Work Molds Lohr Into WSU Wins Leader

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

August 5, 2020

When Carrie Lohr was spending weekends in her youth chopping wood with her father or helping clear stones from her the fields of her grandfather’s farm, she wasn’t thinking of how it would help her become a standout athlete or coach. She did think about how she’d rather be swimming in a pool like her friends and classmates. 

But when the Wayne State women’s basketball coach looks back now on her time in Sandusky, it’s those moments that stick out as shaping her. 

“I learned the value of hard work,” Lohr, formerly Hickson, said. “I learned the value of earning an allowance. I look back and I was expected to work, and I didn’t know it any other way. Twenty years ago, when I started coaching, I always understood the value of hard work. I was fortunate I have people who have shown me that. That kind of comes back to me more than a particular sport or a particular game or competition. I find myself looking back on how I learned those things with the things that I did.” 

Lohr’s hard work helped her become a standout three-sport athlete at Sandusky, an all-conference college basketball player, and now Wayne State’s all-time winningest women’s basketball coach. 

The 1989 Sandusky graduate is entering her 10th season with the Warriors with a career record of 148-111. She led Wayne State to NCAA regional finals in 2013 and 2014, and the regional semifinal in 2015. The 2012-13 season featured Wayne State’s first NCAA Tournament victory and its first regional final appearance. 

“She definitely had those good leadership qualities and the love of the game,” said Sandusky girls basketball coach Al DeMott, who coached Lohr in the late 1980s. “And she was a hard worker – nobody is going to out-work her. From Day 1, she wasn’t going to let anyone outwork her or get ahead of her. She’s just a great person, and I couldn’t be prouder.” 

Lohr starred as a point guard for DeMott for two seasons, helping Sandusky reach the Class C Quarterfinals in 1987, where it lost to eventual champion Detroit St. Martin dePorres.

“She used to knock in the 3s, too,” DeMott said. “She hit some big 3s for us in some big games. She was a gamer. She had a smart basketball IQ.”

Lohr played collegiately at St. Clair County Community College (SC4) and the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She was named first-team all-conference, all-region and all-state at SC4, and, unsurprisingly, was a captain at both schools.

Coaching wasn’t something Lohr considered during her playing days, though.

“I always thought, ‘I could never do this – I could never be a coach. How would I know what to say?’” she said. “But when the buzzer sounds in your last collegiate game and you’re sitting there in the gym and the locker room and reality hit you that it’s over, that was life-changing. It meant so much more to me than I even realized.”

Lohr started her coaching career in 1994 as the freshman girls basketball coach at Richmond, and she quickly fell in love with the profession. Her journey included stints as the freshman girls coach at Port Huron Northern and assistant jobs at SC4 and Oakland University.

While Lohr had found her passion, she still needed to pay the bills.

“I was living my dream (coaching) and following my dream, but reality was hitting me that I may not be able to continue on this path,” Lohr said. “A friend of mine was in medical sales, so I found myself in medical sales for five years. That afforded me to go back into coaching at SC4 as an assistant again, then I got into head coaching.”

She took over the Skippers program in 2002, and had a 166-106 record in nine seasons at her alma mater. It was her first time running a program, and she also became a mother two weeks before her first game with the birth of her daughter Sarah. Carrie was pregnant with her son Eli throughout her entire third season as coach. Lohr said her husband Eric was incredibly supportive, which was crucial to making it work.

She also had an A-list of former coaches to lean on when she needed advice. DeMott is second in MHSAA history with 753 career wins. Lohr’s former travel coach Fred Shaw is a member of the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. And Dave Mann, who has won four MHSAA championships, coached her at U-M Dearborn.

“I really attribute me being in coaching to all of my coaches,” she said. “I always maintained a connection with those individuals. I feel like all three have been a great resource for me. Those times when you’re unsure about something – whether it’s an on-court situation or an off-court situation, I always felt I had three people I could call and seek advice from. I think that’s important to be able to have someone to call and say, ‘I don’t know what to do in this situation.’”

Having played for multiple Hall of Fame-caliber coaches – including the late Paul Jackson, who coached her at SC4 – is also a good way to build a coaching style.

“You learn from other coaches, but you just step out and create your own path,” Lohr said. “I learned a little bit of something different from all of them. The common denominator is they’re all very positive people, but they’re all competitive. They coach very differently.”

In the spring of 2011, Lohr was hired at Wayne State, and she has turned the Warriors into perennial GLIAC contenders.

“I was just lucky, I think, knowing what I know now about how many people apply for these jobs,” she said. “I feel really fortunate that the athletic director here at Wayne State saw something in me and believed in me. I’m very grateful.”

Her kids have grown into athletes themselves at St. Clair High School. Sarah, a senior, plays volleyball and basketball. She could add tennis in the spring, as well, but wasn’t able to this past year because of the cancellation of seasons due to the coronavirus. Eli, a junior, plays tennis, basketball and baseball.

“When I’m watching my kids, it’s enjoyable to just sit back and watch,” Lohr said. “The things I see in my kids is that I think they’re good teammates, and I think they work hard, and those things are important to me. To watch them compete is fun, but to see those things that maybe don’t show up in a tweet or make a headline, those things are really important.”

They’re also getting to enjoy the experience of playing multiple sports in high school, something Lohr thinks back on fondly from her days in Sandusky.

“I still remember my volleyball coaches, and I still remember my softball coach,” Lohr said. “I had a great experience in being a three-sport athlete. It was demanding, but it’s really unfortunate that a lot of young people aren’t able to experience that. I think there’s a lot of pressure on young people to specialize. I felt like there was a strong culture in Sandusky with all of their sports. To look back on it, it was really a special time for me.”

Made in Michigan 2020

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July 28:
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July 17:
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July 9:
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June 24: Fracassa's Remarkable Records Still Rule - Read
June 16: Muskegon Grad Casts "Magic" in HBO Series - Read

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Carrie Lohr this winter will enter her 10th season coaching the Wayne State University women’s basketball program. (Middle) Lohr was a standout at Sandusky High during the 1987 and 1988 seasons. (Below) Lohr huddles with her Wayne State players. (Top and below photos courtesy of WSU sports information; Sandusky photo courtesy of Carrie Lohr.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)