HUDSONVILLE – Buckley capitalized on the balance of junior distance star Aiden Harrand and freshman standout sprinter Brooklyn Fraeze to rack up the points needed to win the Lower Peninsula Division 4 track & field championship with 52 points Saturday at Hudsonville.
The team title was Buckley’s first in girls track & field.
Harrand won the 1,600 for the third-consecutive year and added titles in the 800 and the 3,200, leading her team to the championship. Those three wins followed her cross country Finals championship from the fall.
“I think it’s kind of fun,” she said about racking up the titles. “My team motivates me, I mean we’re in it as a group and my points matter, so I do it for them.
“It was a cool experience to have, winning those two,” she said about the two longest races, the 1,600 and 3,200, which were the hardest of the overall meet due to the low 90s/high 80s heat and searing sun all day. Race officials allowed the unique opportunity for coaches to spray the runners with water and give them water bottles.
“The water on the backstretch was so nice, and I’m really glad it was there,” Harrand said about the unusual experience. “My coaches were spraying me, and that was so nice to have.
“And our girls took first overall, so we’re really excited for that. Me and Brooklynn (Fraeze) had lots of points, and our 4 x 400 (eighth place) got us the last points we needed. It was amazing, and this is why we do it.”
Fraeze, a freshman, won 100 dash with a personal best of 12.47. She added a runner-up finish in the 200.
“I was like, oh my gosh I’m doing it, the finish line is right there,” she said about the last 10 meters of the 100, as she finished just ahead of Molly Brown of Addison (12.57).
Brown later won the 100 hurdles.
“The girl who got second place, I felt her at like the halfway point and I was telling myself ‘I’ve got to go,’” Brown said of the hurdles win. “And after I finished the race, I was thinking about it and I heard my family yelling for me. I saw my dad and I started crying; there’s just a lot of emotions.”
Her team finished sixth.
Portland St. Patrick was the team runner-up, just three points back at 49. Indian River Inland Lakes took third, Fowler was fourth and Hillsdale Academy took fifth.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart senior Anna Plum successfully defended her 300 hurdles title.
“I think I was actually seeded third, but I had high expectations since I won last year and I really wanted that again,” Plum said. “It’s kind of like validation.
“We put in great practices, and God, honestly,” she credited as factors for her win and the team’s focus. “We are Sacred Heart and believe in God and put a lot of trust in that.
“My feet are pretty hot right now,” Plum added about the weather conditions. “I bet I’ve got some pretty big blisters. I don’t even know how the 3,200 runners do it. It was insane today.”
Rylee Scheurer led St. Patrick by winning the 200 (25.82), and Natalie Wandrie keyed Inland Lakes’ pursuit with wins in the shot put (39-8) and discus (128-11). Frankfort in the 400 (50.68), Fowler in the 800 (1:47.17) and Hillsdale Academy in the 1,600 (4:08.08) and 3,200 (9:57.73) were relay champions, and Beal City’s Kaylee Locke won the 400 (58.55).
Marlette’s Olivia Findlay won the high jump (5-4) and Wyoming Potter’s House Christian’s Sohanny Gonzalez-Castillo won the long jump (17-4). Deckerville’s Rebecca Moeller was first in the pole vault (10-6).
PHOTOS (Top) Buckley's Aiden Harrand sets the pace in the 1,600 on Saturday. (Middle) Addison's Molly Brown celebrates her win in the 100 hurdles. (Below) Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart's Anna Plum clears a hurdle during the 300. (Photos by Ken Swart/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.)