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.
“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.
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.)
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.
As 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.”
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 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.)