'Student-Athlete' Wheaton Combines Elite Academics with 3-Sport Success

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

May 9, 2023

She’s perhaps the definition of student-athlete.  

Southeast & BorderAddison 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.” 

Wheaton begins her swing during a volleyball match. 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 DonnellyDoug 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.)

Ace's 13 listings lead Hudsonville's 50 added to Softball Record Book

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

June 9, 2023

A total of 50 entries covering the last three decades of Hudsonville’s successful history have been entered in the MHSAA softball record book, with 2011 grad Sara Driesenga leading the way with 13 listings.

Driesenga’s most notable was her 0.15 ERA in 2010, which is tied for 10th lowest. Danielle Freeman, a 2013 grad, was added 10 times, including for 85 hits (tied for 10th) in 2012.

Others making lists one or more times were Kenzie Ritsema, Kelly Zackrison, Bethaney Murphy, Grace Sommers, Sydney Burns, Aleigha Talsma, Erica Bosman, Sarah Nederveld, Arinn King, Brooke Agers, Marleah Stapf and Lexi Agers.

Driesenga went on to star at Michigan, Freeman was a standout at Evansville, and Ritsema was a standout at Western Michigan. Zackrison played at Michigan State, Murphy at Saginaw Valley State, Talsma at Campbellsville (Ky.), King at Hope College, Brooke Agers at Muskegon Community College and Stapf at Florida International.

See below for more recent record book entries in softball:


A trio of Beaverton standouts over the last two seasons were added. Alexis Grove led with seven entries including 75 hits, 66 runs and 18 doubles last spring as a senior and 42 doubles and 158 RBI over her four-year career despite the cancellation of the 2020 season. Sawyer Gerow was added for 19 doubles as a senior last spring and 39 over her four-year career, and Molly Gerow was added for 72 hits in 2021. Grove is continuing her career at Northwood.

A pair of Otisville LakeVille Memorial players were added for accomplishments during the 2022 season. Jayla Thompson strung together a 24-game hitting streak beginning May 1 and continuing through her team’s District title run, and she also hit 12 home runs over 36 games. Teammate Mallorie Nevadomski became the third player to be listed for being hit by two pitches in the same inning, which occurred during the first inning of an April 11 game against Mt. Morris. Thompson is a junior this spring, and Nevadomski is a sophomore.

Fowlerville’s Tori Briggs earned her first record book entries last season as a sophomore. She tied the record for most triples in a game with four against Lansing Eastern, and also was added for 20 doubles over 34 games played.

Sabrina Lee was hit by pitches an incredible 33 times over 106 games and three seasons during her Rochester Adams career that ended last spring, and that’s with 2020 being canceled. She sits atop the career HBP list. Additionally, Adams coach Fran Scislowicz was added to the career coaching wins list with 756 since taking over the program in 1988.

Watervliet’s 36-5 run in 2022 included several performances that made record listings including for 476 hits, 438 runs, 349 RBI and 237 stolen bases as a team, and a .401 team batting average. Five players also earned individual entries, led by Samantha Dietz, who was added for 67 runs scored and 71 stolen bases in 74 tries – the latter tying for ninth-most stolen bases in a season. She also was one of four players added for driving in six runs in one game, joined by Abigail Whorton, Addison Riley (twice) and Grace Chisek. Chisek also was added for 75 hits, 75 runs scored, 12 triples and a 26-game hitting streak, and Maddie Flowers made the runs scored list with 73. Riley graduated last year, Dietz is a senior this spring, and Whorton and Chisek are juniors.

Kalamazoo Loy Norrix played a record-setting game against Comstock on April 9, 2021, and Gracie Goschke played a major part. She was added for three home runs in a game, including two grand slams, two home runs and six RBI during the second inning and 10 RBI total that afternoon. A sophomore then, Goschke is a senior this season.

East Kentwood finished a combined 50-28-1 over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, with three players teaming up to earn the program’s first record book entries. Aalana Kimble, a senior this season, tied for second all-time last spring as a junior with 18 triples and also made the records with 71 hits last year and 66 runs and 81 hits as a sophomore. Kelsey Depault was added for 81 hits and 19 doubles in 2021, and Emily Visser – now a junior – was added for 77 hits last season and 17 doubles in 2021. Depault graduated last spring and is playing at Northwood, and Kimble has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

Big Rapids reached the records in five team categories during the 2022 season, with 473 hits, 91 doubles, 344 RBI, 401 runs and a .424 batting average over 39 games. Marissa Warren led the charge, making the records with 70 runs, 79 hits and 21 doubles. She’s a junior this season.

Natalie Wandrie reached the record book six times last season as a junior at Indian River Inland Lakes, most notably for a .717 batting average that ranks sixth all-time for a single season. She also entered this spring on the career home runs list with 23, and hit 15 as a junior. She will play both softball and volleyball at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky.

PHOTO Hudsonville’s Sara Driesenga gets ready to pitch during the 2009 Division 1 championship game. (MHSAA file photo.)