Preview: Legacy-Making Opportunities

May 31, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We will say good-bye to a number of graduating champions at Saturday’s MHSAA Girls Track & Field Finals.

But it’s hard to not also be excited about some of the final legacy-making opportunities for outgoing seniors – and new chances to shine for a group of impressive rising athletes taking their places among the elite.  

Below is a look at some of the teams and individuals to watch at Saturday’s girls meets. All events begin at 9 a.m. local time on both peninsulas.   

Click for meet information including all qualifiers. Check out for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription and beginning at 10 a.m., and come back Saturday night for results as they come in and coverage of all seven meets on Second Half.

LP Division 1 at East Kentwood

Top Regional team scores: 1. Rockford 179, 2. Oak Park 152, 3. Grosse Pointe North 150, 4. Grosse Pointe South 149, 5. Salem 149.

Oak Park is the reigning champion and has won four of the last five titles in LPD1, also finishing runner-up in 2017. With contenders in nearly every running event, the Knights may be the favorites again. But keep an eye on Detroit Renaissance and Rockford, both also loaded with star power. Rockford was the runner-up last season, 6.5 points off the lead, while Renaissance finished sixth.

Dearborn Edsel Ford’s BreeAna Bates: The speedy sophomore finished ninth in the 100 and didn’t make the championship heat in the 200 last season, but she had the fastest 100 (11.82) at LPD1 Regionals and the second-fastest 200 (24.64).

Detroit Renaissance’s Kaila Jackson: A star already as a freshman, she could cap her first season with multiple titles entering with the second-fastest LPD1 Regional time in the 100 (11.98) and fastest in the 200 (24.37) plus as part of the fastest 400 and 800 relays.

Walled Lake Western’s Kennedy Jackson: Last season’s runner-up in the long jump had the best LPD1 Regional showing in that event (18.5.25) and the high jump (5-7) and the fifth-fastest time in the 100 hurdles (14.57).

Oak Park’s Aasia Laurencin: The champion in the 200 and runner-up in the 100 hurdles in 2018, Laurencin is one of many standouts for Oak Park (freshman Chloe Vines, sophomore Nysha Jordan and juniors Jayla Jones and N’Stajah Banks are perhaps the other most notable of numerous title contenders) and enters this weekend with the second-fastest LPD1 Regional time in the 100 hurdles (14.22), sixth-fastest in the 100 dash (12.23), fifth-fastest in the 200 (24.83) and as part of the second-fastest 800 relay.

White Lake Lakeland’s Grace Stark: The star sprinter and hurdler will try to cap her high school career with one more title after winning the 100 dash and 100 hurdles last season. She enters this weekend with the fastest LPD1 Regional time in that hurdles race (13.84) by more than three tenths of a second after setting the LPD1 Finals record in the event last year at 13.16.  

Lake Orion’s Melissa Symons: After winning the 300 hurdles last season by nearly a second, the Dragons’ senior had the second-fastest LPD1 Regional time in that race (43.72) and third-fastest in the 100 hurdles (14.26) after also taking fourth in that event in 2018.

Rockford’s Ericka VanderLende: The Rams’ distance ace won the 1,600 last season and was runner-up in the 3,200, and she should make a run at three individual titles with the fastest LPD1 Regional times in the 1,600 (4:42.75) and 3,200 (10:33.32) and second-fastest in the 800 (2:13.08) trailing only Grand Haven standout Gabby Hentemann in that race.

LP Division 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional team scores: 1. Dearborn Divine Child 214, 2. Zeeland East 161.5, 3. Frankenmuth 154, 4. Corunna 129.25, 5. East Grand Rapids 123.

Zeeland East broke through last season for its first MHSAA Finals championship in this sport after finishing runner-up in 2017, and could be in the mix again of a closely-contested team race. Frankenmuth, Corunna, Saginaw and most of all Holland Christian also have the elite star power to make a run at the team title.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Jakarri Alven: The 400 champion as both a freshman and sophomore, Alven missed last year’s Finals with an injury but could make up for that this weekend. She had the top LPD2 Regional time in the 400 (58.57), the second-fastest in the 200 (25.82), the third-fastest in the 100 (12.48) and also will compete in long jump (16-6.5).  

