Waverly Paces 1st-Time Winners in D2

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 4, 2016

ZEELAND – Quite possibly the most diminutive athlete at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Track & Field Finals on Saturday, sophomore Kayla Windemuller of Holland Christian twice fell to the track at Zeeland Stadium and twice got back on her feet, kept her composure and finished the 3,200-meter run before anyone else.

About an hour earlier, Windemuller won her first individual MHSAA championship, in the 1,600 run.

Nikole Sargent of Flint Powers Catholic also was a double winner taking first in the shot put and the discus. Sargent won the shot put last season as a junior, but said going into this meet that the discus event was a priority. Sargent failed to place in the discus a year ago, fueling her motivation.

Although Tra’chele Roberts of Lansing Waverly took home only one individual first-place medal, her performances helped her team earn the school’s first MHSAA Finals team championship, as it edged second-place Powers, 42 points to 40. Romulus was third with 31 points, followed by Grand Rapids South Christian with 26 and Zeeland East with 24.

Roberts won the 100 dash (12.55) and ran anchor on the winning 400 and 800 relay teams. The 400 relay set a school record with a time of 48.7.

Warriors coach Rex Wilkes, a Waverly graduate, is in his second season running the program and said he kept Roberts, one of three sophomores on the relay teams, out of the 200 dash in an attempt to save her for the relays.

“We didn’t expect this,” Wilkes said. “I was hoping to come out with some fast times. We got some unexpected points in the shot put. Tra’chele can score points on her own. The others can score in the Regionals and run in the relays.”

The other three athletes on the relay teams were sophomores Jazlynn Wilcox and Maya Garrett, and junior Teaghan Thomas.

“It’s very exciting,” Thomas said. “I’ve been at states three times. We’ve been together since the seventh grade. The same girls ran on the relays, and in the same order.”

Thomas led off, followed by Wilcox, Garrett and Roberts.

Last season Waverly also took first in the 400 relay, but no individual placed among the top eight in the 100 dash.

To Wilkes’ point, another factor in the Warriors; breakthrough took place in the field events. Sophomore Malin Smith was sixth after the preliminaries, then moved up to second with a final put of 42 feet. Smith also took fifth in the discus, an event in which she was seeded seventh.

Windemuller was seeded first and third, respectively, in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs, so it’s not surprising she ran well Saturday. She did place seventh in the 3,200 and eighth in the 1,600 last season, so there was some valuable experience gained there.

No one could predict the events that took place and the circumstances that led to her taking first in both this time.

Windemuller, who said she’s 5-foot-1, won the 1,600 (4:58.9) in rather mundane fashion, at least in comparison to her 3,200 trip. She held off a late charge by junior Christina Sawyer of Tecumseh (5:00.2) in a tight race indeed – and Windemuller had to work for it.

“”It made me super nervous knowing she was close by,” Windemuller said. “I was very tired. I gave it everything I had.”

That was small potatoes compared to her extraordinary effort in the 3,200. With approximately two laps remaining Windemuller, Sawyer and junior Erika Freyhof of Hamilton were bunched together at the front. Suddenly, all three fell.

“I got up as quickly as I could,” Windemuller said. “I was still tired from running the (1,600). … I felt so bad. It was like dominos.”

The second spill took place with just over a lap remaining.

“I was in front,” Windemuller said. “When you go down you have to get yourself back up. It was a great learning experience.

“I’m small, but I’m feisty.”

Her time was 10:59.52.

Courageous athletes dotted the green artificial surface, home to both football teams at Zeeland East and Zeeland West. One competitor, in particular, is a multi-sport athlete who played four years of varsity basketball and was a two-sport athlete during the spring season.

Haley Hoogenraad of Zeeland West is one of the state’s top softball players. She will play for coach Carol Hutchins next year at University of Michigan. Hoogenraad competed in the 3,200 relay Saturday morning, then changed uniforms in a car as she was driven to Holland Christian to play in a Division 2 District Semifinal. West lost that noon game to Hudsonville Unity Christian, 12-4, allowing Hoogenraad to get back in a car to be driven back to Zeeland for the 800 run.

Hoogenraad was not just a qualifier in the event. She was seeded first, and as the race unfolded she moved up from fifth place to second with 200 meters left. Hoogenraad grew tired and placed fourth.

“I slid a few times and dove for a few balls,” Hoogenraad said of her time on the softball diamond. “I was dirty. I’m sad of the outcomes, but I tried. I tried to make my move (in the 800) and I said, oh, I can’t. I’m glad I had the opportunity to support my team.”

That would be teams.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Waverly's Tra’chele Roberts runs a relay anchor leg for the Warriors, who went on to win the LP Division 2 championship. (Middle) Holland Christian's Kayla Windemuller. (Photos by Dave McCauley/RunMichigan.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.

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.)