JENISON — Grass Lake coach Anthony Cole and Pewamo-Westphalia mentor Scott Werner had a dilemma after their teams tied for the Lower Peninsula Division 3 team championship Saturday.
It boiled down to this: Co-champions, but only one trophy available.
They settled it in a classic fashion: Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Even though there was a bit of orientation, first “We had to figure out how to do it,” Werner said. “We had to get into sync first, and it came down to best two out of three. And, fittingly, it came down to the last one.”
In this case, Werner’s paper covered Cole’s rock, and the Pirates went home with the trophy.
It was about the only disappointment the Grass Lake team suffered on the day as the Warriors also won the boys title.
Pewamo-Westphalia led most of Saturday, but the Warriors forged the tie when its 1,600 relay team, anchored by Lexie Bargesser, finished second in that event.
It was Grass Lake’s first MHSAA title in girls track & field since winning back-to-back Class D championships in 1977 and 1978, while it was the second in a row for the Pirates, who won the team title in 2019.
“We’re so happy to be back,” Werner said. “We had a team we thought was good enough to win it last year, too.”
It was the fifth girls title overall for Pewamo-Westphalia, which has finished first or second at five of the last eight Division 3 state meets.
“We like being on that podium,” Werner said, grinning.
Depth played a role for the Pirates.
Senior Sophie Thelen finished third in the 100, second in the 200, third in the pole vault and was on the 800 relay that finished fourth. Freshman Saige Martin had a big day, taking second in the 100 hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles.
“We also scored in some relays,” Werner said. “It was all over the board. Everyone stepped up."
Cole was pleased and a little surprised by his team’s performance.
“If you had told me (Friday) that we would do this today and our kids would perform the way they did, I would have probably laughed,” Cole said. “It was a nice surprise. We knew it would be close. The girls took care of business all day, and sure enough, we were there. Co-champs isn’t bad."
The Warriors were happy to share, and Bargesser played a key role Saturday, winning the 100, 200, and the 400 (in record time) while also anchoring the 1,600 relay that finished second.
Kailee Sandoval also had a big day,
“She ran an outstanding 800 in this heat, and ran a great leg to start the 4x400 relay,” Cole said. “She ran her butt off. It was her senior meet, and she left it all out there. I’m so happy for her.”
Byron finished third on the strength of record-setting performances by senior Sarah Marvin and a strong performance by fraternal twin Becky, both in the throwing events.
Sarah Marvin set a Lower Peninsula Division 3 mark in the discus at 160 feet even and set an all-Finals record in the shot put with a throw of 50 feet, 9½ inches, making her the first high school girl in Michigan to throw for 50 or more feet at the state meet. She missed setting an all-meet record in the discus by 3 feet, 9 inches.
“I would have liked to have broken the MHSAA record,” she said. “But I’m so happy to have (the Division 3) record.”
She was just as happy for her sister, who had personal bests in the shot and discus.
“She wanted a second (place) and a second, but all you can do is be better than yourself, and she did that in both events,” Sarah Marvin said of her twin. “I think it was a fantastic day for her.”
It also was a fantastic day for Ithaca junior Lani Bloom, who won the 800 in 2:13.67 and the 1,600 in a meet record 4:48.89. Mason County Central's Nyah Tyron swept the hurdles races with a 15.36 in the 100 and 45.01 in the 300.
But as for regrets, Cole had one on what was a pretty good day for his team.
“I’m pretty hyper-competitive,” he said, grinning. “I should not have thrown rock that third time. I’m usually a scissors guy, but I went rock and (Werner) threw paper for the third time. I just couldn’t believe it.”
And then he joined his team, beaming at their accomplishment.
PHOTOS: (Top) Grass Lake's Lexie Bargesser crosses first with Pewamo-Westphalia's Sophie Thelen right behind in one of their races together Saturday. (Middle) Byron's Becky and Sarah Marvin show their medals after dominating the throws. (Photos by Tim Robinson.)
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.)