Mid Peninsula Pair Push Each Other to More Finals Success

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

June 22, 2021

ST. NICHOLAS — Daisy Englund and Landry Koski have been training partners for the past six years.

Things will be different this fall, however, as Englund begins her collegiate running career at Ferris State University and Koski enters her senior year at Rock Mid Peninsula High School.

“It’s definitely going to be different without Daisy here,” said Koski. “It’s definitely going to be a change, and it was really a big change without (2020 grads) Kennedy (Englund) and Chevy (Koski). Although, it’s a good feeling to have the team. That just makes everything better. It helps you mentally because it’s nice to have friends to experience that with you.”

Englund was in seventh grade when she and Koski became teammates.

“I ran cross country in sixth grade,” said Englund. “My seventh grade year is when we started running together. We pushed each other and made each other better, and Chevy and Kennedy weren’t all that far behind us. I didn’t start out the best, but when I got into eighth grade I was on varsity and my times improved.”

Koski also recalls what the early days were like.

“I just loved running,” she said. “In my first year of cross country the races were only 1½  miles, but it was hard to stay with Kennedy. I didn’t know how to pace myself, then I kind of learned as I went on. I didn’t know what I was capable of doing.”

Both have come a long way, which was evident during the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Finals on June 5 at Kingsford.

Englund was crowned 800-meter champion for the first time in two minutes, 30.75 seconds, but had won other races at the Finals.

“You only get to experience the U.P. Finals a few times in your life, and I think it makes you hard-working,” she said. “It felt great to finally get the 800 title. I honestly didn’t think I’d get it. The Ontonagon girl (sophomore Makennah Uotila) was a lot taller than me.

Rock Mid Peninsula track“It didn’t feel like those were my last high school races, and it still doesn’t feel that way. It’s so stressful. You know what kind of ability you have, but it can be disappointing if you don’t perform the way you want.”

Koski was seeded eighth going into the 1,600, but came from behind to win it in a season-best 5:39.89 on a very hot and humid day.

“It always gets so nerve-wracking in the end,” said Koski. “You don’t know what everybody else has left. In my freshman year I won the 1,600 and 3,200. I didn’t think I’d win those because Danika Walters (of Superior Central) was real good. You never know what’s going to happen. At the Finals, you see so many schools you don’t see during the regular season, especially this year without having the (Superior) Dome meets.”

Englund was crowned UPD3 cross country champion in 2018 and 2020, with Koski gaining top honors in 2019.

“It was always our goal to get Mid Pen’s name out there,” said Englund. “I always liked running against the bigger schools.”

“Many people think ‘you’re just Division 3,’” Koski added. “It makes you want to go out there and prove yourself.”

Englund was awaiting a training schedule from Ferris State as she prepares for her first collegiate season.

“It’s going to be different,” she said. “I’m not going to have Landry down there. I’ve been running by myself, although we’ll probably be running together this summer. August 22 is moving-in day and practices start in late August. It will be more intense training. We’ll probably run about 15-20 miles a week.”

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS: (Top) Rock Mid Peninsula’s Daisy Englund leads the 800 on the way to winning the race during the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Finals on June 5 at Kingsford High School. (Middle) Teammate Landry Koski races one of her three individual events during the championship meet. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)