Motivated Fowler Continues Dominance
June 1, 2019
By Steve Vedder
Special for Second Half
HUDSONVILLE – It might not be the most talented team from a program that has dominated small-school girls track for nearly a decade.
But this year's Fowler team ranks among the best in terms of motivation.
It took a first place in the final event of Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals, but the Eagles successfully repeated as meet champions with a narrow eight-point win over runner-up Pittsford at blustery Baldwin Middle School. The title was Fowler's third in four years and fifth since 2011.
The difference between the latest championship and the previous four wasn't necessarily about talent, coach Jill Feldpausch said. It was more about motivation.
"We are a very motivated team," Feldpausch said following a wild meet that included three weather delays totaling more than five hours. "We're always a target, but winning the state title was our goal. We knew it wouldn't come easy, but it's one of the most hard-working teams we've had."
Fowler finished with only two first places, both by Alyssa Vandegriff, but added three seconds, a third and two fourths.
Vandegriff won her second consecutive 100-meter hurdles title (15.17) and also took first in the high jump (5-2). She said her expectations for back-to-back titles is much the same pressure as what her teammates faced.
"It's probably harder the second time. There is pressure on you to keep things up," said Vandegriff, who was second in the 100 hurdles as a sophomore and will run at Central Michigan University next spring. "A lot of it depends on the competition, and it fluctuates. Sometimes you wake up and you're just not feeling it."
Feldpausch said the stick-out feature of this team was that the girls picked each other up.
"Every team is special, and we haven't gotten everything we've wanted," she said. "That comes and goes with teams. But with this team, someone is always picking up someone else. We had 11 girls run today, but there were 20 on the bus."
Royal Oak Shrine's Ellie Kendell was a double winner in the 3,200 (11:21.58) and 1,600 (5:11.93). Bridgman's Mikaela Owen won the 200 (25.93) and 100 (12.46).
Other field event winners were Lyndsi Wolfe of Fulton in the discus, Frankfort's Tara Townsend in the pole vault, Maggie Stevenson of East Jordan in the shot and Ally McLouth of Addison in the long jump.
Other winners were Scout Nelson of Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in the 800, Annie Laurenz of Breckenridge in the 300 hurdles and Annie Gunderman of Portland St. Patrick in the 400.
Pittsford won the 400 and 800 relays, while Sacred Heart captured the 1,600 and 3,200.
PHOTOS: (Top) Fowler’s Alyssa Vandegriff runs through the finish in repeating as 100 hurdles champion Saturday. (Middle) Royal Oak Shrine's Ellie Kendell charges to one of her two race championships. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)
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.
They’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.
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.
“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 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.)