Title IX at 50: Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 31, 2022

Michigan’s illustrious track & field history is filled with legends who have achieved glory at every race distance and in every field event.

But the sprints arguably remain the featured attraction at any meet – and Shayla Mahan’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals performance on June 3, 2006, at East Kentwood remains among the most glorious and awe-inspiring over nearly a century of MHSAA history.

The then-Detroit Mumford junior’s 11.54-second finish in the 100 meters was nearly four tenths better than the runner-up, and 16 hundredths of a second faster than the previous all-Finals record run by Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Crystal Braddock in 1998.

Later in the meet, Mahan covered the 200 meters in 23.74 seconds – nearly a second faster than the field and almost a half-second faster than the previous all-Finals record of 24.20 run by Southfield-Lathrup’s Tenisha Griggs in 2003. Along the way, Mahan also ran on the winning 800-meter relay.

Among running events since the move from yards to meters during the early 1980s, Mahan’s records are the oldest remaining on the girls all-Finals board. Some all-time greats have made runs at those records – Detroit Cass Tech’s Kyra Jefferson, East Kentwood’s Sekayi Bracey, White Lake Lakeland’s Grace Stark and Detroit Renaissance’s Kaila Jackson are among those who have come closest to matching Mahan’s Finals bests. Even Mahan the following spring as a senior missed improving on her milestones, running an 11.76 in the 100 and 24.11 in the 200 to again win both.

Jackson this weekend may have the best opportunity of anyone over the last 15 seasons. The senior’s best times in those races this spring are 11.52 and 23.85, respectively, as she seeks Saturday at Rockford High School to win her third Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals title in the 200 and second in the 100 (and she might have been running for fourth and third championships, respectively, if the 2020 season hadn’t been canceled because of COVID-19).

Mahan went on to run at South Carolina, earning All-America honors multiple seasons. She also competed at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials.

Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.

Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights

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May 17: 
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May 10: 
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May 3: 
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April 26: 
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April 19: 
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April 12: 
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April 5: 
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March 29: 
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March 22: 
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March 15: 
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March 8: 
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March 1: 
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Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: 
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Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
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Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
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Oct. 5: 
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Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: 
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Sept. 14: 
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Sept. 7: 
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Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read

PHOTO Detroit Mumford's Shayla Mahan finishes first in the 100 meters at the 2006 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. (Photo by Run Michigan.)

East Kentwood Friends Continuing to Excel as NCAA Champ, Pro Soccer Keeper

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

August 8, 2022

Maia Perez and Gabriela Leon saw it coming.

In fact, the two 2017 East Kentwood all-staters each predicted remarkable post-high school success for each other long before graduation.

Perez was a four-year letterwinner as a soccer goalkeeper who led the Falcons to the Division 1 Semifinals as a sophomore and now plays professionally in Los Angeles. Leon, an all-state pole vaulter in high school, recently became University of Louisville's first NCAA champion in that event.

The two say the success doesn't come as a surprise to either, that part of that success can be explained because they continually pushed each other athletically at East Kentwood.

"Obviously there are a lot of good athletes at East Kentwood, and she was one of those amazing athletes," Perez said of Leon. "When she accomplished something, I wanted to do something big, too. I was all-state in soccer, she was all-state in track, and it was nice to have someone push you, even on days when you didn't feel like being pushed."

Leon credits Perez for helping her grasp the difference between toiling as an ordinary athlete and rising to an elite status as early as the ninth grade.

"When you see high-caliber athletes in the state finals, I think you see the struggles that others don't see," Leon said. "I saw what she was doing, and I learned from that. I learned, and I think she did too, that you have to work hard to be good, to achieve your goals. There is definitely mutual respect between us."

East Kentwood track & fieldThe two met as freshmen and quickly became friends. They originally had soccer in common as both played junior varsity as freshmen before Perez was promoted to varsity later that spring. The teammates began hanging out together off the field, be it at the beach or while taking the school's advanced physical education class together. By the time they were sophomores, however, it had become apparent that Perez's future – despite being a good basketball player – would remain in soccer, while Leon – who had also lettered in volleyball and cross country – narrowed her focus to track.

