KINGSFORD — Sophomore Emily Paupore and senior Clara Johnson provided the Negaunee girls with a potent 1-2 punch in the distance races Saturday, helping them earn their first Upper Peninsula Division 1 track title in eight years with 115 points.
With the win, the Miners also broke the seven-season championship streak for Marquette, which came in second this time with 89½ points. Kingsford was third with 84.
“This was a very exciting day,” said Negaunee coach Vickie Paupore. “At the beginning of the season we knew this was a special group of girls, and our seniors were excellent leaders and role models. They fought real hard. It was exciting to see Emily and Clara go 1-2 those races. It’s so inspiring to see the way they care about each other.”
Emily Paupore and Johnson helped the Miners open with a victory in the 3,200-meter relay in 10 minutes, 4.56 seconds. Paupore then captured the 800 (2:23.7), 1,600 (5:15.23) and set the U.P. meet record in the 3,200 (11:25.52), shaving 86 hundredths of a second off the previous record by Marquette’s Lindsey Rudden (11:26.38) in 2013.
“I’ll take anything if it’s a U.P. record,” said Emily, who also owns the school record in the 3,200 (11:11). “Being my fourth race, I knew it’d be tough.
“The past two years I’ve had so much support from Clara. It’s really sad to see she’s going.
“I always get butterflies before a race, which probably helped me in the 800. You can always build off that energy. I’m going to keep myself busy this summer with weight training and local road races to get ready for cross country. I love cross country. That’s my favorite.”
Johnson, who plans to play basketball at Michigan Tech next winter, was runner-up in the 800 (2:24.44), 1,600 (5:16.7) and 3,200 (12:01), all in personal-best times.
“It was nice having somebody to train with the last two years,” said Johnson, who like Paupore was nearly overcome with emotion after their last high school race together. “There was a lot of pressure being the second seed because I knew there would be a lot of people coming after me. I did what I had to do to get second. I PRd, which is what you hope to do at the Finals, especially with this being my last one. In my junior year, I led Emily and pushed her to get better. This year she led and pushed me to get better.”
Sophomore Chloe Norman, also part of the winning 3,200 relay, added a first in the 300 hurdles (47.78), second in high jump (4-8) and third in long jump (15-2½).
“Last year we set our school record in the 3,200 relay (9:46.91),” said Norman. “This time we just wanted to get a good place and conserve energy for other events.”
Marquette’s Rachel Hunt won long jump (15-2½), edging Houghton junior Anabel Needham by a half-inch. Hunt also helped the winning 800 relay (1:49.2) and was runner-up in the 200 (27.35).
Kingsford junior Olivia Allen took the 100 (13.09), retained her 200 (27.07) and 400 (59.51) titles and helped the Flivvers repeat as 1,600-meter relay champions (4:19).
“I’ve been working pretty hard on my starts, and I think I had one of my best starts in the 100,” said Allen. “It wasn’t perfect, but it gives me something to work on for next year.
“We had a great bunch of seniors who helped us so much. The weather was definitely on our side today. The breeze helped cool us off a little on the back stretch.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee’s Emily Paupore checks to make sure teammate Clara Johnson will finish second to her in a race Saturday; they came in first and second, respectively, in three events. (Middle) Kingsford’s Olivia Allen breaks across the line first in the 100-meter dash. (Photos by Cara Kamps. Click for more at 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.)