Redettes Uphold Championship Tradition

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 3, 2017

KINGSFORD — The Marquette girls upheld a proud tradition Saturday, earning their seventh consecutive Upper Peninsula Division 1 track & field championship with 118 points.

Runner-up Negaunee scored 91 and Kingsford placed third at 70.

“Our depth came through,” said Marquette coach Natalie Messano. “We did what we needed to do. We came a long way this year. The team really came together and peaked at the right time. We have a strong tradition.”

Marquette sophomore Ahnika Puskala won the 100-meter hurdles in 16.32 seconds, followed by Iron Mountain’s Olivia Berutti (16.34) and Marquette senior Jacquie Cammarata (16.43).

Cammarata won the 300 hurdles (48.52), followed by classmate Hannah Detmers (49.16) and Escanaba sophomore Courtney Boyle (49.81).

Marquette senior Izzie Peterson added a first in the 100 (12.85) and helped the Redettes take the 400 and 800 relays.

“Delaney (Sall) ran strong today,” said Messano. “I think every one of our girls scored some points, which is huge. We have some seniors whom we’ll miss, but we have a lot of talented girls coming back.”

Sall placed second in the 400 (1:01.16), thrid in the 800 (2:25.73) and anchored the Redettes’ 1,600 relay to a second-place finish (4:23.11).

Negaunee, paced by junior Clara Johnson and freshman Emily Paupore, showed its strength in the distances.

They helped the Miners take the 3,200 relay (10:06.41), and Johnson captured the 800 (2:23.46), 1,600 (5:27.73) and 3,200 (12:02.08).

“Our teammates always give us motivation,” said Johnson. “Every girl on our team helps each other get going. It really got hot for the 3,200 (about 80 degrees). In the beginning you’re layered up, the next thing you know the sun comes out and it gets very warm. When it’s hot, we take a break after each race and go into the shade. We also eat light and stay hydrated.”

Paupore was runner-up in the 800 (2:24.97), 1,600 (5:31.05) and 3,200 (12:05.36).

“Winning the 3,200 relay definitely gets you going,” said Paupore. “It’s a good way to start the day. Everybody on our team is supportive of each other. We just go out as hard as we can. Everybody has to run in the same conditions.”

Kingsford sophomore Olivia Allen finished first in the 200 (26.53) and 400 (59.53) and anchored the winning 1,600 relay (4:12.67).

“I think things went pretty well,” said Allen. “I think we did a good job running our races as if they were our last. I’m still learning how to use my blocks and finish races. This is a motivator for next year. We wanted to push our seniors this year so they could also have good performances in their last meet.”

Escanaba senior Jen Brandt captured her third straight discus title at 123 feet, 6 inches, and was second in shot put (32-3¼), both personal bests.

“I definitely felt the pressure, being a senior,” said Brandt, who will be playing basketball at Alma College next winter. “I threw a personal-best (116-8) in the GNC (Great Northern Conference) meet in Menominee (May 25). At that point, I felt I could threw farther. Coach (Dan DeLong) told me it would be nice if I could get that done. He told me nobody had done that while he has been coaching.

“I think track has really prepared me for college basketball, getting that adrenalin rush and performing on a stage.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette’s Ahnika Puskala, right, and Jacqueline Cammarata charge ahead in the 100 hurdles final; Puskala won the race and Cammarata came in third. (Middle) Negaunee teammates Clara Johnson, front, and Emily Paupore round a corner on the way to taking the top two places in the 1,600. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

Blissfield's Miller Set for Senior Success After 3 Junior-Year Finals Trips

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

August 15, 2023

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. 

Southeast & BorderAs 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.” 

Miller pulls up for a jumper during last season’s basketball postseason run.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 DonnellyDoug 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.)