Over four seasons competing for Wilson track and field, Madelaine Schultz has knocked down countless obstacles, except two.
The reigning Section VI Class C champion in the 100-meter hurdles (16.75 seconds), Schultz continued her impressive 2022 campaign by winning both the 100 and 400 hurdles events at the Niagara-Orleans League championships.
As her senior campaign is set to start with a league meet against Medina Tuesday afternoon, Schultz has two more goals she’d like to accomplish before her time as a student-athlete comes to a close.
One goal on her list is redeeming her second-place finish (17.78) in the 100 hurdles during last June’s state qualifier event held at West Seneca West High School, bested by only Lake Shore freshman Braeann Stender, who eventually placed fifth overall at the state championships the following week.
The second goal Schultz is determined to break this year is breaking Wilson’s own program record in the 100 hurdles, which has been held by Jen Ziemendorf since 1983 (16.1). Schultz enters the 2023 season just two-tenths of a second shy of breaking this record — a goal she’s been chasing since day one.
“That has been my goal since seventh grade when I first started out,” said Schultz, who also competes in the high jump and 4×100 relay. “I was like, ‘I want to get this goal.’ So, I have just tried and tried and put all my effort into this season — or all the seasons — of this sport. And (I’m) just going, just trying.”
But in order to accomplish these feats amongst others during her senior season, Schultz has to jump over an internal obstacle — her self-confidence.
During the 100 hurdles at the state qualifiers, Schultz said she felt anxious due to the stakes that came with competing for a state qualifier and the unknown of competing against schools across Section VI.
“I could have won that state qualifier meet but I hesitated and I was so nervous and I can’t do that,” said Schultz, who also placed second in the 400 hurdles at the Class C meet. “I just have to go for it and believe in myself.”
To build up her self-confidence for competing in the big-time events, Schultz has continued her workout regimen at Proformance Sports Training at the Northtown Center, which is overseen by John Opfer and former Grand Island girls soccer and track star Jenna Raepple Silvia.
For the past year and a half, Schultz has gone twice a week to work on her agility and mobility to help her in any race she competes in. Plus, Schultz has increased her mental stamina, even forcing herself to compete in drills she has never done before in practice and even practices hurdling with a home set in her backyard.
If there’s anyone who has first-hand experience of competing as a high-school track athlete, it’s Schultz’s long-time coach at Wilson, Jaime Lepsch. A 1996 graduate of Lancaster High School, Lepsch was a member of the program’s indoor and outdoor track teams and became the first girl to compete in the pole vault in Section VI in an exhibition event only before it officially became a sport. As Lepsch explained, Schultz’s self-determination and motivation to continue improving has led to her success.
“It’s one of those skills that’s necessary but a coach cannot coach,” said Lepsch, also Wilson’s field hockey coach, on Schutlz’s self-motivation. “We can’t coach perseverance. Those things have to be self-motivated. And she is definitely gifted with the fact that she has a lot of drive for herself.”
In terms of grasping the sport, Lepsch said Schultz had her “a-ha” moment as an eighth-grader in 2019. That spring, Schultz placed sixth in the 400 hurdles at the N-O championships and then placed 10th in the 100 hurdles at the 2019 state qualifiers held at Williamsville South with a time of 18.01. Nearly two years later — and out of the COVID pandemic — Schultz shaved off her overall time with a 16.60 in the Section VI Class C finals, still her best time in the event.
There will be even more opportunities for Schultz to compete on the horizon as she has accepted a scholarship to compete at Division I Niagara. But for now, she’s focused on breaking those records, completing the tale of redemption and making her hometown proud.
“Don’t ever give up and just keep trying your hardest, no matter how tough you think it will be,” said Schultz, who also thanked the Wilson community for supporting her at the meets. “Just always try because you never know how good you’re gonna do.”