Renaissance Follows Record-Setting Jackson to 1st Division 1 Finals Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 4, 2022

ROCKFORD – Before she even ran a race Saturday, Kaila Jackson had already established herself as one of the best sprinters in MHSAA history.

But in her final meet, she gave everyone at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Track & Field Finals one final show.

The Detroit Renaissance senior won four Finals titles Saturday, repeating the feat she had accomplished in 2021, and led the Phoenix to their first Division 1 team title.

“The question was asked early in the season if I thought Kaila was one of the all-time great sprinters,” Renaissance co-coach Calvin Johnson said. “She solidified her legacy today. She solidified her legacy. With her going down to Georgia now to be a Bulldog, there’s nothing I can say but they’re getting a great athlete – a great student-athlete. It’s unfortunate they don’t have an MVP trophy, because she should get it, hands down.”

Jackson was responsible for 40 of Renaissance’s 80 points on the day. Three-time reigning champion Oak Park was second with 60. Ann Arbor Huron (55), Holland West Ottawa (47) and Ann Arbor Pioneer (38) rounded out the top five.

It was the first Finals title for Renaissance since 2007, when it finished a run of 10 Division 2/Class B titles over 11 seasons. The Phoenix were runners-up to Oak Park both of the past two seasons.

“It’s well overdue,” Renaissance co-coach Darnell Hall said. “It’s a good honor to finally get that monkey off our back. Especially with a good group of girls, the elite kids we have, this was the last thing they needed to solidify their legacy in the state of Michigan, was that Michigan state title.”

Jackson won the 100 meters and 200 meters and was part of the winning 400 and 800 relay teams. Olivia Jenkins, Madison Sheard and Jayla Graham joined Jackson on the 400 relay, while Jenkins, Chloe Vines and Jayla Dace joined her on the 800 relay.

Jackson’s winning 200-meter time of 23.51 seconds broke the all-Finals record of 23.74 run by Shayla Mahan of Detroit Mumford in 2006.

Traverse City Central track“It feels amazing to break a state record,” Jackson said. “I knew it was going to come, but I’m happy it came now. I worked very hard for this. I just feel so accomplished.”

She won the 100 in 11.64, and the relays came in at 47.01 and 1:38.09, respectively.

“I really work hard for this,” Jackson said. “Everything paid off, all the hard practices, the crying, smiling, it’s paid off. I’ve worked very hard.”

The Phoenix also got a Finals title from Leeah Burr, who won the 400 in 55.05.

Oak Park had three champions on the day, led by Morgan Roundtree’s record-breaking performance in the 300 hurdles. Roundtree’s time of 42.38 broke the LP Division 1 Finals record of 42.64 set by Wyandotte Roosevelt’s Kyana Evans in 2017. Ann Arbor Huron’s Mya Georgiadis was second in the race at 42.52, also breaking the record.

Nonah Waldron won the 100 hurdles for Oak Park in 13.9 seconds, while Drelin Mapp won the long jump with a distance of 18 feet, 2.25 inches.

Two others joined Jackson in winning multiple individual titles on the day.

Allen Park’s Abigail Russell won the discus and the shot put. Her throw of 144-4 in the discus won by nearly seven feet, while her throw of 41-8.25 in the shot put won by eight inches.

Traverse City Central’s Julia Flynn pulled off the 1,600/800 double, and even came back and placed fifth in the 3,200.

She won the 1,600 in 4:39.75, and the 800 in 2:08. In the 800, she took control of the race about 250 meters in, and never relinquished her lead.

“I wanted to go out in my first lap, not crazy, crazy, crazy fast,” Flynn said. “I let myself ease into the competition a little bit, had girls in front of me. Then, I had the fear of getting boxed in, so then I just peaced out. I was trying to use my competition, I wanted to stay with them a little longer than I did, but I started to get in that inner lane, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to misstep and get DQ’d.”

Dexter’s Sophia Mettes repeated as champion in the pole vault, clearing 13 feet to hold off a tough field.

“Coming into this I was a little nervous, because I knew I had really good competition,” Mettes said. “Natalie Blake (Holland West Ottawa), I’m competing with her next year (at Michigan State), so I’m super excited. She’s been looking so strong. Brooke Bowers (Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central), she’s been looking great, too. I knew I had a lot to look up to, and I was feeling a little tired coming in, but it was a great competition. I just got nervous throughout the whole thing, but my adrenaline kept me going.”

Holland West Ottawa’s Arianne Olson, who was runner-up to Flynn in the 1,600, won the 3,200 by more than 10 seconds, finishing in 10:23.43.

Ann Arbor Pioneer won the 3,200 relay in 8:55.58 with the team of Sylvia Sanok Dufallo, Emily Cooper, Cookie Baugh and Sarah Forsyth.