Allendale’s Brianna Bredeweg: After winning pole vault last season as a sophomore, Bredeweg enters with the highest LPD2 Regional vault (11-10) by 10 inches. She set the meet record last year at 12-7.

Ludington’s Emma Fountain: Last year’s 400 champion as a junior had the second-fastest LPD2 Regional time to Alven in that race (58.98) and also will run the 200 (26.74) and on the 3,200 relay.

Holland Christian’s Michelle Kuipers: The Maroons’ junior standout has won four championships, three as part of relays plus the 800 last season. Her LPD2 Regional time in the 800 (2:19.29) ranks sixth, her 1,600 time third (5:03.43) and she’ll be running on the fastest 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

Marysville’s Kaia Scheffler: After taking fourth in the 300 and seventh in the 100 hurdles last season as a sophomore, Scheffler will be aiming for her first titles entering with the top LPD2 Regional times in both races, 46.33 and 14.52 seconds, respectively.

Bridgeport’s Payten Williams: The Bearcats’ sprint star swept the 100 and 200 last season and will run for a repeat in the 100 (12.73) and as part of Bridgeport’s contending 400 relay. Freshman teammate Chaniya Madison will be among her top competition in the 100, entering with the fastest LPD2 Regional time of 12.18. 

LP Division 3 at Jenison

Top Regional team scores: 1. Warren Michigan Collegiate 171, 2. Saugatuck 163.5, 3. Berrien Springs 157, 4. Pewamo-Westphalia 150, 5. Kent City 135.

Including last year’s co-champions St. Charles and Hart, six teams have claimed the overall title over the last five seasons. Pewamo-Westphalia last won in 2015 (and also 2013) and might be the favorite again – but watch especially for Shepherd, along with Quincy, St. Charles and Jackson Lumen Christi among many others.

Hart’s Adelyn Ackley: One of the state’s all-time great distance champions, Ackley will run her final high school races after claiming 3,200 titles last season and in 2016 and the last three LPD3 cross country championships. She enters this weekend with the third-fastest LPD3 Regional time in the 3,200 (10:57.22), fourth-fastest in the 1,600 (5:07.48) and running on a contending 3,200 relay.

Shepherd’s Amber Gall: The senior standout won the 800 and as part of the 3,200 relay in 2017 and just missed adding another title a year ago. But she could single-handedly alter the team standings in her final high school event, running on the fastest 1,600 relay, second-fastest 3,200 relay and entering with the fastest LPD3 Regional time in the 800 (2:12.50) and third-fastest in the 1,600 (5:06.07).

Jackson Lumen Christi’s Renae Kutcha: Last season’s 400 champion as a freshman has the fastest LPD3 Regional time on that race (57.40) and will run the 200 (26.99) plus on two relays including a contender in the 1,600.

Byron’s Sarah Marvin: The third-place finisher in both the shot put and discus as a freshman, she has the top LPD3 Regional throws in both by significant margins at 41-10.5 and 128-10, respectively.

Farwell’s Jenna Odykirk: The reigning champion in the 100 enters her last Finals with the fifth-fastest LPD3 Regional time in that race (tied – 12.90) and also should contend for a place in the 200 (26.91).

Hanover-Horton’s Judy Rector: After claiming the 800 and 1,600 titles last season as a junior, Rector will go after the double again with the second-fastest LPD3 Regional time in the 800 (2:13.73) and fifth-fastest in the 1,600 (5:08.65).

Onsted’s McKenna Russell: The standout junior hurdler will run three relays and only one individual race, the 300 hurdles. She won it in 2018 and enters with the second-fastest LPD3 Regional time (47.17) after finishing second two weeks ago to Quincy’s Madelyn Allman.

Muskegon Western Michigan Christian’s Abby VanderKooi: Considered by many the next great Michigan high school distance runner, the freshman had the best LPD3 Regional time in the 3,200 (10:36.17) by more than 18 seconds.

LP Division 4 at Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School

Top Regional team scores: Royal Oak Shrine 169, Pittsford 167.16, Marcellus 149, Fowler 142, Athens 140.

