#TBT: Pioneer Bests Impressive Field

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 22, 2014

Ann Arbor Pioneer owns an MHSAA-best 16 team championships in girls track and field, including a string of seven straight won in Class A from 1985-91.

The Pioneers answered arguably their toughest challenge of that run in 1989, against a Detroit Cass Tech team featuring a record-setting long jumper and a sprint field that remains one of the most star-studded in MHSAA Finals history. 

Pioneer won the June 3, 1989, meet at Eastern Michigan University with 70.5 points to Cass Tech’s 58 and Flint Central’s 33.5. The main event for the second straight season was the 100-meter championship race matching the standout athletes from all three top-placing teams. 

Repeating their finish in the race from 1988, Pioneer’s Crystal Braddock (11.84) outlasted Central’s Patrice Verdun (11.99) and Cass Tech’s Trinette Johnson (12.10) to cross the line first.

Braddock also won the 200 and ran on the victorious 1,600 relay at the 1989 Final, and finished her high school career with four individual and three relays championships. Verdun also finished runner-up to Braddock in the 200 in 1989, but did win the 100 as both a freshman and sophomore in 1986 and 1987, respectively. 

Johnson ran on the winning 400 relay, but left her lasting mark by claiming the long jump title in 19 feet, 8 inches – an MHSAA all-Finals record that continues to stand and was nearly 20 inches longer than the runner-up that day. Johnson also won the long jump the previous spring as a junior. Cass Tech finished runner-up six times during Pioneer's seven-season title string. 

High school was just the start of the trio’s track and field successes. Braddock went on to run at the University of Texas, earning All-America honors four times and helping set a relay record at the World University Games. Verdun and Johnson ran together at Florida State, teaming up on relays that earned them All-America honors. Verdun earned All-America five times for the Seminoles, and Johnson was a six-time All-American, including four times for long jump.

Click to see results from the 1989 LP Class A Final

PHOTO: (Left to right) Detroit Cass Tech’s Trinette Johnson, Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Crystal Braddock and Flint Central’s Patrice Verdun head toward the finish line during the 100-meter championship race at the 1989 MHSAA Class A Lower Peninsula Final. 

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

By Jason Juno
Special for MHSAA.com

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/RunMichigan.com.)