Ann Arbor Huron won the 1,600 relay in 3:52.81 with the team of Mackenzie Robinson, Jada Wilson, Christabelle Obi and Georgiadis.

Pioneer’s Gabriella Newman won the high jump with a jump of 5-8.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Renaissance's Kaila Jackson, front, powers to a win during Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Traverse City Central's Julia Flynn turns into the straightaway during one of her races. (Click for more from John Brabbs/Run Michigan.)

Gaylord Record-Setter Embracing Challenges As Championship Season Approaches

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 3, 2024

Katie Berkshire has her eyes on the prize today.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAnd she’ll have her eyes on another prize Saturday. After that she’ll move on to more conquests yet this track season.

That pattern will be repeated for the next two years on the track and along the cross country course.

Berkshire, a sophomore at Gaylord High School, is already a long-distance record-holder and a regular feature at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. Today, she is throwing out the welcome mat to her opponents as Gaylord hosts its annual Blue Devil Classic.

She is welcoming this weekend’s competition because she knows fast races help her get better every day. Winning, although it happens often, is not her top priority. Putting in the work and getting better is what matters most, according to Gaylord girls track & field and cross country coach Lindsey Yates.

“She’s more than just a fast runner,” acknowledged Yates. “She knows she has to put the work in to get good results, and she’s always wanting more.

“The proof is in the pudding in what she does,” Yates continued. “She is a special — very special — athlete and young woman.”

Berkshire started this season by breaking the school record in the 3,200 at Gaylord’s first meet. She’s hoping to break the school’s 1,600 record yet this spring. And, she’s hoping to add to her collection of Regional and conference titles this month.

Higher finishes at the Division 2 Final on June 2 also are on the mind of the running sensation, who had a strong showing as a freshman finishing third in the 3,200 and 10th in the 1,600.

Track is known as an individual sport, but Berkshire looks at it more as a team sport with friendly competition.

Running, which started in Gaylord Elementary’s “Mileage Club” for Berkshire, wouldn’t be the same without teammates.

“Cross country and track are individual sports, but the team is a huge part – without the team it wouldn’t be the same at all,” Berkshire said. “We have all put in so much effort, and we deserve to go out and race and show what we can do.”

Berkshire, seated, confers with the Blue Devils coaches. “She’s a gift to the team,” Yates added. “It is an individual sport, but she has the whole team with her and she rallies for the team and the team rallies for her – it’s a family.”

Gaylord has had its share of individual Finals champions in the past under boys coach Matthew Warren, who Yates notes has played an integral part in Berkshire’s training.  But Berkshire is a one-of-a-kind runner for Yates, who has served as both the girls track and girls and boys cross country head coach the past two years at Gaylord.

“I have not seen anything as fine-tuned as Katie Berkshire, and it’s a breath of fresh air,” said Yates, who assisted both Blue Devils programs a few years before taking over. “The intrinsic desire for her is amazing.”

Running cross country and track brings endless challenges for Berkshire to conquer. The results, she notes, come from the training.

“Running shows me any challenge that comes my way I can just overcome,” Berkshire said. “It shows me if I have a goal in my mind, I can accomplish it if I work hard and put in the effort.”

During the fall, Berkshire won eight of her 12 cross country races including the Big North Conference meet and Regional. She’s already qualified for three Division 2 Finals across the two sports and is likely going to add a fourth Finals next month at Hamilton High School.

Before that, Berkshire is going after another Big North title and a Regional championship. Competitions, like those ahead always bring out her best; the conference includes Division 1 opponents.

“I enjoy running against even girls that are faster than me because they always push me to be better and they are there obviously to race and try their best,” Berkshire said. “They are an influence to me that I can get there one day and I can maybe even beat them the next season.”

This year she has hopes of running a sub-5-minute 1,600 to capture the school record; her best in the race is 5:11. She takes on both distance races regularly and also is a regular in relays. In Wednesday’s dual meet at Alpena, she set two personal bests running a 2:25.60 in the 800 and 1:05.71 in the 400.

Berkshire’s favorite event by far is the 3,200, as she likes finding the right pace and rhythm to handle eight laps.

“Most people would think I am crazy for that,” she said of her pick for favorite. “It’s the longest race on the track, and it feels the best for me.”

Yates says Berkshire has yet to run her best 3,200 of the season. The conference, Regional and Final should bring out the best in Berkshire, she noted.

“She’s amazing, and setting the record isn’t good enough for her. She wants to do it again,” Yates said. “She also wants the mile record, and she’s hungry for it.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Gaylord’s Katie Berkshire readies for a relay Wednesday against Alpena. (Middle) Berkshire, seated, confers with the Blue Devils coaches. (Photos provided by the Gaylord girls track & field program.)