St Ignace Returns to D2 Title Height

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 4, 2017

KINGSFORD — The St. Ignace girls returned to familiar territory Saturday, earning their first Upper Peninsula Division 2 track title in three years with 110 points.

Munising took runner-up honors at 102, and two-time defending champion Ishpeming took third this time with 91.

“We have a great group of girls who work well together,” said St. Ignace coach Trudy Olsen. “They came here hungry. They wanted to regain the title. They did amazing. It’s all about them.”

Prior to 2015, the Saints were crowned champions five years in a row, including a Division 3 title in 2013.

St. Ignace junior Linnee Gustafson matched the meet record in high jump at 5 feet, 4 inches, which she shares with Nicole Vanderlin of Norway from 2011 and 2012.

Gustafson’s winning leap also set a school record, an inch higher than her previous best (5-3) from this year’s Regional meet on May 19.

“I’m excited,” she said. "Today my steps felt perfect. It was a relief to set the school record in the Regional. Now I’m mostly competing with myself.”

Sophomore teammate Emily Coveyou anchored the winning 1,600 relay, clocked at a season-best 4:23.12, and placed second in the 200 (27.86) and 400 (1:01.70)

“It feels good to get the title back.” said Coveyou. “We felt we had a pretty good chance coming in. I think this gives us motivation for next year.”

Classmate Libby Becker held off Iron River West Iron County senior Emmy Kinner for the 800 title. Becker was clocked at 2:27.19, followed by Kinner in a school-record 2:28.02.

“This is very, very, very exciting,” said Becker. “I heard her coming behind me. I was feeling a little pressure, but I turned that pressure into energy. The 800 is a very tough race. The last 200 meters is the most challenging. You get tired, but have to find a way to overcome that.”

Munising senior Michaela Peramaki, who will continue her track & field career at Central Michigan University, won pole vault (8-6), long jump (15-8¾) and the 100 (12.79), the last ahead of Kinner – who had won the 100, 200 and 400 the last two years.

“I had never beaten her (Kinner) before,” said Peramaki. “I did not expect that. I knew if I was going to beat Emmy, I needed a good start and I executed that. In long jump, I didn’t jump as far as I usually do, but it still went well. I want to thank my parents (Matt and Ann) for giving me the God-given talent and all the encouragement they gave me. They have helped me so much.”

St. Ignace senior Alysse Bentley, who was runner-up in pole vault at 8-0, described what it was like to jump with Peramaki.

“It’s good competition,” she said. “I knew I was seeded second and just wanted to finish as high as I was seeded. I was impressed with how hard she runs and her swing up. You can tell she puts a lot of time into it.”

Freshman Madeleine Peramaki (Michaela’s sister) won the 1,600 (5:38.69) and 3,200 (12:58.11) and placed third in the 800 (2:32.13). Junior teammate Alyssa Webber was runner-up in the 3,200 (13:17.80) and third in the 1,600 (5:50.41).

Ishpeming’s Marissa Maino swept the weight events, taking shot put (36-6¼) and discus (108-9½).

Kinner set a meet record in the 400 (59.18), topping the previous (1:00.30) by Kara Dale of Ishpeming in 2010. She also won the 200 (27.25) and was runner-up  in the 100 (12.87).

“This is the first time breaking a minute in the 400, and having all the competition helped me get the school record in the 800,” she said. “I was in lane 2 in the 100, which makes it tough because you’re not next to the fastest runners. Breaking a minute in the 400 is something I really wanted to do, and I had a good day for it.”

Kinner then described how her track career began.

“When I was in eighth grade, I ran track to get out of school,” she said. “Mrs. B (coach Kristi Berutti) saw me running and wanted me to run against some of the high school runners. She believed in me and convinced me to come out. At first I didn’t like it, but it grew on me.”

Newberry senior Taylor Bryant captured the 100 hurdles (16.56) and 300 (49.18), helped the Indians take second in the 800 relay (1:54.40) and placed third in the 100 dash (13.52).

“My starts were okay,” said Bryant. “It felt good coming out in the hurdles. My start could have been a little better in the 100 dash, but it still went all right.”

Ishpeming’s Katie Loman took second in the 100 hurdles (17.07) and 300 (49.33) and anchored the winning 800 relay (1:53.77).

Click for full results.

PHOTO: (Top) St. Ignace's Linnee Gustafson pushes the pace during the 800 relay. (Middle) Newberry’s Taylor Bryant breaks away on the way to winning the 100 hurdles. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)