By Geoff Mott
Special to Second Half
COMSTOCK PARK – Finishing her prep career as the most decorated athlete in MHSAA Girls Track and Field Finals history, the only thing missing for Reed City senior Sami Michell was a trophy.
She managed to knock that off the list late at Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 meet at Comstock Park High School.
A year after becoming just the second female to win four MHSAA titles at one meet, Michell won four events again, claiming championships in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles, the 200 dash and long jump.
For those scoring at home, Michell has 12 MHSAA titles, destroying the Lower Peninsula girls record of 10 individual titles for a career.
She scored 40 points for her school and stood alone on the podium to accept the massive runner-up trophy. If rules would have allowed Michell to compete in a couple more events, she might have edged Pewamo-Westphalia, which won its first girls MHSAA team title since a Division 4 crown in 2010. Pewamo-Westphalia finished with 54 points.
“I’m taking this home with me … at least until my open house,” Michell said. “I might look like a one-person team up here, but it doesn’t feel like it. I got a lot of support from the boys team and everybody else.
“It’s so amazing right now. I’ve always wanted a trophy in volleyball or track, and now I have one.”
Michell missed her chance at a trophy in volleyball last fall. She completely tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, had reconstructive surgery in mid-September and spent six months rehabbing the injury so she could defend her track titles.
“I don’t know how I did it again,” Michell wondered after the races. “This has been the worst year with the knee surgery and losing out on volleyball and all the indoor track meets. Then we had awful weather, and it was hard to get ready this spring.
“But I never gave up hope on winning four more titles. Even when the injury happened, I never said I was done. The toughest part of this was the physical part. Mentally it was depressing. (But) I have supportive parents, family and friends help me work through it.”
A year after breaking three MHSAA meet records, Michell was able to win a fourth-straight title in the 100 hurdles with a 14.04-second finish – a full second ahead of the runner-up. After setting the all-Finals record in the 300 hurdles last season, Michell won the title again with a 45.18 finish. She won a third title in the long jump, clearing 17 feet, 3¼ inches.
Her last title of the day came in the 200 dash, an event Michell wasn’t as confident about winning. She was even with Buchanan’s Brianna Dinneen – the 100 dash champion (12.22) – with 50 meters left. She outkicked Dinneen down the stretch, winning the race in 24.98.
“You usually don’t run your best in the last event because you’re tired, but I just felt smooth through the race,” said Michell, who’ll run collegiately at the University of Michigan next year. “I’m so happy with this finish.”
While Michell admitted she never dreamed of 12 MHSAA titles, two runner-up finishes and a total of 16 Finals medals, she was determined to be successful at this stage at an early age.
“I’ve wanted to have this type of finish since I was in sixth grade,” said Michell, a 4.0 grade-point average student who is undecided on a major. “I still have the pink shoes from my freshman year. You always remember your first state title.”
Pewamo-Westphalia picked up big points with wins in the 400 and 1,600 relays and a runner-up finish in the 800 relay. Kenzie Weber, who won the pole vault by clearing 11-foot-7, joined Sasha Platte, Jenna Thelen and senior Tori Klein in winning the 400 relay in 50.85.
“It’s just incredible,” said Weber, a junior. “Our coach did a great job planning our workouts and getting ready for this meet.”
Pewamo-Westphalia coach Scott Werner is in his 13th year coaching the boys and girls and was pleased his girls awarded him his third MHSAA title as coach. Werner, who won a boys Division 4 title in 2008, knew his program was good enough to make the jump to Division 3 this year and compete.
“We have a strong, deep program,” Werner said. “We knew Frankenmuth and Benzie (Central) would be good, and they have some top performers and our kids stepped up to that level. It’s been a tough season with rain and cold during meets, and I think that made our team a little tougher.”
Senior Erica Nurenberg ran the first leg of the Pirates’ title run in the 1,600 relay, helping the team finish in 4:03.56.
“We kept getting rain-outs all year, so once we got to today and it was a nice day, it was like there was nothing to worry about,” Nurenberg said. “This is really exciting, especially to get a state title in the relay. We were really nervous, and we finished seventh last year. But coach said he trusted us to do well, and he was right.”
Manistee sophomore Annie Fuller set the bar even higher for next year after breaking the 800 run Division 3 meet record last spring. She broke her own record while winning the 800 again Saturday, finishing the race in 2:11.77. Fuller also won the 1,600 with a 4:56.11.
“I ran a real good race last week, and the plan was to peak here,” Fuller said. “It was real fun to break my old record, and now I have to shoot for it next year.”
Bridgeport junior Ce’aira Richardson shook off a knee injury to claim the 400 dash title in 56.92. It was her second-best time of the season.
“That’s amazing by itself,” Richardson said. “To have that knee injury and still be able to peak … it brings up a lot of emotions. I’m so proud of myself today.”
Charlevoix sophomore Amber Way also broke an LP Division 3 Finals record, winning the 3,200 run in 10:48.48. Her personal record was 10:52.
“I had a little doubt about winning it coming in,” said Way, who beat runner-up Raquel Serna of St. Louis by 10 seconds. “I knew I could give it a good fight. My first mile time was really early, and I slowed down a bit and I wish I hadn’t.
“I was able to finish strong. It’s an amazing day.”
Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port junior Kayla Deering won back-to-back MHSAA titles in the shot put, winning the event this time with a 42-foot-11½ finish. Yet, she stood at the award stand with a little disappointment.
“I really wanted to clear 43 feet,” said Deering, who finished fifth in the event as a freshman. “In practice I’ve hit 44 feet. I’m not surprised that I won, but I was real surprised to match my personal best right on the dot.
“Where I’m from, nobody can go over 40 feet. I still come here expecting to win. I don’t change the way I compete when I get here. But now I have more motivation to at least clear 43 feet.”
Adrian Madison’s Ashley Bussing easily won the discus with a toss of 135 feet, while Durand’s Marissa Johnson won the high jump, clearing 5-5.
After a third-place finish at last year’s Finals in the 3,200 relay, Grandville Calvin Christian came back on a mission with three returning runners.
Seniors Ashley Jourdan and Raechel Broek, along with sophomore Emma Doorn, welcomed junior Emma Augustyn to the squad, and they captured the 3,200 relay in 9:38.02. Charlevoix finished runner-up with a 9:44.25.
“She was our secret weapon,” Doorn said of Augustyn.
Augustyn, who ran the third leg, is a sprinter by trade and had never run 800 meters until this year.
“I knew we had potential to win this,” Augustyn said. “We all run cross country together, so we’re real close.”
Frankenmuth, which had won three team titles in four seasons, finished fourth overall with 35.5 points. Sydney Bronner, Rachel Crompton, Sarah Beulla and Angie Ritter won the 800 relay for the Eagles with a 1:45.16 finish.
PHOTO: Reed City's Sami Michell leaps a hurdle on the way to one of her four MHSAA championships Saturday at Comstock Park. (Photo by Jackie Gomez. Click to see more photo coverage from RunMichigan.com.)