There is something special about exceptional athletes. Sure, they have to have certain physical attributes passed on from their parents – Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been Michael Jordan if he was 5-foot-10.
But what made Michael Jordan special wasn’t his height; it was his drive, his passion, his relentless pursuit of greatness. There are a lot of great athletes but the drive and passion is what oftentimes separates great from special.
Annette Schultz has reached “great” and continues swimming her way towards special. The Dexter swimmer will splash her way into her senior season next year with already a pool full of accomplishments and records. But you can be sure there will be more to come – because Annette has that drive. That passion. That relentless pursuit of greatness.
“What drives me to work hard every day is my level of competitiveness and the love for the feeling of being worked to exhaustion,” she said. “I love knowing that I have put all I’ve got into something and knowing I will later see it pay off.”
How many athletes “work to exhaustion?” Yeah, not many. That’s why there aren’t many Annette Schultzs.
And the only way to work that hard is to not view it as work.
“I find that if you love what you’re doing and have fun every single day working hard and making the environment your niche you can achieve what you want,” she said. “Happiness is the formula to success.”
So far, she’s been quite happy with her success.
The Dexter swimming and diving team finished second earlier this month at the MHSAA Division 2 State Finals at Eastern Michigan University. The Dreadnaughts, the defending D-2 state champions, finished with 250 points, only 37.5 points behind first-place finisher Birmingham Seaholm.
Schultz, only a junior, finished first overall in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:48.27, well ahead of second-place finisher Elle Giesler of Holland who clocked in at 1:51.98.
She also took first in the 100 free with a time of 50.30, beating out Midland Dow’s Claire Newman who finished in 51.88.
Schultz has saved her best for last. The past two years at states she has dropped time in all of her events: the 400 medley relay, backstroke, 200 free, 100 free and the 400 freestyle relay.
“The highlight of all my states meet has been to see my teammates improve and watch all the hard work that we put into every single practice finally pay off,” she said. “There is nothing better than seeing someone be satisfied with what they have accomplished; it’s very inspiring and makes me want to reach for that same experience.”
Schultz had an impressive showing at the state finals last year, helping lead the Dreadnaughts to a Division 2 state title. The then-sophomore didn’t let youth stand in her way from standing on the top of the podium.
Schultz was awarded Division 2 Swimmer of The Year at the 2015 states.
She led off the first-place medley relay to get things started. It was a very special gold medal for Schultz who shared the podium with her sister Gretchen, a senior and another key swimmer for last season’s state champs.
Then she took first in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:48.73 to really get the ball rolling for the Dreadnaughts. Schultz won her second individual race with a time of 50.48 in the 100 freestyle.
She anchored the 400 free relay, which took third place to lock up the state title for the Dreads.
“My personal goal is very simple, to improve my times,” she said. “My team goals include winning our SEC meet, which we had just won for our 19th year straight. We always want to trophy at states.”
Schultz has written her name all over the Dexter High School record board. Her 1:47.89 in the 200 free and 50.34 in the 100 free are DHS records. She also is on the board as part of the medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay.
She has broken a few of the records once held by Adrienne Woods, the one-time Dexter HS standout who still has the 500 free record (4:58.84) set in 2006. But Woods isn’t upset or disappointed in seeing her name disappear from the record books – in fact, she helped make it happen.
“I love working with Adrienne, she’s like my big sister,” said Schultz, talking about Woods, now an assistant coach on the varsity team. “She always is there to lead me on the path to success and give me pointers on how to improve my swimming and strength.”
Some of those pointers have been the difference between a good time and a record time. A few small improvements can mean a few seconds off the clock that all add up in the end. Woods has the experience and expertise and Schultz has benefited from her coach’s success.
“She has taught me a lot about submerged tight-tuck flip turns, the importance of having strength in and out of the pool (since she conducts our drylands practices), staying more widely angled in my backstroke arm positioning,” she said.
And one other thing . . .
“That staying humble always leads to success,” Schultz said.
The love of swimming began at an early age for Annette.
“I got interested in swimming from going over to my grandmother’s cottage and splashing around in the lake,” she said. “I later wanted to be on the swim team after I had not made the team and I saw my older sister, Gretchen, having so much fun at swim practice.”
She says she is keeping her “college options” open.
“I plan to go into the Women’s Health Field after college,” she said. “I do plan to try to continue swimming. I’m very inspired by Dana Volmer and Dara Torres who continue to swim in their life after swim.”
Passion, drive and the relentless pursuit of greatness isn’t something that goes away as you get older. It’s a special part of Annette that will swim alongside of her for her entire life.