Warriors Continue Decade of Dominance

May 25, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Remus Chippewa Hills girls track coach Sally Schafer tells her athletes that each season is a chapter of one book that is the Warriors’ program.

For the last decade, it’s been an award winner – and a best seller as class after class has kept going one of the state’s most impressive runs in any sport.

Chippewa Hills – despite just one senior and seven upperclassmen total – won its 10th-straight league meet last week by once again dominating the Central State Activities Association field. The Warriors also this season pushed their dual meet winning streak to 68, their last loss all the way back on April 25, 2002. And they added a Division 2 Regional championship last week, edging Mount Pleasant by 1.5 points despite being the smallest school in the division.

Track and field can be a sport of highs and lows, especially for a school of Chippewa Hills’ size and the massive effect one or two elite athletes can have. But the Warriors’ consistency makes the run more incredible – over that decade, they competed in four leagues against some schools that were smaller but also many that were much bigger.

“We’ve seen it all,” Schafer said. “We’ve seen Ludington; I remember seem them show up when I was starting coaching, and we hated seeing them getting off the bus, 80 of them. They’d clean you up, get on the bus and leave. And finally, one of the things I said was, 'What are we going to do? What do we need to do to beat them?'

“We were at Regionals one year, and I said we’ve got to figure out how this is done. I was tired of being in the middle of the pack, or on the low end. We sat down and said we have to develop everything across the board – not just be a distance school, or a sprints school. We need to have it all.”

She and her staff have built that machine – which also has allowed the program to annually plug in parts even in seasons like this one.

Most of Schafer’s athletes this spring were still waiting to start kindergarten when the winning streaks began. Of 37 competitors total, there are 26 freshmen. The team also graduated seven significant contributors off last season’s team, including two now competing at the college level.

Still, Chippewa Hills – recipient of this week's Second Half team High 5 – won six events at the Regional. Sophomore Megan O’Neil took first in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. Junior Corey Robison won the discus, and sophomore Erin Drouillard won the pole vault. And O’Neil, and freshmen Emily Starck, Kylie Schafer and Larissa Umbleby won the 3,200 relay by a healthy seven seconds.

The Regional title was the team's fourth in the last five seasons.

“Winning breeds itself, but losing does too. (So) every year we try to continue tradition. We just reload,” Schafer said. “A lot of times we go year to year, but we look at ourselves more as a program. We know what we have coming.”

This season’s success is atypical of a freshman-dominated squad because Warriors freshmen are atypical. While a talented bunch, Chippewa Hills freshmen generally join the high school program with an advanced knowledge of the sport after competing through full junior high schedules and working out alongside and with mentoring from the older athletes during those seventh and eighth grade seasons.

And the veteran coaching staff keeps the gears turning smoothly. Sally Schafer’s father, Don Foreman, was the boys track coach for 28 years, and Sally was a senior on the first girls Regional champion in 1985. She joined the coaching staff in 1993 and took over in 1999, and the coaches from junior high up have mostly remained the same throughout her tenure.

“The boys coaches, the girls coaches, the boys team, the girls team; we really are like one. We work out together sometimes, and it’s a family,” Schafer said. “The kids come in, and they’re not sure what to expect. But by the end, my goal as a coach is to have them only wanting more.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Chippewa Hills freshman Kylie Schafer runs during this season's Alma Invitational. (Middle) Warriors sophomore Megan O'Neil takes a hand-off from teammate Emonee Anderson during the CSAA championship meet at Hesperia. (Below) The Warriors celebrate their 10th-straight league meet championship. (Top and middle photos courtesy of Vickie Starck.)

Finals Title Next Step for Versatile Swan Valley Record-Breaker Kuhn

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

May 22, 2024

Sydney Kuhn’s habit for smashing school records at Saginaw Swan Valley has forced the track & field program to start taking cost-cutting measures.

Bay & Thumb“We stopped changing out the records on our record board,” Swan Valley coach Dave Dawson said. “We just figured she has another year and she’ll break it again, so we figured we’re going to save money this way.”

Kuhn, a junior, owns the school records in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters. She also has the program record in 60 meters, an indoor track event. She’s run the school’s second-fastest 300 hurdles time, and one of the top five 100-meter times. The 1,600-meter relay team she’s part of with Mackenzie Morgan, Grace Spear and Mackenzie Powell is close to setting a record, as well, and has qualified for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on June 1.