Fowler has taken turns winning or finishing second the last four seasons, but coming off last year’s title could be in line for a repeat this time. Pittsford is the reigning runner-up and should be right there again, with Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart and Addison among other interesting possibilities.

Royal Oak Shrine’s Ellie Kendell: Last season’s fourth-place finisher in the 1,600 and third placer in the 3,200 as a sophomore, she ran the fastest LPD4 Regional times in both at 5:17.25 and 11:35.62, respectively – the 3,200 time the fastest by more than 30 seconds.

Addison’s Ally McLouth: The Panthers’ standout could pile up points entering with the best long jump (17-2.5) from LPD4 Regionals plus the fastest 300 hurdles time (44.94) and second-fastest in the 100 hurdles (15.32). She finished second in long jump and third in the 300 as a sophomore a year ago.

Bridgman’s Mikaela Owen: Last season’s runner-up in the 100 and fifth-place finisher in the 200 as a sophomore, Owen had the fastest LPD4 Regional time in the 200 (26.36), second-fastest in the 100 (12.78), sixth-fastest in the 400 (1:02.64) and also the third-best long jump (16-5). Lincoln Alcona sophomore Lily Bilbey should be right there with her in all three races, with the fastest 100 (12.67) and second-fastest 200 (26.71) at LPD4 Regionals.

Fowler’s Alyssa Vandegriff: The Eagles’ senior standout won the high jump and 100 hurdles during last year’s title run (and the high jump in 2017 as well), and she enters her last Finals with the third-fastest LPD4 Regional time in the 100 hurdles (15.59), fourth-fastest in the 300 (48.12), tied for seventh-best high jump (4-11) and running on the fastest 800 relay.

Hillsdale Academy’s Katie VanHavel: The reigning long jump champion had the second-best leap to McLouth in all of LPD4 at their Regional two weeks ago (16-7). She’ll also run on two relays including a contender in the 800 to finish up her high school career.

UP Division 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional team scores: 1. Marquette 66, 2. Negaunee 56, 3. Sault Ste. Marie 45.

Negaunee broke Marquette’s seven-year hold on the UPD1 championship last season, outpacing the Redettes by 25.5 points. Both enter as Regional champions Saturday and appear nearly even on paper. Side note: The winners of all but one individual event in 2018 will be competing again this weekend.

Kingsford’s Olivia Allen: The senior standout will try to win four individual titles to add to her previous six solos and three championships as parts of relays. She won the 100, 200 and 400 last spring and enters with the fifth-fastest UPD1 Regional time in the 100 (13.61), second-fastest in the 200 (27.68) and second-fastest in the 400 (1:02.14), plus she’ll long jump (15-2.5).

Houghton’s Lilly Baker: The reigning pole vault champion tied with two others for the top vault at the UPD1 Regionals with an 8-6.

Marquette’s Rachael Hunt: After winning long jump and as part of the 800 relay as a junior, she’s set for a big Finals running on the fastest 400 and 800 relays and also entering with the fifth-fastest UPD1 Regional time in the 200 (28.16) and fourth-best long jump (15-4.5).

Sault Ste. Marie’s Emily McLean: Last season’s shot put champion – and meet record setter at 38-1.25 – had the top UPD1 Regional toss (39.2) by nearly five feet and also the fourth-best discus throw (95-7).

Negaunee’s Chloe Norman: The junior standout will try to add to titles won last year in the 300 hurdles and as part of the 3,200 relay, entering with the top UPD1 Regional showings in the high jump (5-0) and long jump (16-7.5), the latter by more than a foot. She also had the second-fastest 300 hurdles time (47.21) and fourth-fastest in the 100 hurdles (tied – 17.30).

Kingsford’s Rylee Palmer: Last season’s discus champ had the third-farthest UPD1 Regional toss (96-6.5) and also tied for the fourth-highest pole vault (8-0).

Negaunee’s Emily Paupore: After earning a relay win as a freshman, Paupore broke out last year with championships in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and as part of the 3,200 relay. Her 3,200 time of 11:25.52 was a meet record. She had the UPD1 Regional bests in the 800 (2:22.97), 1,600 (5:26.00) and 3,200 (11:59.61).  

