Reading Returns to Take Final Step

May 31, 2014

By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half

HUDSONVILLE – When Reading senior Michelle Davis looked over the girls track and field team prior to this year, she was a little surprised at what she discovered.

“I looked at the freshmen coming up and saw that we weren’t losing as much as I thought,” she said. “We knew it was there to win the state title, but we had to work hard, and we did.”

Reading, fresh off an unexpected runner-up finish in 2013, came into this season with some added confidence, and on Saturday it all came together in an MHSAA championship. Reading won its second Lower Peninsula Division 4 title and first since 2001 with a convincing performance at the Baldwin Street Middle School facility in Hudsonville.

Davis led the way and broke two LP Division 4 meet records in the process. She won the 100 hurdles in 15.05 seconds – an LP Division 4 record – and added the 400 with a record time of 57.33. She also was second in the 300 hurdles and ran a leg on the winning 1,600 relay team.

However, she said breaking the record in the 400 was the most thrilling for her.

“The 400 was the best for sure because my idol is Erin Dillon (former Reading track star who went on to star at Central Michigan University), and she had the record before me,” Davis said. “It’s just amazing – all the hard work.

“Every person on this team worked so hard.”

Reading tallied five first-place finishes in 17 events and totaled 81 points to easily outdistance runner-up Traverse City St. Francis by 25 points.

Coach Deb Price thought the runner-up finish from a year ago played a big part in this year’s championship.

“Last year was somewhat of a surprise,” she said. “I thought we’d be in the top five, but I didn’t think we’d be runner-up. We had a mission. Our goal was to try to get it, but I didn’t want to count on anything until it actually happened.

“I think confidence was a big factor. I think that was huge. I think that made them realize that maybe they could get something. We had an awesome year.”

Junior Jenny Davis, Michelle’s sister, enjoyed a great meet in the sprints. She ran a leg on two winning relay teams – the 400 and 800 – and was second in the 200 in 26 seconds and third in the 100 in 12.65.

“It’s awesome, she did so well,” Michelle said of her sister. “She does so well in sprinting. I used to do sprinting, but she’s got it covered now so I don’t need to.”

Little sister Jenny was impressed by the way Michelle made the transfer to the hurdles.

“We needed another hurdler this year, so she just took that over,” she said. “It’s really fun running with Michelle.

“She’s a great role model for me. We get to run in practice and push each other.”

Reading’s three winning relay teams included a variety of younger runners with at least two more years of eligibility.

In the 400 (51.60) and 800 (1:47.36) relays, Jenny Davis was joined by sophomores Teddi Zimmerman and Samantha Pfeffler and freshman Kaitlin Seager. In the 1,600 relay (4:10.96), Michelle Davis was joined by Pfeffler, Alyssa Kinney and Terasa Eidenier – all sophomores.

Eidenier also took fourth in the 1,600 in 5:13.47 and fifth in the 800 in 2:23.75.

“We have a lot coming back,” Price said.

Runner-up Traverse City St. Francis has an exciting future as well with sophomore Holly Bullough, who won the 800 in 2:15.52 and the 1,600 in 5:01.34. She also was second in the 400 in 58.4 and ran on the third-place 3,200 relay team.

“This year was a little different because I did the open 400 instead of the two-mile,” Bullough said, “but going into this meet, I felt a little more ready because I worked out all over winter and last year I hadn’t done that.

“I felt a lot more in shape coming into this and a little more confident.”

Bullough has a lot to live up to with her bloodlines. The Bullough family has a long history of success in football at Michigan State University, starting with her brother Max, her father Shane and her grandfather Hank.

She said the name does not put a lot of added pressure on her.

“It seems like it would give a lot of pressure, but actually it doesn’t,” she said. “I’m not trying to beat out my brothers or anything. I’m just trying to make them proud. I just want to represent them, so I just go out and do my best.”

She did admit that the thought of playing football has crossed her mind – at least the fantasy of it.

“I always joke and say I’m going to go out for running back next year, but I have cross country,” she said. “I just think it would be funny if I tried.”

Another two-time winner was Ottawa Lake Whiteford senior Miranda Johnson, who repeated as champion in the long jump and broke her own LP Division 4 record with a leap of 18 feet, 6.5 inches. She added a victory in the 200 in 25.15 seconds.

Jade Madison of New Buffalo swept the throws. She won the discus with a toss of 123-0 and broke the LP Division 4 record in the shot put with a winning effort of 43-8.25. In the other field events, Bethany Kuenzer of Pittsford cleared 11-3 to win the pole vault, while Jessica Tea-Hui of Evart won the high jump at 5-4.

Freshman Jordan Goodman of Mason County Eastern won the 100 in 12.55 seconds, while Savanah Feldpausch of Fowler took the 300 hurdles in 45.42 and Kirsten Olling of Breckenridge finished first in the 3,200 in 11:17.24. Olling won the 3,200 all four years of high school.

The lone relay that was not won by Reading was the 3,200, which was won by Beal City.

Price, the Reading coach, also coached the Rangers in 2001 when they won the MHSAA title for the first time.

“It’s a lot like 2001 – nothing feels as good as a state championship,” she said. “I can’t describe it to anybody until it happens.”

At the same time, Concord – from the same Big 8 Conference as Reading – was celebrating the boys title.

“Two teams from the Big 8 Conference win state championships,” she said. “How cool is that?”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Reading’s Michelle Davis clears a hurdle Saturday en route to setting Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals records in both hurdles races. (Click to see more from

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).]