Both excelled after leaving East Kentwood. Leon had earned her first top-eight MHSAA Finals places as a sophomore, and as a senior placed fourth in pole vault, third in long jump and ran on the fourth-place 400 relay and third-place 1,600 relay as East Kentwood finished third in Lower Peninsula Division 1. Her high school personal records were 13 feet in pole vault and 18-11 in long jump (with a wind-aided 19-7). She broke Louisville's indoor and outdoor records in the pole vault as a sophomore and never looked back. She won the 2022 NCAA outdoor championship in June with a jump of 15-feet, one inch (4.6 meters) while becoming just the fourth collegian ever to amass three clearances over 4.6 meters.

Perez was a three-time Ottawa-Kent Conference Red soccer pick in high school who helped the Falcons in 2015 to their best postseason finish, when they lost to 1-0 in a Semifinal to eventual Division 1 champ Saline. She went on to play at University of Hartford after attracting interest from other programs including Western Michigan, Coastal Carolina and Pittsburgh. She wound up playing every minute of all 37 of her starts as a sophomore and junior while missing just 45 minutes over 19 games as a freshman. COVID-19 wiped out the program's season when Perez was a senior. Still, she is eighth on the school's all-time saves list with 206 while ranking 10th in shutouts with 12.

Following college, Perez was signed by the Los Angeles-based Angel City FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. While she wasn't drafted by any NWSL club, Perez impressed coaches enough during a tryout to land a spot on the team's "Discovery List" as the youngest of three goalkeepers.

"Things have been going real well for me there," Perez said. "I feel like I've improved a ton."

While Perez credits Leon with pushing her as an athlete, she said the two didn't necessarily dwell on what they accomplished in high school. They did, however, compare notes on the similarities it took for both to succeed, both physically and mentally.

"We didn't necessarily talk about (honors) a lot," Perez said. "We both knew what each other accomplished, and I don't think we need to talk about it. But I just knew one day she would be really good in track."

East Kentwood soccerLeon said the trait which stuck out about Perez in high school was her competitive drive. She hated to lose, Leon said.

"She was always a very impressive athlete," Leon noted. "She always had (success) in her because she was a real hard worker. Going into high school you could see her work ethic. We had a mutual friendship, and I saw what a work ethic and being humble could do for you."

As for herself, Leon, like many athletes, explored playing many sports. But she always came back to track.

"I always wanted to be the best athlete I could be," she said. "I was never just satisfied with just doing something. I always had this deep desire to perform to the best of my ability."

Perez remembers the first sport which interested her was skateboarding. In fact, the first time Perez met then-East Kentwood coach John Conlon, she told him she was only marginally interested in soccer. Conlon, who led East Kentwood’s girls and boys programs to a combined 654 wins and the boys varsity to five Division 1 championships, quickly made a convert of Perez.

"It's funny how things work out," Perez said. "I was looking for something that I could really be a part of, and now it's my job and I'm so happy I can say I'm getting paid for something I really like."

2021-22 Made in Michigan

Aug. 3: 3-Time Finals Champ Cherishes Memories, Considering Golf Future - Read
Aug. 1: 
Lessons Learned on Track Have Jibowu's Business Surging to Quick Success - Read
July 28: 
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July 25: 
2005 Miss Basketball DeHaan Cherishing Newest Title: 1st-Time Mom - Read
July 21: 
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July 14:
Portage Central Champ Rolls to Vanderbilt, Writing Next Chapter in Alabama - Read
July 12: Coaching Couple Passing On Knowledge, Providing Opportunities for Frankfort Wrestlers - Read
June 30: Hrynewich's Star Continuing to Rise with Olympic, Pro Sports Arrivals - Read

PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from left, Gabriela Leon competes for the East Kentwood and University of Louisville track & field teams, and Maia Perez plays soccer for East Kentwood and trains for the NWSL's Angel City FC. (Middle) Leon holds up her NCAA championship trophy in June. (Below) Perez is one of three keepers for Angel City FC. [Photos courtesy of East Kentwood's athletic department (2017 soccer), Run Michigan (2017 track & field), the Louisville athletic department (2022 track & field) and Will Navarro/Angel City FC (2022 soccer).]