Standout Leads Corunna in Close Finish

June 1, 2019

By Matt Schoch
Special for Second Half

ZEELAND – It’s essentially an individual sport, but the importance of teamwork was on display Saturday at the MHSAA Division 2 Girls Track & Field Finals at Zeeland Stadium.

Teammates pushed each other to the end with one-two finishes in the 100- and 1,600-meter races, highlighting a day that had a three-and-a-half-hour delay and then another of 45 minutes – with one more delay of more than two hours for good measure.

In the 100, freshman Chaniya Madison of Bridgeport edged teammate Payten Williams, last year’s champion, at 12.41 seconds.

“I was trying to run against her, keep up to her, push her, go harder – and it made me go harder,” Madison said. “It’s exciting. I don’t really feel like it’s real. It feels fake, like a dream come true.”

Holland Christian kept the tradition alive in the 1,600 after Kayla Windemuller won the last three Finals titles.

This time, it was junior Gillian Fiene running a 4:57.05 to top second-place Michelle Kuipers, together keeping the Maroons on top of the podium, both noting their faith in a post-race interview.

“I knew I was running it with God and with Michelle, and to know that I have those two walking right alongside me is just such a great feeling and the most comforting thing in the world,” said Fiene, who moved to Holland Christian this year from a school in Illinois.

Added Kuipers: “I don’t feel the pressure as much (from the program’s past success), just more of excitement just to keep going to see what we can do as a team. Just to see how God has blessed us this year even more.”

The pair also helped Holland Christian to a title in the 1,600 relay at 3:58.40.

However, in the team competition, Corunna carried the day with 54 points, while Holland Christian was second with 49. Rounding out the top five were Zeeland East (37), East Grand Rapids (33), and Bridgeport (31).

Corunna was carried by a standout day from junior Hannah Hollister, who won individual titles in the 300-meter hurdles (44.12) and 200 meters (25.26). She also anchored a 400-meter relay winner in which Corunna (49.56) edged Frankenmuth by one hundredth of a second, coming from behind for the win.

Hollister also took third in the 110 hurdles, won by Marysville’s Kaia Scheffler (14.36).

Hollister said she ran the full slate of events last week at the Regional to prepare for what turned out to be a long day.

“It was kind of hard to bounce back from running the 200 prelims and then 15 minutes later in the 100 hurdles, so I’m happy with how that went,” Hollister said. "At the beginning, it was a little rough with all the nerves and not being able to run our first race, but then after that, it was almost nice and it gave us a longer break.”

Another multiple champ, Adrian sophomore Marr Day’Anna, won the high jump competition at 5 feet, 4 inches, and the long jump at 18-10.25, a Division 2 Finals record.

“I was going for 19 (feet),” Day’Anna said. “But I’m happy that I could jump this and beat the state record. My last couple jumps in my last couple meets were really good, so once I got to state meet, I was just working my way up to this.”

Day’Anna said her second-place finish in the long jump last season served as motivation throughout this spring.

Rounding out the field events, senior Mohogany Wells of Lansing Sexton won the shot put at 42 feet, 8 inches, Zeeland East senior Taylor Waterway won the discus at 135-2 and senior Tricia Pierce of Ortonville Brandon won the pole vault at 12-6.

On the track, senior Jakarri Alven of Grand Rapids Catholic Central won the 400 meters at 57.55 seconds, her third Finals title in four seasons and after missing last season’s championship meet with an injury.

St. Johns junior Taryn Chapko won the 800 at 2:15.14, and Plainwell junior Makenna Veen won the 3,200 at 10:38.35.

Eighth-seeded East Grand Rapids pulled an upset in the 3,200 relay, winning at 9:15.00 to edge top-seeded Holland Christian, which set the meet record last year. Holland Christian took second this year at 9:21.15 after its third runner was hobbled with an injury down the stretch.

Williamston won the 800 relay at 1:43.59.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Corunna's Hannah Hollister clears a hurdle while leading her team to the LP Division 2 championship. (Middle) Holland Christian's Gillian Fiene paces the field on the way to a win. (Photos by Kevin Fowler. Click to see more from

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.)