Ontonagon Girls Win 1st Title Since 1974
By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com
June 5, 2016
KINGSFORD — Ontonagon High School senior Paige Blake had just enough leg strength to finish the 400-meter dash at Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Division 3 Girls Track & Field Finals.
That was also just enough for Blake to retain her title as she fell across the finish line and edged Munising sophomore Kelsea Ackerman by one hundredth of a second.
Blake was clocked in 1 minute, 3.26 seconds. Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Laura Lyons placed third (1:03.62).
“I ran until I couldn’t run anymore,” said Blake. “My legs just couldn’t go anymore. I was going after the school record, but came up short. I’m glad I won, but I don’t really want to run a full 400 again.”
Blake’s effort was also an example of what the Gladiators needed to secure their first U.P. team title since 1974, when they were competing in Class C.
They scored 72 points, followed by defending champion Newberry with 65 and Munising 62.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our girls,” said Ontonagon coach Brian Amos. “Paige and Lori (Wardynski) have been doing a lot of heavy lifting for the past three years. We finally got some field events and relays and everything came together for us this year. I’m happy for Paige and Lori that they got to experience this. I’m also happy the other girls got to experience this. This is something they can build on.”
Wardynski set a U.P. meet record in the 300 hurdles in 47.27 seconds, topping the previous best (48.07) by Brooke Granquist of Powers North Central in 2009.
Wardynski also won the 300 hurdles as a sophomore two years ago and added titles in the 100-meter dash title (13.4) and high jump (4-10) this time.
“I got off to a pretty strong start in the 300s,” said Wardynski. “I knew I had a good chance to place, but I was surprised to get the U.P. record. I just told myself to go as hard as I could.”
Blake was runner-up in the 200 (28.09) and third in long jump (14-9).
Newberry senior Natalie Beaulieu repeated as champion in the 1,600 (5:24.54) and set the U.P. meet record in the 3,200, erasing the old mark (11:49.16) by Cedarville’s Emma Bohn a year ago. Beaulieu also took fourth in the 800 (2:30.22) and helped the Indians place fourth in the 3,200 relay (10:50.64).
“I didn’t want to start too fast in the 3,200,” said Beaulieu. “I also didn’t want to start too slow. I was able to find a happy medium and my rhythm. I knew I wanted to do it before I went to college (Central Michigan University). This means a lot to me. It’s kind of a relief to get this done, in a way.”
Bohn was runner-up in the 1,600 (5:33.52) and 3,200 (12:03.82) this time.
Junior teammate Taylor Bryant and Brimley senior Kerri Chartrand tied for first in the 100 hurdles (16.73). Bryant was runner-up in the 300s (48.64) and fourth in the 100 dash (13.58).
“I was a little nervous at first,” said Bryant. “The track was slippery in warm-ups. I tried to adjust my steps and do the best I could. My start in the 100-meter dash was better than I thought it would be. I knew the fast heat was behind us and just went for time.”
The Indians added a first in the 400 relay (54.4) and fourth in the 3,200 relay (10:50.04).
“Karley (Honeyssette) got us off to a good start, and our handoffs went real good,” said junior Megan Grigg. “That very important in the 400 relay. If your handoffs aren’t on, you’re not going to place.
Munising won the 1,600 (4:24.02) and 3,200 relays (10:22.9).
Lake Linden Hubbell’s Stephanie Harry took pole vault (7-6) and Lyons captured long jump (15-3).
Pickford senior Heidi Hagen took first in the 800 (2:28.05) and helped the winning 800 relay (1:55.37).
“We were ranked first by a half-second, which is a good motivator,” said Hagen. “This is so exciting. Our handoffs were real smooth. The track was slippery (due to the rain), although it’s not that bad with spikes.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Ontonagon's Paige Blake rounds a curve during her winning 400 run Saturday. (Middle) Newberry's Natalie Beaulieu repeated and set a meet record in the 3,200. (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.
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.)