Menominee’s Mackenzie Wellner: The reigning champion in the 100 hurdles enters her sophomore Finals with the top UPD1 Regional times in the 100 hurdles (16.19) and 300 hurdles (46.73) and as part of contenders in the 400 and 800 relays. 

UP Division 2 at Kingsford

Top Regional team scores: 1. St. Ignace 73, 2. Hancock 49.5, 3. Iron River West Iron County 45.

St. Ignace has won two straight UP Division 2 championship and three of the last five, and appears to be the team to chase again Saturday. The Saints won last season’s title by 70 points.

St. Ignace’s Elizabeth Becker: The Saints’ lead scorer last Finals won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and as part of the 1,600 relay as a junior. She has the top UPD2 Regional times in the 800 (2:22.74), 1,600 (5:37.24) and 3,200 (12:42.24) and will help pace another contending 1,600 relay.

Bark River-Harris' Hailee Demers: After winning the 300 hurdles and as part of the 400 relay in UPD3 a year ago, Demers will make a run with the top UPD2 Regional time in the 300 (50.17), the second-fastest in the 100 dash (13.18) and as part of the fastest 400 relay and second-fastest 800. 

St. Ignace’s Heather Lamb: The reigning long jump champion will go for the repeat as a junior entering with the farthest UPD2 Regional jump (15-9.5) by nearly 18 inches.

Manistique’s Ashley McDonald: Last season’s pole vault champion as a junior could finish up high school in a big way, entering with the best UPD2 Regional vault (8-6) by a foot plus as part of the fastest 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

Munising’s Madeleine Peramaki: The senior distance star won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 in UPD3 last season and the latter two in UPD2 in 2017. She enters with the second-fastest UPD2 Regional times in all three races at 2:26.84, 5:41.24 and 13:20.24, respectively. 

St. Ignace’s Ally Schultz: The Saints’ freshman enters with the top UPD2 Regional times in the 200 (27.46), 400 (1:02.34) and third-fastest in the 100 (13.22), plus will run on a contending 800 relay.

Iron River West Iron County’s Jordan Shamion: After taking third in both hurdles races as a freshman, she enters this weekend with the top UPD2 Regional time in the 100 hurdles (17.40) and second-fastest in the 300 (51.51).

UP Division 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional team scores: 1. Lake Linden-Hubbell 82, 2. Felch North Dickinson 72.5, 3. Stephenson 68.

Lake Linden-Hubbell has won the last two UPD3 championships, last season’s by 33 points ahead of runner-up North Dickinson. The Nordics look capable of giving a major push Saturday, and watch out as well for relay-strong Rock Mid-Peninsula.

Felch North Dickinson’s Masyn Alexa: The 100 and 200 champ last season as a sophomore will go for the repeats with the second-fastest UPD3 Regional times in both at 13.33 and 27.53, respectively. She also had the fastest 400 time of 1:02:41 two weeks ago.

Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Jamie Hendrickson: She’s won the high jump and two relay titles both of her first two seasons of high school. Hendrickson enters with weekend with a UPD3 Regional-best high jump of 5-0, third-best long jump of 14-7, fifth-best 400 of 1:06.72 and as part of the top 1,600 relay.

Lake Linden-Hubbell’s MacKenzie LePage: Last season’s pole vault champion as a junior tied for the top UPD3 Regional vault of 8-6 and also will compete in high jump (4-6), long jump (13-8) and 100 hurdles (18.54).

Ontonagon’s Holly Jo Wardynski: The reigning discus champion enters her last high school Finals with the top UPD3 Regional toss (108-2) by more than five feet and also will throw shot (28-9).

PHOTOS: (Top) Oak Park’s Aasia Laurencin and White Lake Lakeland’s Grace Stark push through the finish of the 100-meter hurdles race at last season’s LPD1 Finals, as Stark set a meet record in the race. (Middle) Negaunee’s Emily Paupore breaks down the stretch during one of her three UPD1 championship wins in 2018. (Click to see more from

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for

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.)