Brown City Aiming High Following 1st Final

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

August 15, 2017

Kendal Muxlow offered nothing but praise when asked about the Brown City volleyball class of 2017, which left the school as the most successful in program history.

She raved about her graduated teammates’ leadership, work ethic and ability to raise up every player around them as they led the Green Devils to three Regional titles, two Semifinal appearances and a Class C runner-up finish over the past three seasons.

But while Muxlow was certainly fond of playing with Becki Krause, Alexia Mason, Breigha Donnelly, Jasmin Bender and Haley Bandemer, she’s less fond of constantly being reminded they’re gone.

“I have. I have heard (they’re gone),” the Brown City junior said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “In practice, they held us to that standard, they expected state-bound team stuff during practice. We all got along well in practice and everything, and as much as they wanted to succeed, they wanted everyone to be a part of it also.

“Since I’ve been a freshman, we’ve been trying to get lots of girls in the gym to get them excited to want to be part of the program. We had a lot of people come up and want to get in the gym. It’s a lot easier to get to where you want to go when you have girls that are excited about the program.”

For Brown City, that destination remains the same in the short-term: Kellogg Arena for the MHSAA Class C Final. That’s where the Green Devils, who hadn’t won a Regional title before 2014, landed a year ago for the first time before falling to Bronson in four games.

Taking a longer view, however, this season represents a chance for Brown City to keep working toward a larger goal: showing it’s a program that can consistently compete at the level it has for the past three seasons.

“I think that if that wasn’t my goal, I should probably step down from coaching,” said Brown City coach Jenna Welke, who is entering her fifth season directing the varsity. “I’ve told the girls all about building the program – not just a team, but a program. We have to show those younger girls what Brown City volleyball is all about and set that standard.”

Welke and her players do realize what they’re up against. They’ll be replacing 65 percent of their kills from a year ago, 94 percent of their assists, 67 percent of their blocks and 78 percent of their digs.

But they’re welcoming the challenge.

“We’re definitely a different team from last year,” Welke said. “They’re young, and yes, they’re inexperienced, but they’re willing to work hard. I think any coach is going take a more inexperienced team if they’re willing to work hard.”

Muxlow and Ann Schlaud return with the most experience, both having played significant roles throughout 2016, and taking the floor in the MHSAA championship game a year ago. While the other names and faces may be unknown to those outside the program, those within are confident they’re ready to step up.

“We have a lot of great players that were kind of not playing as much last year because of the key seniors we had,” Schlaud said.

The players are also confident in their coach, who happens to be a 2008 graduate of their biggest rival, Marlette, where she was a dominant athlete. Muxlow said the players don’t give their coach any grief about that, but Welke laughed when asked if she received any from elsewhere.

“I had such a great experience at Marlette, so I’ll always respect them – I think they have great programs,” Welke said. “I teach at Brown City now. I coach at Brown City now. So now I’m a Green Devil, but I’ll always have respect for them.

“I think it’s a friendly rivalry. We always respect each other, yet you don’t want to lose to them.”

Brown City is certainly happy to have her, as Welke, also a four-year player at Oakland University, has amassed a 144-43-18 record in four years, winning four Greater Thumb Conference East titles, four District titles and three Regional titles.

With results like those, it’s easy to see how players have bought into Welke’s system and the belief that building a dynasty in this small town is a possibility.

“She’s one of those coaches that in practice will push you to your absolute hardest, but also one of those coaches that if you have to sit down and talk with her about something, she will listen,” Muxlow said. “Since Coach Welke has been here, we’ve only been going up. She came and we’ve just been hanging more banners than we ever had.

“It’s easier when we have all these girls wanting to be part of the program, because she’s done that for the program.”

Paul 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) Brown City’s Kendal Muxlow (7) unloads a swing during last season’s Class C Semifinal against Adrian Madison. (Middle) Ann Schlaud (8) puts up a block against Madison. (Below) Brown City coach Jenna Welke instructs her team during the trip to Kellogg. 

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

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) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)