KINGSFORD — Returning to Division 2 didn’t hinder the St. Ignace girls Saturday as they were crowned Upper Peninsula track and field champions for the fifth straight year.
The Saints, who won in D-3 a year ago, edged defending champion West Iron County 116-107 for the D-2 title this time. Third-place Newberry scored 75 points.
St. Ignace senior Rachel Hetherington was a triple-winner, taking the 100-meter dash in 13.08 seconds, 200 (26.86), anchoring the winning 800 relay and placing second in the 400 (1:02.15).
“It took me a long time to get in shape for the 400,” said Hetherington. “I tend to struggle with the strategy for that race, but it definitely helps me for the sprints. West Iron County is definitely major competition. The relay victory was exciting. It was huge for us to beat them in that relay because it meant more points for our team.
“I definitely came out strong out of the blocks and kept focused. I was really excited when I looked at the seedings and saw I had a chance.”
The Saints scored 36 points in the weight events. Senior Kelley Wright won discus at 107 feet, 2 inches and placed second in shot put (34-11¼). Junior Sarah Smith took shot (35-0¼) and fourth in discus (90-9).
Junior Autumn Orm added a first in long jump (15-3 1/2) for the Saints, who outscored West Iron 47½-20 in the field events.
“On paper, it didn’t look like we were supposed to win,” said St. Ignace coach Trudy Olsen. “We told the girls not to worry about places, but go for time, height and distance. Rachel came up big for us and our field events were huge. We didn’t have a lot of girls, but they worked hard.”
West Iron’s Emmy Kinner won the 400 (1:00.98), helped the winning 1,600 relay and took second in the 200 (27.42). Cassilyn Pellizzer also ran in that relay and won the 300 hurdles (48.19) and placed second in high jump (4-10).
Newberry sophomore Natalie Beaulieu captured the 3,200 (12:21.37) and helped the winning 3,200 relay and placed second in the 800 (2:31.55) and 1,600 (5:28.71).
Manistique sophomore Holly Blowers won the tightly-contested 800 (2:31.29), with Newberry sophomore Bridget Stoetzer third (2:31.62) and Westwood sophomore Katie Etelamaki fourth (2:35.56). Stoetzer also ran in the 3,200 relay.
Blowers also took the 1,600 in a school-record 5:26.3 and placed third in the 400 in a personal-best 1:02.4.
“I’ve been chasing the 1,600 record for three years,” said Blowers, who will be moving to Marquette with her family this summer. “Natalie, Bridget and Katie really pushed me in the 800. This is my last day as an Emerald. I’m going to miss running with them a lot. They’re great runners and quality people. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of my family. I’m just happy to make my parents, brother and sister proud.”
The Emeralds scored 19½ of their 63 points in pole vault, with senior Elisa MacGregor leading the way in second at 8 feet.
PHOTO: St. Ignace's Rachel Hetherington (center) crosses the finish line first in the 100 meters at the U.P. Division 2 Final on Saturday at Kingsford. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)
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.)