Southfield Christian '6' Claim 1st Track Title

By Wes Morgan
Special for

June 3, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS – Southfield Christian may not have a track, but it has a trophy case.

And after Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals at Grand Rapids’ Houseman Field, the Eagles have a new piece of hardware to put in it.

With great efficiency, a squad of six athletes collected 62 points for the team title to beat out nearest competitors Fowler (52) and Springport (45). It’s the first track & field championship in school history (the Eagles were second in 2007), and junior Chika Amene left her fingerprints all over it.

Amene won three individual events and ran a leg on the first-place 1,600-meter relay team that set a school record with a time of 4 minutes, 7.37 seconds.

“It’s all so surreal,” she said. “I’m speechless, and it’s shocking.”

In the 100 prelims, Amene stumbled out of the blocks but still managed to win her heat. She ran a time of 12.71 seconds in the finals to edge Springport’s Katelynn Creger by four hundredths of a second.

In the 200, Amene clocked a 26.07 to hold off Custer Mason County Eastern’s Jordan Goodman, who ran a personal-record of 26.13.

Finally, Amene claimed her third sprint title when she crossed the finish in 58.83 in the 400. She helped solidify the team championship along with Rebekah Wilson, Kaelin Ray and Shelby Goodson with a convincing win in the 1,600 relay.

“This year I became more focused, and I became more serious,” Amene said. “I became more eager to win and have more of a fight than I did last year. I started training last summer and the indoor season really helped me improve. I want to do it again next year, defend my titles and improve my times.”

Ray turned in a school record 45.98 to win the 300-meter hurdles, and she placed third in the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.61. The Eagles’ 800 relay of Goodson, Grace Sanders, Ray and Grace McFerrin was third overall in 1:49.10.

“We weren’t expecting anything close to this,” Amene said. “I know people back at home are very happy.”

Mendon’s Mary Leighton was expecting nothing short of a championship in the 100 hurdles after setting a meet record in her win as a junior in 2016. Not only did she repeat as a senior, her time of 14.89 was again the best performance in Division 4 history. Leighton also had a runner-up finish in the 300 hurdles with a time of 47.52.

“I like warm weather, so I felt good going over the hurdles,” Leighton said. “I’m happy that I got my (personal record) on my last race of my high school career. As for the 300s, I knew that it was going to be a really close race. I’m still proud of my performance. It’s nice to finish strong before I go into collegiate competition (for Indiana Tech). I will always cherish the memories made from track, and I’m proud to say I ran for Mendon.” 

Erika Lechner of Harbor Springs ended her prep career on the highest of notes with a Division 4 meet record toss of 44 feet, 1½ inches. She bested Jade Madison’s mark of 43-8¼ set by the former New Buffalo standout in 2014.

The rest of the meet was a free-for-all as Fowler was one of two other teams to win multiple events. Its 400 relay team of McKenzie Feldpausch, Ciera Weber, McKenzie Koenigsknecht and Sidney Horak grabbed the top spot in 51.49 seconds, and teammate Allyssa Vandegriff cleared 5-4 to win the high jump by two inches.

Pittsford senior Maddie Clark crushed the field by over 15 feet with a distance of 137-6 in the discus, and the Wildcats nabbed another title when Katie Clement went 10-6 for a nine-inch victory in the pole vault.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Christian's Kaelin Ray clears a hurdle during her winning 300 performance. (Middle) Mendon's Mary Leighton powers through her first-place finish in the 100 hurdles. (Photos by Dave McCauley/

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.)