By Dan D’Addona
Special for Second Half
ZEELAND — It was a battle of familiar opponents in a familiar place with the Lower Peninsula Division 2 girls track & field title on the line.
Zeeland East went toe-to-toe with Ottawa-Kent Conference Green rival Holland Christian on Saturday at Zeeland Stadium — and every point counted.
Led by strong field events and hurdles, the Chix held off the runner-up Maroons by just two points, 64-62.
“Coming into the season, we knew it was a possibility with how close it was. We didn’t think we were losing that many points, and we had Maleigh (Vanderbeek) get hurt and Lia (Maggini) get hurt and Kianna Em transferred, and we had to work for it. But our girls never took it for granted,” Zeeland East coach Josh Vork said. “They knew they had to come out and work. Every day at practice you could see it. They wanted this to be special.”
Detroit Country Day was third (42), followed by Lansing Catholic (40), Dearborn Divine Child (35.5), St. Clair Shores South Lake (23), Corunna (21), Bridgeport (20), Adrian (19) and Battle Creek Harper Creek (19) among the top 10.
It was a strong day for Zeeland East’s Suenomi Norinh. The senior won three events and finished second in a fourth.
Norinh won the high jump at 5-8, edging Divine Child’s Avery Budz (5-7). Zeeland East teammate Sophie Riemersma took fifth (5-5).
Norinh also won the long jump (18-1¾) and the 100-meter hurdles (14.63), taking second in the 300 hurdles (44.91).
“This means the world to us. We have been working so hard for this,” Norinh said. “I am so proud of my teammates. I was going to be really upset if we lost, and I am really, really happy that we won — going out with a bang.”
Divine Child’s Allie Filiatraut won the discus in 136-0, edging the Zeeland East duo of Taylor Waterway (135-0) and Aliyah Boeve (134-1). In the shot put, Whitehall’s Brianna Copley won with a throw of 42-5, holding off Boeve (40-9).
With just five athletes scoring, Holland Christian kept it close until the end of the meet, winning the final relay to close within two points of the Chix.
Holland Christian’s Kayla Windemuller won the 1,600-meter run in a Division 2 meet-record time of 4:49.55.
Windemuller, Mady Vander Zwaag, Michelle Kuipers and Elizabeth Bruxvoort won the 3,200 relay in 9:10.01. Kuipers, Dolly Slenk, Bruxvoort and Vander Zwaag won the 1,600 relay (4:00.09).
Kuipers won the 800 (2:13.49), and Windemuller was fourth (2:14.68).
“Running with these girls, it is just like, ‘We got this.’” Kuipers said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Lansing Catholic sisters Olivia Theis (10:37.08) and Jaden Theis (10:48.52) went 1-2 in the 3,200, finishing ahead of Windemuller (10:58.87).
“It was all about the team,” Windemuller said. “We knew we had a chance at winning, but finishing second and getting a trophy is incredible. I am really happy I could run four events at a high level. I gave everything I had so I could score points for the team.”
Allendale’s Brianna Bredeweg set a Division 2 meet record to win the pole vault in 12-7.
Bridgeport’s Payten Williams won the 100 meters (12.06) and 200 (24.73).
Country Day’s Jasmine Powell, Taylor Aibana, Ahvon Mitchell and Alexis Officer won the 800 relay (1:45.10). The same quartet won the 400 relay in 49.14.
Ludington’s Emma Fountain won the 400 meters in 57.49.
Harper Creek’s Arabia Bacon won the 300 hurdles in 44.74, ahead of Norinh (44.91).
PHOTOS: (Top) Zeeland East's girls pose with their championship trophy Saturday after winning the LPD2 title. (Middle) Lansing Catholic's Jaden Theis (1), Olivia Theis (2) and Holland Christian's Kayla Windemuller (3) set the pace. (Photos by Janina Pollatz. Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)
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.)