She’s perhaps the definition of student-athlete.
Addison senior Kahlen Wheaton’s athletic career is winding down, but she’s leaving a legacy at the southern Lenawee County school, not so much for record-breaking sports statistics, but for her drive, determination, and classroom success.
This fall, she’ll enroll at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, one of the most exclusive colleges in the nation.
“They accept only 4 percent of the students who apply,” said Barbara Brown, Addison volleyball coach and a teacher in the district. “I have had her in my Advanced Placement English classes the last two years, and she has turned in some of the most impressive work I have received in my 27 years of teaching. She goes above and beyond in everything she does.”
Wheaton has played sports since grade school. At the varsity level, she’s played volleyball, basketball, and softball. She played three years of travel softball in high school and rarely missed summer workouts in the other sports.
Always competitive, Wheaton said she used sports to relax from the rigors of her academic calendar. She estimates she spends 3-5 hours a day on homework or taking college classes online.
“I definitely enjoy it,” she said about sports. “It’s nice to be able to hang out with people. I really like the game itself. It’s a stress reliever. I have that two hours a day where I can kind of chill.”
Wheaton will graduate Addison as its valedictorian. She has a long list of scholarships and academic awards, from being named the Cascades Conference Scholar Athlete to being named outstanding senior in mathematics, English and science at Addison.
“Kahlen is truly one of a kind,” Brown said. “Her work ethic is impressive, and I never heard a single complaint from her. Kahlen is a very quiet young lady, but she is also kind and encouraging to everyone.”
Wheaton, 17, finds time to study every chance she gets – on the bus, in-between games at volleyball and softball tournaments, and just about all her downtime.
“My teammates can attest to this,” she said. “On the bus to games, I’ll be doing my homework, or between games at softball tournaments. I try and stay off my phone when I get home so I can get all my work done.”
Wheaton is playing softball this spring for Addison, which has vastly improved over the last couple of seasons. Head coach Kelly Gahn said Wheaton is a leader who has spearheaded fundraising efforts for the softball program and serves as the team tutor in math.
“She is a completely selfless person,” Gahn said. “She leads by example, and as a senior she is still working harder than ever. In the weight room, on the practice field and on game day Kahlen is working to be better. She is giving to her teammates any help they might need.”
Brown said Wheaton missed part of her freshman year of volleyball due to a concussion she suffered during a softball game the preceding summer. Not playing a lot due to that injury didn’t deter her.
“She worked extremely hard to catch up and by the time she was a senior, she was one of my two middle hitters,” Brown said. “I knew every time she got a set, she would put the ball in play.”
Wheaton grew up in the Irish Hills area of southern Michigan, the daughter of Glen and Dawn Wheaton.
Getting into MIT wasn’t on her radar until her senior year started and she began comparing some of her college entrance exam scores with those of MIT applicants. She gave it a shot and applied.
“I really didn’t think I was going to get in,” she said. “I applied early, in December. When those decisions were released, I was deferred. I was planning on going to the University of Michigan, then on March 14 they released their regular decisions and I found out I got in. I was super surprised.”
Her being accepted goes beyond her 4.2 GPA and test scores, but she’s not entirely sure what set her apart. On her visit to Cambridge, she met students from across the country, most from much larger schools than Class C Addison. She will study engineering with a focus on sustainability. She’s been interested in green energy and solar panels for several years and feels that is the direction her career could be headed.
“I’ve always had a passion for the environment,” she said. “It was my sophomore year where I started thinking about a career in that field. I love math and science so I thought engineering would be a good path to go. Everything I’ve learned about it so far has seemed awesome.”
Her academic schedule hasn’t been set for the fall, but she’s peeked at the freshman year requirements.
“Physics, chemistry, biology, calculus, two humanities – that is my freshman year,” she said.
Whatever the class load, she’s prepared for it.
“I anticipate it being hard. I’m excited for the challenge. I’m going to have to adjust to school being harder,” she said.
“I want to get involved with on-campus sustainability clubs. Research is a big thing at MIT, so I want to get involved with a research project. Other than that, I just want to explore the Boston area and meet new people.”
While her athletic career is winding down, Wheaton takes a lot of lessons from volleyball matches, basketball games and time on the softball diamond.
“The main thing I’ve learned from sports is how to communicate with people,” she said. “I wasn’t close to the girls on my sports teams when I was starting high school. Learning how to communicate with people in different ways has made me more sociable, for example. I used to be way shyer than I am now. Being able to work as a team will be very useful in college and in the workplace.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Addison’s Kahlen Wheaton readies for a pitch during a softball game this spring. (Middle) Wheaton begins her swing during a volleyball match. (Softball photo by Barbara Brown; volleyball photo by Mike Dickie.)
Evart was added to the MHSAA softball record book 23 times for achievements during an outstanding three-season run that has included a Division 3 runner-up finish in 2022.
Then-junior Katelyn Gostlin twice was included for hitting streaks, of 26 straight games during the 2022 season and 22 straight this past spring. She also was added for 23 doubles in 2022, and then-senior Addysen Gray was added for 16 doubles in 2023. Ally Theunick was added for 11 home runs this spring and 23 over her first three seasons with one more to play. Gostlin, Theunick and 2021 graduate Ryenn Baumgardner all were added for single-game accomplishments.
Among team record listings, Evart had 405 hits, 419 runs, 85 doubles, 35 home runs and 328 RBI over 39 games this spring. Gostlin has signed with Mid-Michigan College, and Gray is playing softball and basketball there this school year.
See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA softball record book:
Olivia Mikowski followed up her Maple City Glen Lake team’s Division 4 basketball championship in March with a national record this spring on the diamond. She tied the MHSAA and national records with 20 triples, over 35 games, among five record book entries she earned. She also is listed for 74 RBI this past season, while now-junior Jessie Pugh earned a listing with 66 runs scored over 37 games. Mikowski is continuing at Schoolcraft College.
