Oak Park Climbs Podium Again in LPD1

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

June 2, 2018

EAST KENTWOOD – Aasia Laurencin crossed the finish line at East Kentwood High School multiple times Saturday, but the sweetest crossing for the Oak Park sophomore came after a race in which she didn’t compete.

Laurencin was the first to greet teammate Dorriann Coleman following the 1,600-meter relay which clinched a Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship for the Knights, their fourth in five years.

“It’s been a long outdoor season, and we finally got the win we’ve been looking for,” Laurencin said. “Last year we didn’t get it, but now it’s all excitement, all joyful tears.”

Oak Park finished with 66 points to claim the title, with Rockford close behind at 59.5. East Kentwood was third with 52 points, followed by Lake Orion with 48 and Northville with 41.

The Knights thrived on the track, especially in the relays, despite losing a runner early in the meet and coming to East Kentwood with just 10. They won the 3,200 relay and 1,600 relay with the team of Coleman, Makayla Gates, Jayla Jones and Mariyah Archibald, and placed second in the 400 relay. Oak Park looked to be on its way to competing for first place in the 800 relay before Jada Roundtree suffered an injury on the anchor leg.

“We really, really showed some grit and toughness,” Oak Park coach Brandon Jiles said. “We really showed that we can win if we don’t have the perfect meet.”

Laurencin and Brooks were the lone Knights to win individual titles, as Laurencin won the 200 with a time of 24.64, and Brooks won the 400 in 55.12.

“I wanted to run faster, but it was OK,” said Laurencin, who was second in the 100 hurdles and a member of both sprint relays. “I’m satisfied. I’m really satisfied with today.”

Grace Stark of White Lake Lakeland denied Laurencin a title in the 100 hurdles, and she did it in record-breaking fashion. Stark finished in 13.12 seconds, a Finals record for all divisions. One event later, she doubled her title count, winning the 100 meters in 11.74 seconds.

“I really wanted it last year and I missed out, and I was really excited I got to do it here today,” said Stark, who was runner-up in both events a year ago. “I was just hoping to win it. Last year kind of hurt me, and I was upset, but I wanted redemption.”

While Stark and Laurencin had a duel early on, Rockford’s Ericka VanderLende and Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Anne Forsyth had their own in the distance events.

VanderLende won the 1,600 with a personal best time of 4:45.17, while Forsyth won the 3,200 with a time of 10:08.07, an all-division Finals record.

In each race, the other finished second, and in each race, it was VanderLende who took control of the pace. For the 1,600, it worked to perfection.

“I didn’t really want to pay attention to what other people around me were doing,” VanderLende said. “I just wanted to stick to the race plan I knew I was capable of. I normally even split or negative split, so I wasn’t really too surprised that if I took it out hard I could hold it.”

The middle distance events supplied equal drama, as a strong 800-meter field provided a strong race. Waterford Mott’s Katie Osika came out on top, winning in 2:08.88, using a late kick to defeat Hudsonville’s Melanie Helder, who was second at 2:09.28.

“Of course you’ve got that fast time on your mind,” Osika said. “I’m running in New Balance Nationals, so I want to get a good time, but I had to put winning first, like, ‘You have to win state champ first.’ It was definitely tough; it wasn’t easy. This was probably one of the most competitive races I’ve been in all year.”

Lake Orion’s Melissa Symons was used to competition, as Troy’s Lauren Felcher had been pushing her all year in the 300 hurdles. But on the final day of the season, it was Symons, who didn’t run the event a year ago because of injury, who came out on top. As she finished, Symons had a look of shock and excitement on her face, and immediately looked to Felcher, who finished second, and gave her a hug.

“She’s amazing, she’s been my biggest competitor this entire year, and so we were just pushing each other so well throughout this entire year,” Symons said. “I know she’s going to go out strong, so I can just stick with her and then it’s just a battle of the wills at the end to see who can go. I know how she runs, so I think it really does help.”

East Kentwood’s Corrine Jemison set a meet record in the shot put, winning the event with a throw of 49 feet, 11¾ inches. Lansing Waverly’s Malin Smith won the discus with an all-division Finals record throw of 163-9.

Waterford Kettering’s Jessica Mercier won the pole vault with a height of 12-10. Novi’s Hannah Hood-Blaxill won the high jump with a height of 5-6. Northville’s Clare McNamara won the long jump with a distance of 18-7½.

Detroit Renaissance (Makylah Slappy, Mizan Thomas, Paige Chapman and Donae Adams) won the 800 relay in 1:39.91. Adams, Chapman and Thomas joined Imani Jackson to win the 400 relay in 47.42.

Click for full results.

VIDEO: Waterford Mott's Katie Osika kicks to win the 800.

PHOTOS: (Top) Oak Park’s Aasia Laurencin, left, surges ahead of Lansing Waverly’s Priscilla Trainor and the rest of the championship heat in the 200 on Saturday. (Middle) Lakeland’s Grace Stark, middle, pulls away for the 100-meter championship. (Click for 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.

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.)