Inspiration Fuels Windemuller's Pursuit

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 3, 2017

ZEELAND – It hasn’t been easy at Holland Christian this school year. Certainly not as easy as Kayla Windemuller made it look on the track Saturday.

Windemuller pulled off a rare triple as the junior defended her titles in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs and ran anchor on the winning 3,200 relay (9:09.41) at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Track & Field Finals at Zeeland.

Five people associated with Holland Christian schools died this school year. One was a 13-year-old girl and two were teachers, and it’s something Windemuller and everyone associated with the schools can’t forget.

“It’s tough at the school,” Windemuller said. “In some meets during the season it’s tough to run. When I run in those I think of them. They inspire me. I run for them.”

Windemuller is an inspiration to any young runner, distance or otherwise. She set a personal record in the mile (4:52.60) and, although she came up short of her goal in the 3,200 run (10:49.90), it was a day to savor.

“I was concerned about the heat, but it didn’t affect me too much,” she said. “It’s amazing to defend my title(s). I really like (running) the two mile. I’m more of a distance girl.

‘My goal was to get under 10:40. At the start I felt pretty good. That’s OK. I ran a PR in the mile. It is a long day, but it’s nice to have the meet spaced out. We run the relay in the morning, and then the races get slower as the day goes on. The day, overall, was awesome. I’m not happy with the times. The three state titles are sweet.”

Team title No. 2

Lansing Waverly competed well but luck also played a part in its second consecutive title.

Waverly had no individual winners, but did place first in two relays (400 and 800) to win with 47 points. Zeeland East was second with 46, and Holland Christian was third with 34.

Here’s how some of the drama played out.

Due to injuries Waverly coach Rex Wilkes, Jr., had to shuffle his lineup on the relays. The Warriors had the fastest time in the division in the 1,600 relay entering the Finals, but Wilkes made the decision not to compete in the event while attempting to save his top runners for other races.

It worked, but just barely.

“I knew we could score around 50 (points),” he said. “I just didn’t know what the other teams would do. We got some extra points in the shot. We got 10 there. And then I was told that Priscilla (Trainor) had to finish third or higher in the 200 for us to win.”

Trainor finished third. That’s not all. Suenomi Norinh of Zeeland East finished tied for first in the 100 hurdles with times measured out to hundredths of a second; to break the tie, it was determined she finished second by two thousandths of a second.

“Sometimes it’s good to be great,” Wilkes said. “Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.”

Norinh, a junior, did take first in the high jump (5-foot-8) and was second in the long jump.

Double winner

Liz Pyles of Cadillac placed third in both the discus and shot put last season as a junior, and she took that experience to place first in the shot with a put of 45 feet, 4 inches, a personal best, and won the discus with a throw of 146-3.

“I’m so happy,” she said. “I had three new PRs today (in the shot put). I’m so pleased.

“Last year was something to build upon. I worked with my coach. I worked in the weight room. I went to a bunch of camps. I’m real serious about this.”

Pyles signed with Grand Valley State University and expects to compete in both events. She qualified for the MHSAA Finals in the shot put all four seasons and the discus three times. Even so, she doesn’t have a favorite.

“It depends on the season,” she said. 

Catching up quickly

Zoe Eby of Carleton Airport is a notorious slow starter. And when you’re competing in the 100 dash, that usually doesn’t bode well.

Eby got off to a poor start again but managed to come back to win the race with a time of 12.11.

“The last 30 meters was really close,” she said. “When I got off to that start I thought I would (finish) in the middle of the pack. I honestly don’t know how I did it.”

Eby, a junior, also defended her title in the 200. As a freshman she won the 400. She doesn’t compete in that event anymore.

“It’s not my niche,” she said.

Switching gears

Jakarri Alven of Grand Rapids Catholic Central wasn’t at her best Saturday. She said she had to pull out of the 200 because she was feeling ill.

Nevertheless, she won the 400 (56.48), a race she also won last year as a freshman, and she ran anchor on the winning 1,600 relay.

“I’m better at the longer distances,” she said. “But I like the (200). I got off to a good start today (in the 400). It’s the longer distances that I can work through better. I guess I’m better at it.”

Waiting pays off

Waiting for the other competitors to complete their jumps in the long jump was getting to Taylor Dziatczak of Macomb Lutheran North. Dziatczak had used up her tries and stood in first place with a jump of 17 feet, 11½ inches.

“It was a nail-biter,” she said. “A couple of girls who were close had a couple more jumps left. The girl from Zeeland East (Norinh) had three more left. I had to go to some deep breathing to stay calm.”

Dziatczak, who placed second last year, did hold on for first.

The long jump isn’t her best event, and it’s really not second as far as favorites. The javelin is tops with her. Dziatczak is a two-time AAU All-American in the javelin and has signed with Ashland University in Ohio to compete in the heptathlon. That’s seven events, in case you’re wondering. She placed in the javelin as a sophomore nationally in her age group and was third this year. Dziatczak, who is 17 years old, pointed out she moved up to the 18-and-under age group this year.

She just started competing in the heptathlon two years ago.

Her second favorite event is the 200 dash. The other events are the 100 hurdles, 800 run, high jump and shot put.

“I ran. I jumped. I figured why not do all of the others?” she said.

Why not indeed.

Record vaulter

Spring Lake senior Gabriella LeRoux set the only meet record in Lower Peninsula Division 2 for this season, pole vaulting 12 feet, 6 inches to break Kristen Hixson's mark of 12-4 set in 2010 while competing for Remus Chippewa Hills. 

LeRoux's best this season heading into the meet was 12-0. A junior, she also won the pole vault championship in 2016 and was second in 2015 to her older sister Allie. 

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Holland Christian's Kayla Windemuller stays a pace ahead of Tecumseh's Christina Sawyer during one of their two races against each other Saturday. (Photo by Janina Pollatz/

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.)