Saints Shine Across Board in UPD2 Repeat
By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com
June 3, 2018
KINGSFORD — The St. Ignace girls placed in all 17 events Saturday, repeating as Upper Peninsula Division 2 track champions with 160 points.
Runner-up Iron Mountain scored 90 and Ishpeming placed third at 75.
St. Ignace junior Libby Becker won the 800-meter run in 2 minutes, 24.5 seconds, 1,600 (5:23.52) and 3,200 (11:56.41) and helped the winning 1,600 relay (4:24.82).
“I just wanted to do my best,” she said. “I wanted to PR. But if I didn’t, that’s okay too. I love these conditions. The breeze helped out a lot. It’s hard to run in dead heat.”
Junior Emily Coveyou, also a part of the 1,600 relay, added a first in the 400 (1:04.11) and was runner-up in the 100 (13.56) and 200 (27.73) on this sunny and mild day.
“That wasn’t my best time in the 400,” said Coveyou, who was battling a chest cold. “My starts were better today than usual, but it was harder for me to breathe.”
The Saints started the day by squeezing past Manistique for the 3,200 relay title. They were clocked at 11:04.29, edging the Emeralds by two hundredths of a second.
“Four different girls tried out for the 3,200 relay and it took a while to find the right combination,” said senior Caitlin Dean. “We just tried to keep pace with Manistique. It was exciting when Allison (Smith) went ahead for a while.”
A first trip to the Finals provided plenty of motivation for Saints’ freshman Hallie Marshall, who also helped the 3,200 relay.
“This is the last day of track,” said Marshall, who was also runner-up in the 3,200 (12:54.14) and third in the 1,600 (5:50.28). “I just practiced real hard for this. I’m really excited to be here.
“Our (3,200 relay) team really improved at the Regional (May 18 at Manistique). After finishing so close to Manistique in the Regional, we knew we had a chance.”
Freshman Emmalee Hart placed second in the 800 (2:30.74), shared second with teammate Jessie Frazier in pole vault (7-6) and helped the 1,600 relay.
“It felt great to end the day with a W,” said Hart. “It was a great effort by everybody. It’s nice to have a competitive team. Our seniors show us what we need to do to reach that point.”
St. Ignace senior Linnee Gustafson captured high jump for the fourth straight year at 4-11.
“That was definitely not my best jump, but I’ve been jumping around that height all year,” said Gustafson, who will play basketball at Northwood University next winter. “I just wanted to win it four years in a row. I wasn’t concerned about the height as much as the place.”
The Saints also got a first from Heather Lamb in long jump (14-8½).
Saints coach Trudy Olsen was understandably happy with the team’s effort.
“All the girls did good,” she said. “Linnee winning high jump four years in a row was real special. She works hard the year around. Emily did a great job considering she wasn’t feeling the best. Libby works real hard. That was an amazing performance by her.”
Iron Mountain’s Taylor Talerico won the 100 (13.45), with Olivia Berutti taking the 200 (27.72) and both helping the winning 400 relay (52.76).
Ishpeming’s Katie Loman won the 100 hurdles (16.55), and Berutti was runner-up (16.64). Loman (48.88) won the 300 hurdles just ahead of Talerico (49.34).
Iron River West Iron County had a double-winner in senior Rachael Tefft, who took shot put (36-6½) and discus (112-7).
PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace’s Libby Becker sets the pace in a relay Saturday. (Middle) Ishpeming’s Katie Loman, left, and Iron Mountain’s Taylor Talerico clear the final hurdles in the 300. (Photos by Cara Kamps. Click for more at RunMichigan.com.)
East Kentwood Friends Continuing to Excel as NCAA Champ, Pro Soccer Keeper
By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com
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."
The 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."
Leon 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
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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
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July 14: Portage Central Champ Rolls to Vanderbilt, Writing Next Chapter in Alabama - Read
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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).]