“Her ninth-grade year, everybody knew, depending on what happens and her attitude, they knew she could be something special. There was potential there,” Dawson said. “Lauren Huebner, she graduated in 2016 and went to SVSU and was a two-time Division II national champion, she had eight records on the board. Sydney feeds off that. Especially now that Lauren is helping coach, she’s definitely been pivotal in this.”

Kuhn qualified for the Finals in the three events she ran at last week’s Regional: the 200, 400 and 1,600 relay. She will be the No. 1 seed in the 400, and has run the fastest time in the state regardless of division, at 55.11 seconds. She’s the No. 2 seed in the 200, where her personal best of 24.89 is the fifth-fastest time in the state this year, regardless of division. She finished third and sixth, respectively, at the Finals in the events a year ago.

“I feel good,” Kuhn said. “I’m just getting ready. It’s been a good year, it’s been going smoothly. The 400 looks pretty good, and the 200 there will be some good competition. Freshman year, I got fifth, then third (as a sophomore) in the 400, so hopefully this year is first.”

She did not run the 800 at the Regional, as it was decided it was too close in the meet order to her other events. She’s run 2:12.75 in the event, the fourth-fastest time recorded in the state this season.

That could be where she has the most potential, however, as it’s a race she had never run competitively until her sophomore season. The first time she ran it in a varsity meet, she recorded a 2:21, setting the school record.

Kuhn anchors a relay during the Tri-Valley Conference Red meet May 8 at Frankenmuth.“(Coach) Andrew Wendler put a bug in her ear, ‘If you’re running this fast in the 400, think of what your 800 would be,’” Dawson said. “She says, ‘Yeah, I’ll try it.’ So, in one of our first conference meets, she ran against a girl that’s pretty good in the 800 and we just said to follow her – stick with her and see what you can do. With 200 meters left, she just took off and broke the school record the first time she ran it.”

A year later, they tried the same thing with the 1,600. And again, Kuhn responded by running 5:12.73 in her first try, setting the school record. She’s since run 5:06.45.

“The first time I ran the 800, I ran against Mary Richmond from Frankenmuth who is really fast, and I sort of paced behind her the first 400, then the last 300 I took off. Same thing with the 1,600. I felt like staying behind her, I wasn’t really racing, so I could just go, I thought.”

Richmond is a three-time all-state finisher in both the 1,600 and the 3,200, as well as a four-time all-state cross country runner. 

With Kuhn’s instant success in every race she’s tried, the logical next question is, what about the 3,200?

“My coach mentioned that,” Kuhn said with a laugh. “But I usually just shake my head. You never know.”

There is a real question, however, about what event, or events, Kuhn is best suited for moving forward. She said that she would like to shift some focus to the 800 for her senior year, and several college coaches who have been in contact with her have indicated that’s where she could land.

“The pattern typically is they would probably turn her into a half-miler or a miler,” Dawson said. “Some college coaches want her for the heptathlon with her hurdle experience, and she is not a stranger to the weight room. That’s the fun part about this, she tries something and it’s usually pretty fun. It’s usually a positive experience.”

Kuhn is ready for whatever is thrown at her.

“They’re mostly like 800, 1,500, those types of races,” she said. “Some of them just say whatever you like best. One coach mentioned the steeplechase – I don’t know about that. One coach did mention (heptathlon). I’d be open to whatever is best.”

While she’s taken some unofficial visits, she said she’s in no hurry to choose a college. Her focus remains on winning a Finals title at Swan Valley, and a series of times she’s set as goals for herself: 24.4, 54.9, 2:09.9, 4:59.9.

They’re all saved on her phone screen, where they’re easy to change as she reaches them. And at no cost.

“Every time I look at my phone, I see the times I want to get,” she said. “I’ve changed my screen saver a lot when I do break it.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Saginaw Swan Valley’s Sydney Kuhn runs toward the finish during the Korf/Schultz Saginaw County Invitational on May 10 at Hemlock. (Middle) Kuhn anchors a relay during the Tri-Valley Conference Red meet May 8 at Frankenmuth. (Photos by Eagle Eye Photography.)