Fowler Cashes in on Another Champiopnship

June 4, 2016

By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Fowler girls track coach Jill Feldpausch might have felt like she won the lottery Saturday afternoon, even though she said she “didn’t have a winning ticket.”

The lack of a “winning ticket” that Feldpausch referred to was her team failing to have an individual champion at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals at Houseman Field. A bevy of solid performances, including three relay titles, led Fowler to first place with 56 points. Concord was second with 44, and New Lothrop was third with 38.

“We don’t have a winning ticket. We have two awesome seniors who really stepped up,” Feldpausch said. “We just do what we train for. We keep coming and working hard, and it seems like every meet they kept setting personal records one right after another.”

It was the seventh state championship for the Fowler girls program and third with Feldpausch as coach. Last year, Fowler was runner-up to Harbor Springs.

“After finishing second last year and third the year before that, our team was ready to finish it and ready to get first,” said Madison Koenigsknecht, one of those two “amazing seniors.”

Julie Thelen, the other “amazing senior,” said, “We got closer and closer every year, and this year it was like the big bang – the perfect finish – and it was just awesome. It was amazing since we all worked so hard all season.”

Koenigsknecht and Thelen ran on two of the three winning relay teams. McKenzie Koenigsknecht, younger sister of Madison, also ran on two of the winning relay teams.

“I think everybody working together in the relays really put us over the edge,” Madison Koenigsknecht said.

Fowler won the 800 relay as the Koenigsknecht sisters teamed with Thelen and Sidney Horak to win in 1 minute, 46.57 seconds. In the 1,600, it was the Koenigsknecht sisters again, this time with Thelen and Taryn Shafer to win in 4:08.23. Both the 800 and 3,200 relay teams broke school records.

That third winning relay was a collection of the classes as senior Madison Koenigsknecht, junior Ashley VanElls, sophomore Kian Becker and freshman Morgan Goerge won in 9:38.0.

“In the individual events, everybody picking up points here and there really made a difference,” Madison Koenigsknecht said.

She was one of those who helped individually as she was third in the 400 in 59.43. Thelen also took third in the 800 in 2:23.64, and Becker was sixth in the 3,200 in 1:41.59.

In the field events, Fowler sophomore Ciera Weber was fifth in the pole vault as she cleared 6-0 to break the school record. Freshman Alyssa Vandegriff was fifth in the high jump at 5-0.5, and Horak was sixth in the long jump (15-11.5).

“It’s just awesome because we’re all one family, and we all work hard and push each other,’ Madison Koenigsknecht said. “Right from the beginning of the season, we knew that this was one of our biggest goals and if we continued to work really hard and push each other that we would be able to do it.”

It was truly a team championship.

“Everybody stepped up, and I’m so proud of them,” she said. “It was all about the team aspect, and our 12 girls here all contributed.”

Concord, which finished second after placing third a year ago, was led by senior Lindsey Lehman, who repeated as champion in the 200 and also won the 100 after finishing second a year ago. She appeared a bit surprised at her victory in the 100 as she was seeded fourth coming into the meet.

“I was shocked that I won the 100,” said Lehman, whose winning time was 12.30 seconds, breaking the Division 4 meet record. “The girl who got third beat me at Regionals, and she’s a really good runner. She’s only a sophomore.”

After winning the 100, Lehman was able to set her sights on repeating as champion in the 200 in what would be the final individual event of her high school career. She won it in 25.70.

“I got out of the blocks really well, and that was one of my better races,” she said. “I just always feel good in that race.

“I wanted to prove that how much work you put in during the offseason can determine the outcome.”

Concord had another individual title. Sophomore Samantha Saenz won the 1,600 in 5 minutes, 10.89 seconds.

New Lothrop, which finished third, had a championship in the 400 relay. Skye Nancarrow, Alex Bedrosian, Sydney Pope and Caitlyn Bruff won in 50.83. Pope and Bruff are freshmen.

Ashley Hermann of Petersburgh-Summerfield repeated in the high jump by clearing 5-4, and Caylin Bonser of Harbor Springs set a Division 4 meet record in the discus with a toss of 141-6. Harbor Springs swept the throws as Erika Lechner took the shot put with a toss of 41-11.75.

Another meet record was broken in the 100 hurdles, where Mary Leighton of Mendon won in 14.53. Sophomore Baleigh Irelan of Reading added a victory in the 300 hurdles in 46.25.

Other winners in the running events included sophomore Alexandra Hannson of Brown City in the 400 (58.11), Kensington Garvey of Blanchard Montabella in the 800 (2:21.58) and Ava Strenge of Battle Creek St. Philip in the 3,200 (10:59.5).

In the field events, Sydnie Avery of Saugatuck won the pole vault at 10-3, and Akwia Tilton of Birmingham Roeper took the long jump at 17-6.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Fowler's Julie Thelen (middle) works for valuable points in finishing third in the 800. (Middle) Concord's Lindsey Lehman breaks away for one of her two sprint championships. (Photos by Angie Graham/ 

Elk Rapids' Schulte Sisters Splitting Finals Weekend Between Tennis, Track

By Tom Spencer
Special for

June 2, 2023

Today began with a bye for Elk Rapids’ Jaida and Brynne Schulte as the Elks returned to the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Girls Tennis Finals in Kalamazoo.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThey’re planning to say bye to their tennis teammates, though, when the first day of competition is over. The Elks will have to advance to Saturday without them.

