In 2009, when Marlow Schulz was running in her first Whitefish Lake Run, her father got an inkling of what was in store.
The annual June event – it’s four years younger than Missoula’s Riverbank Run – brings families from up and down the Flathead Valley and mixes competitors in with those less serious about their times.
Marlow Schulz showed in which category she belonged when Derek Schulz suggested his oldest daughter hang back with a younger sister. You know, to make sure they both finished.
This did not fly for the 13-year-old, who ended up winning her age group and finishing eighth overall in the race.
“You could see the competitiveness there,” Derek Schulz said. “She didn’t really want to be a distance runner; she just likes to win.”
Marlow Schulz, now a senior at Whitefish High School, has won plenty. In 2011 she went to the State A championships and picked up a rare double, taking both the 100 and the 800 meters as a freshman.
Those were the first two of eight individual state titles for Schulz, who swept the 100, 200 and 400 the next two years at state. She’s parlayed this success into a track scholarship to St. John’s University in New York.
Marlow Schulz is not particularly tall, nor is she put together like Florence Griffith-Joyner. But she wins, and then she wins some more. She may not garner as much gold at this weekend’s Northwestern A Divisional, because Class A has gone to qualifying standards for state.
But the next week at state will be interesting. There is a chance she could run her total of individual gold to an even dozen.
* * * * *
The girls’ 800 race at the Russ Pilcher Western Montana Top 10 meet in Missoula on April 29 was one for the ages, and also marks one of the few races Schulz has lost in her prep career.
She ran third behind Corvallis standout Sadi Henderson and Bigfork’s Makena Morley, who won in 2:12.04.
Morley – it should be noted she finished second overall, at age 12, in the aforementioned Whitefish Lake Run – had more or less arranged the match race via text message, and Schulz thought it was great.
“I was so excited to run it with more experienced people,” she said. “I really had no idea how to run it — it was awesome to be pushed to a limit I didn’t think was possible.”
Only Henderson has been faster among Class A athletes in the 800 this season. Schulz has had the best marks in Class A for the 100, 200 and 400. She owns her school records in all four races, and she may run all four at state.
“Ideally, I would,” she said. “But it all depends on how I’m feeling. The 100 finals (on Saturday at state) are right after the 800.”
It seems foolhardy, but you have to remember who you’re dealing with. The 800 could be the race she runs in college.
And when she was a freshman, Schulz ran the 100 against Deni Fitzpatrick, the Cut Bank dynamo who ranks among the best sprinters this state has seen in any class (the Wolves are in B).
The first race, Fitzpatrick ran 13.05 seconds to 13.36 for Schulz. Four days later they ran again, and Fitzpatrick clocked 12.97 — and beat Schulz by just .03. They wouldn’t square off again; Fitzpatrick ran the hurdles the third and final time they crossed paths.
“Which was kind of unfortunate,” Schulz said. “I was looking forward to running with her some more.”
She still got faster. She’s lowered her times to 12.42 in the 100, 25.16 in the 200 and 56.13 in the 400 and … you get the idea.
“Obviously, I don’t like to lose,” Schulz said of the Pilcher 800, in which she clocked 2:13.81. “But I was happy to have an opportunity to get that good of a time.”
* * * * *
Schulz is a good enough student and athlete that the University of Washington, the University of Nevada in Reno, Seattle Pacific and Duke all pursued her. St. John’s caught her, even after Schulz visited Duke and took in a Blue Devils’ basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Making the difference was location; Schulz is an accomplished tap-dancer. The discipline had taken her to camps in Chicago, which in turn led to a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington two summers ago.
“The dancing thing,” she said of St. John’s, where she plans to tackle pre-med courses. “It kind of made more sense to go to New York.”
It may have also helped her run fast.
Schulz is the product of a baseball-playing and middle lane-sprinter father (Derek won the State AA 200 title in 1985, for Kalispell’s Flathead High) and a basketball- and golf-playing mom (the former Krista Kuchenbrod was an all-state hoopster who helped Whitefish win four straight State A golf titles). But does that alone explain this?
“I just have to believe there’s a correlation in coordination, all that stuff, and with the cross-training,” Derek Schulz said of tap-dancing.
“My mom danced when she was growing up,” said Marlow. “I love it. I dance all year-round, every Tuesday night. During the summers I’ve been to Chicago and to New York to take classes and perform.
“I definitely think it’s helped me. I just have better coordination. My fast feet definitely come from that.”
* * * * *
Those feet could help Whitefish stay up there at the State A champions (May 30-31 in Butte) with three-time champion Corvallis as well as Belgrade.
Schulz isn’t the only Bulldog that burns: Grace Kurtz can add points in the sprints, hurdler Phoebe Guercio could make a splash and distance runners Sarah Latcham and Barrett Gray are very capable.
“I would love to see us do big things at state,” says Schulz, who has seen the Bulldogs finish second in 2011, third in 2012 and fourth last year. “I definitely think we have the potential. It’s a matter of getting everybody at their best on the same day, but I’ve seen some great things from the girls on this team.”
The team concept is what drew Derek Schulz to track. He played baseball in college in Idaho, but when he moved back to Montana he came to coach track fairly quickly.
When he started Whitefish still ran on a dirt oval; after the Bulldog boys won what was the first of seven state titles in 17 years (including last year), in 1997, an all-weather track was in place within 18 months.
He’s helped build some nice things in Whitefish, including Marlow, though he tries to keep a level head about her accomplishments.
“Because I’m the coach, almost to a fault I downplay her successes,” he said. “There’ll be a time where it’ll be a lot of fun to talk about. It’s not important. What’s important is to be a high school kid, have fun, do your best, and not worry about records and wins.”
The only time Marlow Schulz hasn’t had fun, probably, is when a bout of mono took away part of her 2012 season. Since then the wins have piled up, and they will likely continue to in the coming two weeks.
It all started at the Whitefish Lake Run, where she separated herself from the weekend warriors and went all-out for gold in the age 13-15 bracket. Like most serious competitors, she remembers the losses as much as the wins, but that victory continues to stick out.
“I still have my medal,” she said.