Performance: Shepherd's Amber Gall
April 27, 2017
Shepherd sophomore – Track & Field
Midway through her high school career, Gall already is nearly the fastest cross country runner in Shepherd history, and she’s also on the cusp of rewriting the Bluejays’ track & field record book as well. She achieved her first all-time best on April 19, running the 800 meters is 2:14.83 on her home track to break the former school record, set in 1980, by more than a second – earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Shepherd’s girls won both duals that day, against Alma and Standish-Sterling, and Gall also won the 1,600 (5:36.64), 3,200 (13:20.37) and was part of the winning 1,600 relay (4:15.16) with seniors Rachel Mathers, Kylie Hutchinson and Katelyn Hutchinson. Two days later, on Friday, Gall again won the 800 1,600 and as part of the 1,600 and 3,200 relays at Ithaca’s Blue and Gold Invitational, posting a 5:15.28 in the individual 1,600. She’s won every race she’s competed in this season but two, taking second in a 400 and also as part of the 1,600 relay on Wednesday in a league quad meet.
Gall finished third and then fifth, respectively, at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals for cross country her first two seasons, and her personal-best time of 17:50 in the fall is only two seconds shy of Nora Green’s school record run from 1978. Gall finished LP Division 3 Track & Field Finals runner-up in the 3,200 last spring, running 10:52 to approach another school record run by Green (10:48). Gall also is the third-fastest 1,600 runner in school history with a best of 5:05, seven seconds off the record set in 2013 by Kaylie Rhynard – and both track milestones could be hers by the end of this spring. Last week's success gave Gall some ideas about how the 800 might fit into her plans – the time she ran to break the record would’ve put her second in that race at the Division 3 Finals last season. Gall also carries a 4.0 grade-point average, serves on her school’s student council and is active in a number of other school and church activities.
Coach Carey Hammel said: “She is a super kid who works extremely hard and is also a great student. She is very determined to be the best she can be and is a huge running fan. Getting to coach an athlete like that for two seasons (Hammel also coaches girls cross country) is very special because you always know what you are going to get out of her. She is also an incredible teammate in both sports and encourages both the boys and girls on our team to be their best. This year she is on the 3,200 relay with three seniors, and they are very close and she is very proud of what they are able to accomplish in that relay.”
Performance Point: “Beforehand, I was like OK, I want to go after this. I’ll run as hard as possible,” Gall said. “I started out the first lap a little slower than I normally do in 800s, and I was pretty nervous going into the second lap. But with 300 to go, I heard a voice, like God almost, that said, ‘Hey, you can do this. Just push.’ From there, I gave everything I had. I planned on starting faster; I don’t know if my legs were tight that first lap. I was nervous. I knew at a lap that I was slow, and when I finished I was a little shocked.”
Plenty of motivation: “I think that in the offseason, and even last year coming so close in the top five in cross country, being so close in track, it motivates me to work as hard as possible to get (to first). I’m gunning for one, a title, and I’ll work as hard as possible. My teammates motivate me so much. They’re always there right beside me, helping me with everything and the ups and downs of running.”
Following faith: “I believe I don’t do any of this by myself. I believe God is right there helping me though this. I wouldn’t be running, I wouldn’t be doing all of the things I’m doing if not for the gifts given me when I was born.”
Finding inspiration: “I'm one who loves motivational quotes, motivational videos, all of that. I decided one day to try to write a motivational essay for myself; I wanted to see if I could do it. I started writing those, and I actually really like it, just to read, by myself. The 2015 cross season, (I thought) maybe I’ll share this for the team. On overnights I’d always print one off, share it with the team, give them extra motivation to get through races. It was pretty nerve-wracking the first time – I thought maybe they wouldn’t be OK with a freshman doing that. I just took the chance, and I think my teammates like them.”
Mentoring and mentored: “I know a lot of the middle schoolers. They are speedy, and they’re just great people, and I just want them to become the best they can be. Because as a middle schooler, I had as my coach B.J. Tomanek. As a sixth grader, I didn’t know what to run, and he took me in. He expects me to do my best all the time, and he continues to motivate me today. We still run together, we talk, and he’s super motivational along with (coaches Rick) Cahoon and Hammel. They are strong people in my life I took up to, and (coach Wyatt) LeClear gets me through in tough times.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
April 20: Sloane Teske, East Grand Rapids tennis – Read
March 30: Romeo Weems, New Haven basketball – Read
March 23: Jaycie Burger and Maddie Clark, Pittsford basketball – Read
March 16: Camden Murphy, Novi swimming & diving – Read
March 9: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central wrestling – Read
March 2: Joey Mangner, Chelsea swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 23: Isabelle Nguyen, Grosse Pointe North gymnastics – Read
Feb. 16: Dakota Hurbis, Saline swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 2: Foster Loyer, Clarkston basketball – Read
Jan. 26: Nick Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling – Read
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball – Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball – Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football – Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball – Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Shepherd's Amber Gall surges during one of her races last week against Alma and Standish-Sterling. (Middle) Gall rounds a curve during a race at Friday's Ithaca Invitational. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.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.)