That goodbye is just fine with tennis coach Keith Schulte. And, it will be more than fine with the Elk Rapids track & field team – which will be happy to say hello to the sister pair as they head to their LPD3 Finals in Kent City.

Regardless of how they fare today, the Schulte sisters will run Saturday.

Coach Schulte, who teaches strength and conditioning at Elk Rapids, is also the father of Jaida and Brynne. Today’s he’s beaming with pride, and not just for his tennis team’s success. He’s proud of all the student-athletes and their successes this spring, including the girls soccer team moving on to Regionals with a 2-0 win Thursday over Boyne City.

And while all this is going on, he should have a moment or two to just be Dad. Jaida and Brynne teamed up to win the No. 2 doubles title at their Regional as the Elks tied for first place with Traverse City St. Francis two weeks ago. Then the Schulte girls captured first place in the Regional track meet to qualify for Saturday’s Finals. Brynne won the 1,600 and 3,200, and Jaida’s 3,200 relay team took first to move on.

Brynne Schulte sets to start a track relay. Coach Schulte hasn’t had much time to pause and soak in the moment of his daughters’ qualifying for two Finals competitions during the same season.

“I didn’t think much of it until now,” the fourth-year coach said. “I’ve always just challenged my kids to do something difficult and not be scared to fail.  

“They’ve just kind of found the balance on making this stuff happen,” he continued. “It is a pretty cool opportunity if you can go to two state championships.”

Getting to today’s Tennis Finals is a story full of success. The Elks’ first year under Schulte was halted after a week of practice due to the pandemic. The second year saw the team looking at a season with just nine potential players, but recruitment efforts resulted in the 2021 Elks managing to qualify for the  Finals for the first time in their history.

Elk Rapids went on to win the Regional championship in 2022. And then, after graduating six athletes, the Elks were able to repeat this spring with a valiant effort resulting in the co-championship with their conference rival St. Francis.

Dual-sport standouts, while rare, aren’t entirely unheard of – especially at the state’s smaller schools where athletes frequently are needed to fill rosters in multiple sports during the same season. In fact, the Schultes aren’t even alone on their tennis team – sisters Ryleigh and Haleigh Yocum also are playing doubles today but softball on Saturday.

The Yocums won the Regional title at No. 2 doubles and also are slated to be the Elks’ first two batters as they take on Mancelona as one of the favorites to win a Division 3 District title on the softball diamond.

“I do feel bad for them – it’s states,” said 14-year veteran softball coach Erin Merchant. “I do want them to have that opportunity. 

“I hope they go far,” she continued. “But then deep down, I’m like, ‘We need them Saturday.’”

Tim Nance and Jesse Way are in their first year co-coaching the boys and girls track teams at ER. They’re pleased the Schultes are prioritizing track while enjoying tennis.

he Schultes helped the Elks to their first two Regional titles in tennis, including their second straight this spring.“I think it is remarkable how resilient, laid back and casual the girls are about their success,” Nance said. “I would say it hasn’t compromised their talent, hard work and success.

“I think it has worked out great,” he continued. “I am selfish and I want them to myself only, but I am happy they can have two successes.”

The Elks will have Ayva Johnstone at No. 1 singles, Kelly Minidis and No. 2, Morgan Bergquist at No. 3 and Jasmine King at No. 4 this weekend. They also will have No. 1 doubles Chloe Taylor and Caroline Best and No. 4 doubles Tessa Nico and Portia Beebe, in addition to the Yokums and Schultes.

Jaida Schulte is a junior. She’s one of the recruits who joined to help the Elks get to their first Tennis Finals in 2021. Bergquist and Beebe were recruits in 2022.

Tennis is the favorite sport today for those three, but track and cross country are right up there for Jaida thanks to the opportunity to run with her freshman sister Brynne.

Jaida is hoping to at least match her personal-record split of 2:36 in the 3,200 relay Saturday. But her goal was first to win all of her doubles matches Friday and see the tennis team finish top-five in its division.

“Brynne loves track, and I love the challenge of running,” Jaida said. “I don’t think I would have the experience of running track or cross country without Brynne.”

Coaches saw very little disruption, if any, with their track, softball and tennis teams this spring with the Yocums and Schultes dual-sporting. The Schultes were able to get track and tennis practice or competition most every day.

“I prioritized track,” Brynne said.  “I also got a lot of hitting time in for tennis.

“I would go to track practice first, and as soon as I would be done I would run over to the tennis courts and hit with my sister for a half an hour before going home,” she continued. “It has been worth it.”

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) Elk Rapids sisters Brynne (left) and Jaida Schulte have teamed up at No. 3 doubles for the tennis team this season. (Middle) Brynne Schulte sets to start a track relay. (Below) The Schultes helped the Elks to their first two Regional titles in tennis, including their second straight this spring. (Photos courtesy of Jaclyn Schulte.)