Spartans' Sprinter Driven to Finish Fast

May 1, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Sarita Dotson is one of those athletes who always is focused full-speed ahead -- and on those rare days when she's not, she puts on that her usual determined face as much for herself as to be an example for her younger teammates. 

But there's an impressive depth to how the Battle Creek Lakeview junior explains what has driven her to become one of the state's fastest high school sprinters this spring. 

She likes to keep her past races in the past. But for the occasional practice when Dotson needs an extra boost, she will recall last season, when she qualified 14th in failing to make the MHSAA Division 1 Final in the 100 meters and also fell just three spots short of making the semifinals in the 200.

Or she can draw on something closest to her heart, like her relationship with her grandfather, Grover Dotson.

"He really sets the bar high for me, in a lot of things in my life," Sarita said. "He moved here from Tennessee with 30 dollars in his pocket. That makes me think."

Dotson also has set a high bar for herself -- and is taking some speedy steps toward achieving lofty goals in the next month.  

Dotson received one of Second Half's High 5s this week after earning the Most Valuable Female Athlete award for the second-straight season at Friday's Eldon Draime/Al Geisler Memorial All-City Meet at Battle Creek Harper Creek. She won the 100 (12.5 seconds), 200 (25.5) and long jump (16 feet, 3.5 inches) and ran on the winning 800 relay as her team also won the meet championship by more than 100 points. She also won those three individual events and was part of a first-place 800 relay the weekend before as Lakeview won its own Bill Dolezal Invitational.

Her times already are surpassing those she ran at last season's MHSAA Finals, when she posted a 12.51 in the 100 and a 25.99 in the 200 prelims. and Dotson hasn't even warmed up in the 100 yet -- she ran an 11.99 to win her Regional earlier in 2011.

Those times have brought her personal high bar into focus. Dotson has her sights set on the Lakeview records set by three-time MHSAA champion Erica Mann, who owns the school's fastest 100 in 11.81 seconds and the fastest 200 in 24.2 and went on to run at Michigan State University.

Ironically, it was Mann who first let Lakeview coach Becky Pryor in on the next talent headed her way after seeing Dotson run at one a club meet.

“(Mann) said, ‘Hey Coach, this girl is going to be pretty good.’ I asked what grade she was going to be in and she said ‘fifth,’” Pryor remembered. “I said, ‘Fifth? Really?’

"Even at that point, you could tell she was an athlete.”

Dotson humbly admitted she's always been fast: "In elementary school, I would race against all the boys, and I would always win," she said. But the winning carried over to her first competitive races in third grade.

She still looks up to Mann, who Dotson calls a "beautiful athlete inside and out." But although their physical traits differ -- Pryor said Mann was taller with long legs, while Dotson has more of a typical sprinter build fueled by strength and power -- the coach sees the same drive in Dotson as what pushed her champion predecessor.

"She's very fast, and she works very hard," Pryor said. "She doesn't slack off in practice, and she's a good leader on our team.

"She wants to be competing against the best."

PHOTO: Lakeview's Sarita Dotson (in purple) just missed qualifying for the championship heat at last season's MHSAA Division 1 Final.

Blissfield's Miller Set for Senior Success After 3 Junior-Year Finals Trips

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

August 15, 2023

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. 

Southeast & BorderAs 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.” 

Miller pulls up for a jumper during last season’s basketball postseason run.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 DonnellyDoug 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.)