Reed City's Sami has Spring in her Step

June 6, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Sami Michell knows her starts could be better. And she's sure she can improve her arm position when she’s going over hurdles.

The Reed City junior is a self-admitted perfectionist. And she’s already thinking about next season.

The rest of Michigan should watch out.

Michell established herself as one of the top hurdlers in MHSAA history at Saturday’s Division 3 Final while becoming the first in Lower Peninsula girls history to win four events at a championship meet since Mason County Eastern’s Maria Shoup in 1979. And she’s got a few more goals she’d like to achieve before moving on to a future that's looking brighter with every stride.

"I'm always thinking about next year and what I want to do, the times I want to run -- even after I won four events Saturday," Michell said. "I want to run a faster 200 and get the Division 3 record, and I want to get the all-division record in the 100-meter hurdles. It's just not hard for me to think about it. I know there are things I don't do perfectly."

Michell gets a Second Half High 5 this week as arguably the brightest of an incredible group of stars who combined to break 19 meet records during Saturday's Finals.

She set Division 3 milestones in three events at Comstock Park – the 100 hurdles (13.84 seconds), 300 hurdles (42.23) and long jump (18-6.5). Her 300 hurdles time also broke the all-Finals record set by Benton Harbor’s Carolyn Ferguson in 1984.

The four championships gave her eight total with a season left to compete. She just missed winning four in 2011 as well – she finished runner-up in the 200, five hundredths of a second back. But her mom Vikki, also Reed City’s girls track and field coach, knew something special was coming long before Sami’s first high school competition.

At a youth meet when Michell was 10 or 11, she won the long jump – despite being so much smaller than her opponents that when she climbed to the top step of the medal stand, she still stood shorter than the runner-up next to her but a level below.

Soon after, Michell began pulling out her smaller 12-inch hurdles during her parents’ practices – dad Brent is the Reed City boys coach – and during seventh grade, she was able to switch from four-step to three-step hurdling. That step was a significant one in helping her go from good to great.

In her first high school race, Michell broke her mom’s school record in the 100 hurdles that had stood since 1987.

“She had made the finals (as a youth) but never won sprints. But I knew as a coach, if I could get her to love hurdles, with her speed, if she perfected her hurdling form, she’d go a long way,” said Vikki Michell, who also ran at Ferris State. “I never honestly dreamed she’d go (this far).”

In some key ways, Michell is a natural for hurdles and jumps. She’s 5-foot-8, but with more than half of her height in her legs. She’s pushing 30 inches in the vertical jump, good enough to touch the metal that connects the rim to the backboard on a basketball hoop. She’s been her volleyball team’s setter since freshman year, and this fall also began playing middle blocker.

But her rise to elite didn’t come without work to back up that talent – fueled by that aforementioned attention to detail.

Reed City is about two hours drive from the nearest indoor track facility, so Michell spends winters running the 75-meter straightaway of her school’s main hallway. The uncharacteristic warm winter allowed her to continue training on the school’s track into January, but often she competes in winter indoor meets to also take advantage of a rare opportunity to practice hurdles and long jump.

She’s also doing some heavy lifting, literally, taking a class daily and focusing on squats and other lifts that have increased her leg strength significantly over the last two years.

“She’s a dedicated person. She doesn’t do anything halfway, I can say, as both her coach and her mom,” Vikki said.

As a child, If Sami made any kind of mis-mark on a math assignment, she’d tear it up and start over – but got over that after realizing how much extra homework she was doing. She's ranked first academically in her class, with a 4.0, and for a long time she did everything she could extra to get 100 percent in every class. These days, she's decided she'll be good with a 95, as long as it still gets her an A.

She'll work on track skills with both parents, but does plenty of research on her own watching YouTube videos of the best from her sport.

Michell likes winning, like anyone else. But she's possibly more driven by distaste for losing.

"I get frustrated. Kinda disappointed and mad at the same time," she said.

"I guess I just hate losing when other people just think they're fast. It's so much fun to just beat them."

And she can do so in more ways than what she showed Saturday. Michell also is the fastest in school history in the 400 with a time of 56.83. She ran the 800 only once, in 2:24.9, and she’s run the 100 three times, the fastest in 12.39. Those 400 and 100 times also would've been good enough for first place at this Division 3 Final.

Clemson, Michigan State and Stanford are among those showing the most early interest in her post-high school plans, and she'll likely hear from many more when college coaches can contact her later this summer.

Click to read more about Michell's track family connection and future plans.

PHOTO: Reed City's Sami Michell (center) edged Bridgeport's Kimberly Balls (left) in the 200-meter race at the Division 3 Final at Comstock Park. (Photo courtesy of RunMichigan.com.)

