Records Fall as Marquette Rises Again

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 31, 2015

KINGSFORD — Marquette junior Lindsey Rudden had a hand in three record-setting performances Saturday, helping the Redettes earn their fifth consecutive Upper Peninsula Division 1 track title with 154 points.

Second-place Calumet scored 71, and third-place Sault Ste. Marie had 67. 

Rudden set a U.P. and school record in the 800-meter run at two minutes, 13.94 seconds and helped the Redettes establish U.P. records in the 1,600 relay (4:00.15) and 3,200 relay (9:30.25). She also won the open 1,600 (4:56.31) on this partly sunny, breezy and cool day.

“The wind made it hard on the backstretch,” she said. “It was hard physically, but most of it’s mental. I just wanted to get under five minutes in the 1600. I was trying to pace myself for the entire meet.”

These were the third straight 800 and 1,600 titles for Rudden. 

Junior Holly Blowers, who transferred from Manistique last summer, led off both record-setting relays.

“It’s such a special feeling to be part of the U.P. Finals,” said Blowers, who captured the 800 and 1,600 titles in Division 2 a year ago. “This really opened my eyes after not being able to run cross country last fall. The atmosphere is so powerful. We’re all best friends. Being able to achieve this together makes it so special. You can never take high school sports for granted.” 

Also part of those relays were the Huebner sisters. Shayla, a senior, won the 400 (58.71) and took third in the 200 (26.64). Amber, a sophomore, won the 3,200 (11:42.71) and placed third in the 400 (1:00.5).

Blowers added a second in the 800 (2:22.54) and third in the 1,600 (5:23.74). 

“We scored points all the way across the board,” said Marquette coach John Peterson. “In the U.P. Finals, you never know what’s going to happen. We had a lot of good efforts by a lot of kids. The girls have worked real hard all year. This is probably the most balanced team I’ve had.”

Sophomore Hannah Detmers also provided a first in the 300 hurdles for the Redettes, who gained at least a share of the U.P. title eight of the past nine years. She was clocked at 47.57, edging Escanaba junior Sunny Martineau on a lean. 

“I just went out real hard,” said Detmers, who was nearly overcome with emotion after her victory. “I’ve been working real hard and tried to mentally prepare myself. Sunny has done an amazing job all year. We’ve gone back and forth both years and she had beaten me all of this year. She has been my number one competition both years. This is an amazing boost for me. This was definitely my best race.”

Martineau won 100 hurdles (16.19) and helped the Eskymos win the 800 relay. 

“My whole family is here to cheer me on, and the weather’s nice,” said Martineau. “My start wasn’t real good, but I caught up in the middle of the race. It took a lot of determination and faith, but I also had a lot of supporters.

“Our handoffs went real well in the 800 relay. Marquette usually takes first, but today they took fifth. We were really surprised by that. We were very pumped up for that relay.” 

Calumet senior Chelsea Jacques had a hand in four firsts, taking long jump with a personal-best leap of 16-6, retaining her titles in the 100 (12.69) and 200 (26.23) and anchoring the winning 400 relay, which nipped Marquette at the wire.

“This is bittersweet now that track is over,” Jacques said. “A few people have been helping me in long jump, and I decided to take a more aggressive approach. This being my first year in long jump, I’m finally getting the hang of it, and today I hit the board well. 

“I thought my start in the 100 was better than it had been and I probably had one of my best ones in the 200. This feels great. I was kind of worried that maybe it wouldn’t go well.”

Marquette’s Izzie Peterson was runner-up in the 100 (13.0) and 200 (26.62).

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Hannah Detmers (left) edge' Escanaba's Sunny Martineau during the U.P. Division 1 300 hurdles final. (Middle) Calumet's Chelsea Jacques leads the field toward the finish during one of her two championship sprints. (Photos courtesy of 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).]