A family, friendly rivalry

Munising siblings, Negaunee friends shine on track and in field

Above, Negaunee’s Clara Johnson (left) and Emily Paupore compete duirng the 1,600 meter run at the MHSAA Division 1 U.P. Finals Saturday, June 3, in Kingsford. (Journal photo by Shannon Stieg). Below right, Munising’s Madeleine Peramaki of Munising puts her best foot forward in the girls' long jump during the Skyline Central Conference meet held at North Dickinson in Felch in May, 2016. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Burt Angeli)

MARQUETTE — Sometimes it isn’t easy for siblings to compete in sports.

Rivalries can erupt, favoritism can occur and relationships can be strained because of it. However, for some families, this isn’t really a problem and that is the case for the Peramaki sisters, Michaela and Madeleine of Munising.

The two talented athletes excel both on the track and in the field and have been doing so for years. You’d think with two very competitive sisters that things might be tense between the two of them, but they insist that it isn’t the case.

“There’s not really a rivalry,” Michaela said. “We competed in the long jump before and both of us were happy with each other when it was over. So we’re a supportive group. When she’s racing, she’ll be running so when I can I get to the fence and encourage her.”

Part of the reason could be the age gap as Michaela, a senior, is two years older than her sibling, but the bigger one is that they spend their time at different areas of the stadium.

Michaela spends time sprinting and at the pole vault pit and will be competing at Central Michigan this fall, while Madeleine is literally running circles around her competitors in the long distance events. She won the 3,200 meter run at the Division 2 U.P. Finals by almost 20 seconds.

“We don’t fight because we don’t get to compete against each other, and it’s just nice to be able to want each other to do well,” Madeleine said.

The girls’ father, Matt, a former track athlete who also played football at Michigan Tech, said the two of them were introduced to the many events of track and field at a young age and although both of them excel, the two sisters support each other and want to help each other succeed.

“Even though they’re two years apart, they’re pretty close,” Matt Peramaki said. “So I don’t think there’s any contention there. They don’t compete against each other much and I think they enjoy not competing against each other.”

That’s sort of the case out in Negaunee where sisters Aleda and Clara Johnson competed both in track and on the basketball court. However, Aleda didn’t participate in track and field this year due to a devastating leg injury, which also kept her from playing the latter part of the basketball season. So Clara’s bond on the track is with teammate Emily Paupore and even though they aren’t related, Miners head coach Vickie Paupore says that they basically are sisters, both on and off the track.

“They’ve known each other for a while and this season they got to be very good friends,” Vickie said.

“I think they have a good rapport with one another. I overheard people at U.P. Finals ask aloud whether they were sisters or related. They also run with the exact same style and form. It’s almost uncanny and it literally seems like they run at the same pace and the same stride. In the air, they were timing their stride and running like one another. I don’t know how, but it happens naturally for them.”

The two of them finished in first and second place in all three long distance races at the MHSAA Division 1 U.P. Finals and are frequently well-ahead of the rest of the field. There also could be a rivalry there, but if there is, it’s very relaxed and friendly.

“I think it’s a friendly one,” Vickie said. “They’re both competitive and they do want to beat each other, but they’re very happy with whoever wins.”

In an interview after the two competed in the 800 run (Johnson beat Paupore by a little more than a second) at the Division 1 U.P. Finals last Saturday, the two runners agreed with their coach’s thoughts on their competition.

“We race hard against each other, but we also know that we’re on the same team,” Johnson said. “I always beat her though.” She was then shoved by Emily.

“It’s fun to have someone to run with because not many people want to go do that,” Emily said. “These longer runs are relaxing and we can talk to each other during them.”

Other teams may have to deal with problems like rivalry or disdain, but the Mustangs and Miners do not and that supportive vibe has helped push them near the top of their respective divisions. Both teams finished second at U.P. Finals with Munising coming up just short of champion St. Ignace.

When asked about the Peramakis and rivalries, Munising head coach Matt Mattson put the idea to rest quickly.

“They’re both hard-nosed though and they’re both competitive, but they are always in each other’s corner and have each other backs,” he said.

Sisters can be seen as literal like the Peramakis or figurative like Johnson and Paupore, but both have bonds difficult to break and it’s clearly a benefit to everyone involved.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.