Finals Title Next Step for Versatile Swan Valley Record-Breaker Kuhn

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

May 22, 2024

Sydney Kuhn’s habit for smashing school records at Saginaw Swan Valley has forced the track & field program to start taking cost-cutting measures.

Bay & Thumb“We stopped changing out the records on our record board,” Swan Valley coach Dave Dawson said. “We just figured, she has another year and she’ll break it again, so we figured we’re going to save money this way.”

Kuhn, a junior, owns the school records in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters. She also has the program record in 60 meters, an indoor track event. She’s run the school’s second-fastest 300 hurdles time, and one of the top five 100-meter times. The 1,600-meter relay team she’s part of with Mackenzie Morgan, Grace Spear and Mackenzie Powell is close to setting a record, as well, and has qualified for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on June 1.

“Her ninth-grade year, everybody knew, depending on what happens and her attitude, they knew she could be something special. There was potential there,” Dawson said. “Lauren Huebner, she graduated in 2016 and went to SVSU and was a two-time Division II national champion, she had eight records on the board. Sydney feeds off that. Especially now that Lauren is helping coach, she’s definitely been pivotal in this.”

Kuhn qualified for the Finals in the three events she ran at last week’s Regional: the 200, 400 and 1,600 relay. She will be the No. 1 seed in the 400, and has run the fastest time in the state regardless of division, at 55.11 seconds. She’s the No. 2 seed in the 200, where her personal best of 24.89 is the fifth-fastest time in the state this year, regardless of division. She finished third and sixth, respectively, at the Finals in the events a year ago.

“I feel good,” Kuhn said. “I’m just getting ready. It’s been a good year, it’s been going smoothly. The 400 looks pretty good, and the 200 there will be some good competition. Freshman year, I got fifth, then third (as a sophomore) in the 400, so hopefully this year is first.”

She did not run the 800 at the Regional, as it was decided it was too close in the meet order to her other events. She’s run 2:12.75 in the event, the fourth-fastest time recorded in the state this season.

That could be where she has the most potential, however, as it’s a race she had never run competitively until her sophomore season. The first time she ran it in a varsity meet, she recorded a 2:21, setting the school record.

Kuhn anchors a relay during the Tri-Valley Conference Red meet May 8 at Frankenmuth.“(Coach) Andrew Wendler put a bug in her ear, ‘If you’re running this fast in the 400, think of what your 800 would be,’” Dawson said. “She says, ‘Yeah, I’ll try it.’ So, in one of our first conference meets, she ran against a girl that’s pretty good in the 800 and we just said to follow her – stick with her and see what you can do. With 200 meters left, she just took off and broke the school record the first time she ran it.”

A year later, they tried the same thing with the 1,600. And again, Kuhn responded by running 5:12.73 in her first try, setting the school record. She’s since run 5:06.45.

“The first time I ran the 800, I ran against Mary Richmond from Frankenmuth who is really fast, and I sort of paced behind her the first 400, then the last 300 I took off. Same thing with the 1,600. I felt like staying behind her, I wasn’t really racing, so I could just go, I thought.”

Richmond is a three-time all-state finisher in both the 1,600 and the 3,200, as well as a four-time all-state cross country runner. 

With Kuhn’s instant success in every race she’s tried, the logical next question is, what about the 3,200?

“My coach mentioned that,” Kuhn said with a laugh. “But I usually just shake my head. You never know.”

There is a real question, however, about what event, or events, Kuhn is best suited for moving forward. She said that she would like to shift some focus to the 800 for her senior year, and several college coaches who have been in contact with her have indicated that’s where she could land.

“The pattern typically is they would probably turn her into a half-miler or a miler,” Dawson said. “Some college coaches want her for the heptathlon with her hurdle experience, and she is not a stranger to the weight room. That’s the fun part about this, she tries something and it’s usually pretty fun. It’s usually a positive experience.”

Kuhn is ready for whatever is thrown at her.

“They’re mostly like 800, 1,500, those types of races,” she said. “Some of them just say whatever you like best. One coach mentioned the steeplechase – I don’t know about that. One coach did mention (heptathlon). I’d be open to whatever is best.”

While she’s taken some unofficial visits, she said she’s in no hurry to choose a college. Her focus remains on winning a Finals title at Swan Valley, and a series of times she’s set as goals for herself: 24.4, 54.9, 2:09.9, 4:59.9.

They’re all saved on her phone screen, where they’re easy to change as she reaches them. And at no cost.

“Every time I look at my phone, I see the times I want to get,” she said. “I’ve changed my screen saver a lot when I do break it.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Saginaw Swan Valley’s Sydney Kuhn runs toward the finish during the Korf/Schultz Saginaw County Invitational on May 10 at Hemlock. (Middle) Kuhn anchors a relay during the Tri-Valley Conference Red meet May 8 at Frankenmuth. (Photos by Eagle Eye Photography.)