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.

Lake Linden-Hubbell, Stephenson Share in UPD3; Jokela Joins Elite Club

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 4, 2023

KINGSFORD – Lake Linden-Hubbell got to the top with first-place power. Stephenson won only two events. 

But there are multiple ways to win an MHSAA Finals championship in track & field. And the Lakes and Eagles tied for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 girls title Saturday. 

Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. Lake Linden-Hubbell got a little assist from two-time reigning champion Ontonagon in the final event, the 1,600 relay. The Lakes led in the standings by eight points, but they didn’t have a 1,600-meter relay team. Stephenson could have won the team title with a win in that event, but Ontonagon’s relay team proved solid again and forced the Eagles to settle for the runner-up spot in the race and the eight points that come with it.

The Lakes last won team Finals titles during a three-year run from 2017-19. For Stephenson, it had been since 1993 when the team competed in Class C. The Eagles were runners-up last year.

Lake Linden-Hubbell sophomore Emily Jokela entered with the fastest Regional times in all four of her events, and she won all four of them Saturday – the 100, 200, 400 and 300 hurdles. She became just the sixth female to win four individual events at an MHSAA Finals.

The only one she didn’t win a title in last year was the 100 dash; she has that now. The only school record she didn’t have going into Saturday was in the 200; she has that now as well. She broke it by one tenth of a second.

“It feels great,” Jokela said. “I was very worried about running today because it was so hot.”

Her 300 hurdles time of 45.63 seconds set a UPD3 Finals record. Ontonagon’s Lori Wardynski had the record before (47.27).

Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay.Teammate Abi Codere repeated in the 100 hurdles, and their 400 relay team (Codere, Rebecca Lyons, Isabella Tampas and Cleo Milkey) also won.

Stephenson’s wins came in the 3,200 relay (Faith Cappaert, Joelle Beaudo, Kayela Putnam and Jada Kuntze) and the long jump (Sarah Labs).

Ontonagon also won the 800 relay (Lilly McIntyre, Alli Bobula, Kylee Uotila and Makennah Uotila).

“I’m sad we didn’t get a title this year, but the past two back-to-back U.P. titles we had made my entire career,” senior Makennah Uotila said. “I’ve enjoyed it so much. The relays were a big part of our U.P.  titles, so to still have strong relays is very important.”

Newberry’s Kaylen Clark won the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. She was the runner-up at the UPD3 cross country meet in the fall and in both events at the UPD2 track meet last season. Taylor Adams of Norway won the 800.

In the field, Mariska Laurila of Carney-Nadeau was the champion in the discus, Rudyard’s Alicia Cheney won the high jump, Dollar Bay’s Nora Keranen won the pole vault after winning long jump in 2022, and Brimley’s Grace Hill repeated in the shot put.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Lake Linden-Hubbell's Emily Jokela, second from right, wins the 400 on Saturday. (Middle) Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. (Below) Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay. (Photos by Cara Kamps/