Essexville Garber finished a combined 71-14 over the last two seasons and reached the Division 2 Semifinals in 2022 after winning its first Regional title since 1997, along the way achieving several record book performances for both team and individual lists. The Dukes hit 53 home runs over 41 games this past spring, tying for sixth most as senior Sarah Basket set a program record and made the individual list with 12. Basket also was added for 21 doubles in 2022, with Laney Kokaly making the doubles list that season with 16 and Ella Wagner making it was 16 this past season. Kortney Kotenko set the previous Garber home run record in 2022, making the record book list with 11. All four were seniors in 2023. Kotenko is continuing at Madonna, while Basket is playing at Lawrence Tech and Wagner at Northwood. Kokaly is playing volleyball at Northwood.
Three Rivers and now-senior Ava Forman made the single-season hits list with 75 over 41 games and the single-season doubles list for 22 last spring and also 18 over 40 games as a sophomore. Three Rivers as a team made the records for 423 hits, 101 doubles and 277 RBI over 42 games in 2023.
Armada’s Taylor Capozzo had 19 doubles in 2023 to make that single-season list, plus hit back-to-back home runs in a game against Yale, and Natalie Sauer drove in six runs in a game against Brown City. Capozzo is a sophomore this school year, and Sauer graduated in the spring and is continuing at St. Clair County Community College.
Schoolcraft’s Lauren Evans hit 31 doubles in 2023 as a junior, the second-most in MHSAA history, as the Eagles totaled 118 over 41 games – also the second-most doubles on the team list. Schoolcraft also made record lists for 436 hits and 316 RBI for the season and five home runs in a game against Battle Creek Pennfield (which included back-to-back homers by Evans). Teammate Sydney Drenth, then a sophomore, made the doubles list with 22, and senior Alayna Meade made the same list with 16. Meade is continuing at Cornerstone, and Evans has committed to sign with Saginaw Valley State.
Farmington Hills Mercy finished 29-1 in 2023, earning four record book entries along the way. The Marlins tied for second-fewest runs allowed, giving up only 16. They also made lists for 11 consecutive shutouts, 385 strikeouts and a .435 average and just missed the single-season shutouts list with 23.
Unionville-Sebewaing’s 2022 Division 4 championship season produced another series of record book-worthy accomplishments. As a team, USA set an MHSAA record with 128 doubles over 40 games and was fourth on the team RBI list with 391, while also earning entries with 44 runs scored, 485 hits and 48 home runs. Individually, then-sophomore Gabriella Crumm was added for 80 hits, 21 doubles and 11 home runs, and then-senior Laci Harris was added for 11 home runs as well plus 72 hits, 19 doubles and career totals of 31 home runs, 170 RBI, 170 runs scored and 51 doubles over 123 games despite her sophomore season of 2020 being canceled due to COVID-19. Then-junior Oliva Jubar was added for 18 doubles, and then-sophomore Ella Neumann was added for 17. Harris is continuing her career at Madonna.
Paige Ratliff finished her Battle Creek Lakeview career in the spring with 10 record book entries across a variety of categories. Most notably, she totaled 37 doubles, 30 home runs and a .520 career average over three seasons and 108 games. She’s continuing at Lake Forest College (Ill.).
Hudson then-freshman Taylor Kopin opened her high school career in the spring by scoring 65 runs to make the individual record book. In doing so, she also helped Hudson make the team record book list with 417 runs scored over 39 games.
Haslett’s Payden Whitmore earned her school’s first softball record book entry since 2007 by hitting 12 triples over 38 games in the spring. She’s a junior this school year.
Mancelona has a pair of softball players who reached career lists last season with more to play. Now-senior Ella Jones was added for 20 doubles as a sophomore in 2022 and 19 this spring, and made the career doubles list with 39 and a season to play. Now-junior Ella Schram was added for her 13 triples as a freshman and .650 average this spring, and she’s on the career triples list with 23 and will qualify for the career average list if she keeps hitting at this pace over her next seasons.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart hit the second-most triples in MHSAA history on the way to the Division 4 Semifinals in the spring. The Irish piled up 48 over 43 games, led by freshman Mairin Wheaton, who hit 12 over 42, respectively.
Reed City made the team record lists with 78 doubles and 252 RBI over 39 games in the spring, and a pair of standouts also were added. Morgan Hammond, then a freshman, and then-sophomore Paityn Enos both were added for single-game RBI, plus Enos was added for 72 hits and 20 doubles and Hammond was added for 22 doubles.
Manton now-junior Adriana Sackett earned her first record book listings in the spring. Twice she hit back-to-back home runs in games, and she also was added for 11 homers total over 26 games.
A trio of Ravenna standouts put up a series of record book-caliber totals over the last two seasons, including some of the highest-ranking all time. Emma Gillard graduated in the spring with nine record book entries, including for 85 runs (fourth most) and 13 triples (tied for 20th) this past season, and she made career lists with 200 runs, 27 triples and a .532 average over 111 games and three years. Emma Herremans is just a junior but has 11 record book listings after two seasons including for 25 doubles (11th-most) as a freshman in 2022 and a .652 average and 73 RBI this past spring, and she’s already on career lists for doubles and triples. Kara Postema graduated this spring with six record book entries, including season and career records for times hit by pitch (23 and 49, respectively), and she also made career lists with 36 doubles and 153 RBI over 111 games and three seasons. Gillard is continuing at Ferris State and Postema at Cornerstone.
PHOTO Evart's Riley Brigham connects during her team's Division 3 Final against Millington in 2022.