800 (1:48.75) seeded first, the 1,600 second, 400 third and 3,200 seeded fourth. Seniors Julie Thelen (800) and Madison Koenigsknecht (400) in races and freshman Alyssa Vandegriff (high jump) and sophomore Ciera Weber (pole vault) in field events are among a large group of others who could contribute.

Reading: The Rangers were fourth last season and return with all four relays and competitors in nine individual events. The 800 relay is seeded third and the 3,200 second (9:51.73), and senior Teddi Zimmerman has top-six seeds in both hurdles races among a number of individuals on the cusp of scoring territory based on their Regional performances.

Lawrence’s Mara Carter: The reigning shot put champion enters seeded second in that event (40-9) and fourth in the discus (115-0).

Pittsford’s Maddie Clark: She won discus last season and is seeded second in that event (126-4) this time.

Waterford Our Lady’s Tessa Fornari: She’ll be looking for a repeat in the 1,600 and 3,200 while seeded seventh (5:22.31) and third (11:48.73), respectively, in those races.

Custer Mason County Eastern’s Jordan Goodman: Last year’s winner in the 100 finished sixth or higher in four events and this time will compete in the long jump (16-4), where she’s seeded third and came in sixth in 2015.

Petersburg-Summerfield’s Ashley Herrmann: The reigning high jump champion is seeded first in that event (5-4) as a senior but also third in the 100 hurdles (16.19) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (48.07).

Concord’s Lindsey Lehman: One of the fastest sprinters last season winning the 200 and coming in second in the 100, she’ll try to finish her career with four more titles seeded fourth in the 100 (12.45), first in the 200 (26.57) and running on the seventh-seeded 400 and sixth-seeded 1,600 relays.

Mesick’s Sierra King: She nearly swept the hurdles in 2015, winning the 100 and finishing second in the 300, and she enters second-seeded in the 100 hurdles (15.49), third in the 300 (48.01) and also will compete in long jump. 

UP Division 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Marquette 85, Houghton 53½, Negaunee 53.

Marquette: The Redettes doubled up the field last season in winning their sixth straight Division 1 championship. This will be the last high school run for stellar seniors Lindsey Rudden and Holly Blowers; Rudden is seeded first in the 1,600 (4:56.80) and 800 (2:14.58), runs on the top-seeded 1,600 (4:12.22) and 3,200 (10:15.88) relays and owns seven individual Finals championships in track. Blowers is seeded second in the 1,600 (5:16.66) and 800 (2:22.34), runs on the same relays and owns three previous individual titles. Junior Amber Huebner won the 3,200 last season and is seeded first in that race (12:00.28), third in the 1,600 and also runs those relays. Junior Hannah Detmers is the reigning 300 hurdles champion and is seeded fourth in that race, but also runs on the 1,600 relay and the second-seeded 800 relay.

Escanaba’s Jenny Brandt: Last season’s discus champion enters with the second-longest throw from the Regionals (99-2).

Escanaba’s Sunny Martineau: She’s seeded second in the 100 hurdles (16.38) and third in the 300 (48.51) after winning the 100 and finishing second in the 300 in 2015.

Houghton’s Kendra Monette: The reigning shot put champion also finished sixth in the 100 last season as a freshman; she’s seeded first in shot put (37-2), fifth in the 100 (13.47) and runs on the top-seeded 800 relay (1:50.78) and second-seeded 400 relay.

Calumet’s Hailey Wickstrom: The high jump champion last year at 4-10 is the top seed as a junior at 5-3¼. 

UP Division 2 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Ishpeming 78, Hancock 73, St. Ignace 58½.

Ishpeming: The Hematites will go for a repeat with three top-seeded relays, strong field events and a title winner leading the way. Junior Khora Swanson is the reigning champion in the 800 and runner-up in the 1,600, and she’s seeded first in the 1,600 (5:54.26) and 800 (2:28.85), fourth in the 3,200 and runs on the top-seeded 3,200 relay (10:54.66). The 800 (1:56.01) and 400 (54.71) relays are both also seeded first, as are senior Libbie Doney in the pole vault (9-0) and junior Marissa Maino in the shot put (35-10). Maino won shot put and discus last season and is second-seeded in the discus this time.

Hancock: The Bulldogs own one MHSAA title in this sport, from 1983, but could move up from fifth a year ago. Distance running and hurdles are definitely the team’s strengths; senior Mary Jarvis is seeded first in the 100 hurdles (16.52) and 300 hurdles (48.45) and third in the 100 dash, and senior Julie Heinonen is seeded second in the 100 hurdles (17.29) and runs on two relays. Jarvis won both hurdles races last season.

St. Ignace's Linnie Gustafson: She won high jump last season in Division 3 at 5-1 and is top-seeded in the event at 5-2 while also running two relays.

Ironwood’s Rachel Hudaceck: The reigning high jump champ in this division at 5-0 is seeded second at 4-9 and also will run on two relays.

Iron River West Iron County’s Emmy Kinner: As a sophomore Kinner won the 100, 200 and 400; as a junior, she seeded first in all three races (13.27/27.22/1:02.30) and tied for second in long jump as well (15-6½).

UP Division 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Munising 78, Lake Linden-Hubbell 65, Stephenson 57.

Munising: The Mustangs are seeking their first championship since 2009 after finishing fifth but only 19 points back a year ago. They have competitors in 13 events and two top seeds: Madeleine Peramaki is seeded first in the 800 (2:28.31) while also doing long jump and running on the 1,600 relay, and junior Michaela Peramaki is seeded first in the pole vault (8-6, tied) while also running the 100 and on the 400 relay.

Newberry: The reigning champion returns its one-two punch from last season’s Final, where Taylor Bryant won the 100 and was fourth in the 300 hurdles, and Natalie Beaulieu won the 800 and 1,600. Bryant is seeded first in the 100 hurdles (17.14) and 300 hurdles (49.34) and also will run the 100 and on the second-seeded 400 relay. Beaulieu has top-five seeds in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and will run on the 3,200 relay.

Ontonagon’s Paige Blake: The reigning long jump and 400 champion placed in four events total last season, and she’s seeded first in the 400 (1:03.04), third in the 200 (28.64), second in the long jump (14-9) and also will run the 100.

Cedarville’s Emma Bohn: She’s the top seed in the 1,600 (5:25.24), second in the 3,200 (12:18.84) and also will run the 800 and on the top-seeded 3,200 relay (10:44.74) after winning the 3,200 last season.

Brimley’s Alyssa Hyvarinen: She won discus and shot put in leading Brimley to a runner-up finish in 2015, and this time she’s top-seeded in the discus (103-10) and second in the shot put (35-3).

PHOTO: Ishpeming's Khora Swanson is among many standouts returning to MHSAA Finals on Saturday. (Photo 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).]