Linwood Schulte garners 300th career victory

When Linwood Schulte took over the Jonathan Law girls track and field program in 1985, he thought it would be a “fun thing to do for a few years.’’

Yeah, sure.

Schulte, in his 34th season, has been having fun for more than a few decades and Friday the 80-year-old coach recorded his 300th career victory as the Lady Lawmen swept Bassick (135-10), Platt Tech (122-23) and Harding (99-46) at the aptly named Schulte/Phillips Track.

The track was named nearly 10 years ago in honor of Schulte along with longtime multiple sport coach, including track and field, Charlie Phillips.

The wins put Schulte at 301.

“It says that I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Schulte when asked what the milestone means. “It also says I’ve been lucky to have had some very talented girls during my years. It’s been a privilege to coach each and every team and I have some great memories of each one.’’

Leading the way Friday for the watermelon tee-shirt touting Schulte was Melissa Flanagan, who swept all three meets in both the shot put (26-feet-3 ½) and discus (72-4).

Others who swept wins were Hanna Broderick in the high jump (4-4), Brooke Dillman in the long jump (13-7), Samantha Franzman in the 1600 meters (6:17), Grace Wootton in the 400, Mimi Chrzastek in the 800 (3:03.6), Lizzie Lombardi in the pole vault (6-6) and Megan Ruzbarsky in the 3,200 (14:56).

Law also won the 400- and 3200-meter relay.

This year’s captains — sprinters Holly Caldwell and Rhea Grant, thrower Shawna Winters and distance runner Cassandra Soda —  are proud to be part of the legacy.

Caldwell has an especially close relationship to Schulte.

“Schulte has really been a mentor to me and kind of like a second dad,’’ said Caldwell. “I lost my dad my junior year and he’s always been really supportive and been there for me. I feel genuinely honored to help him to get to his three hundredth. He’s always done a lot for me and I’m proud of him and happy we could get him there.’’

When Winters, at the brink of breaking the Law discus record that has stood for almost 40 years, went out for track as a freshman.

“I didn’t know anything about him, but I knew who he was after the first day,’’ said Winters. “He’s done so much for all of us it’s nice to be able to give back to him.’’

Schulte’s first victory was an 83-44 win over Bunnell on April 16, 1985, with captains Sue Steinman Coleman, Laura Salerno Pitaniello and Karen Reyes Benzi leading the way.

The team went 9-1 that year, it’s only loss coming at the hands of Foran.

“And that should never have happened,’’ joked the coach, obviously blessed with a keen memory for details.

Schulte’s best team may have been one of his most recent, the 2016 group, which finished third in Class MM. His team finished fourth last year.

His tenure has stretched through two generations with some families, including that of Coleman, whose daughters Valerie, Tiffany, and Melanie all participated in track for Schulte, each captaining one of Schulte’s teams in the 2000s.

Susan Coleman said Schulte created an atmosphere that first season that continues to this day.

“He made it clear we (as a team) were a family and we would always be a family,’’ said Coleman.

Did she ever think she would see her own daughters coached by Schulte?

“Never,’’ said Coleman. “But it’s exciting, and I’m honored to have been one of his first captains. And to see that the track is named in his honor says something.’’

A meticulous record-keeper, Schulte has the results of every meet in binders in his Devon home.

To put his tenure into even more perspective, some members of this year’s freshmen class are the same age as Schulte’s oldest great-grandchild.

With 300 wins and nearly 34 years complete don’t expect to see Schulte retire anytime soon.

“I’m really excited about my freshmen class, so one thing is clear, I’ll be coaching until I’m at least 85,’’ said Schulte.