Stockford Reigns, Ithaca Earns 1st Title
June 4, 2016
By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half
COMSTOCK PARK – Last year Hailey Stockford came out of nowhere to win a pair of sprinting championships at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Track & Field Finals at Comstock Park High School.
This year, all eyes were on her.
As the reigning champion in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, the Sanford Meridian senior knew everyone at this year's Finals on Saturday, again at Comstock Park, wanted to dethrone here.
That was wishful thinking, as Stockford easily repeated in both events, winning the 100 in 12.27 seconds and the 200 in 25.29.
"It is a little harder to defend, because last year was my first year in track and no one knew who I was," said Stockford, who will be continuing her career at Saginaw Valley State University on a full scholarship. "This year I had the target on my back, and I don't know if I liked that. But I knew I was capable of dealing with it."
Those might have been the last of a long list of defenses for Stockford, but she started running track only last year as she also was a star on her school's softball team.
But her speed could not be ignored.
"In gym class, I ran the 40-yard dash and had a good time, and my coach, Mike Bilina, said I should really go out for track," Stockford said. "I played softball, but decided it was a good idea, and went out. Glad I did; it paid off."
Stockford's were two of many great performances on a perfect day for track and field. But collectively as a group, the day belonged to Ithaca, which won its first MHSAA team title in the sport with a score of 57.5 points, 3.5 more than runner-up Adrian Madison.
"Our goal coming in was to win," Ithaca coach Gene Lebron said "We scored 38 points last year and finished in fourth, and we didn't lose anybody. I am so proud of these girls, and so proud of the work they put in."
Ithaca was led to its title by senior Erica Sheahan, who repeated in the long jump with a leap of 17-10.25.
When talking about the Bullough family of Traverse City, a word that comes to mind is toughness.
That was never so true than Saturday, as St. Francis' Holly Bullough, younger sister of Max, Byron and Riley Bullough – who all played, or are now playing, football for Michigan State University – ran with a stress fracture in her left foot.
With a foot that requires a walking boot when she is not competing, Bullough won the 1,600 with a meet record time of 4 minutes, 52.63 seconds.
She also won the 800 in a time of 2:12.22 and was a member of the Gladiators' 1,600-meter relay team that took second with a time of 4:03.07.
"When I run, it's not as bad, but it really hurts after," said Bullough, who will be joining Byron and Riley at MSU this fall. "I felt good today. I haven't had a meet in a week and a half, so I have just been cross training. Today I just needed to get back into a rhythm."
Clare's Kasey Staley had a busy 10 minutes in her Finals events, as she ran for her team's 800-meter relay team that set a new school record of 1:46.91 and took third, and then came back to win the pole vault with a vault of 12 feet, 4 inches – a new meet record.
"The adrenaline was pumping," said Staley, a junior. "I did feel nervous because I just ran in the relay and came back to the pit. I made 11-8, and then went for 12-4 and when I made it on my second jump, it was the greatest feeling in the world."
PHOTOS: (Top) Sanford Meridian's Hailey Stockford (far left) is announced as the 100 meter champion Saturday at Comstock Park. (Middle) Ithaca's Emily Foster competes in the 300 hurdles; she finished fifth. (Click to see 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.)