Recipients Jennifer Sherwood and Kailee Sandoval receiving their awards.
By John Hummer
The scholarship award recipients were Kailee Sandoval, who completed her first year at Saginaw Valley State University, and Jennifer Sherwood, who completed her first year at Spring Arbor University. Both are 2021 graduates of Grass Lake High School and are continuing to train and compete in track and field while in college.
The purpose of the fund is to recognize and support female student-athletes from Grass Lake who are pursuing excellence in track-and-field sports.
Sandoval is studying rehabilitation medicine at SVSU where she will obtain her bachelor’s degree in pre-physical therapy track. She will then continue on to graduate school for her physical therapy degree. She is currently carrying a 3.95-grade point average. At Grass Lake High School, she earned a 4.2 GPA and was seventh overall in her very competitive class.
On the athletic front, Sandoval runs both cross country and track at SVSU. She and her team made it to nationals in Tampa, Fla. For the indoor track season, she clocked a personal record in the 1,500-meter run. The outdoors she qualified for the finals at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the 1,500 and placed tenth in the conference.
On top of her summer training, Sandoval is currently working a summer job as a bartender at the Ugly Dog Distillery in downtown Chelsea.
Sherwood is studying nursing at Spring Arbor University and plans to get her bachelor’s degree there. She made the dean’s list spring semester of 2022 and is currently carrying a 3.75-grade point average. At Grass Lake High School, Sherwood graduated with a 3.8 GPA.
In track and field, Sherwood throws a discus, hammer, and shotput. For the indoor season, she competes in weight throw, the indoor version of the hammer throw. She earned a spot on the top 10 list for the weight throw and the hammer throw. Sherwood also recently competed in a U.S.A. Track and Field meet at Olivet College.
The awards ceremony was hosted by the GLHS Class of 1969 Scholarship Committee who established the scholarship fund in 2019. The award recipients were joined by members of their families at the event.
“We are especially proud to honor Mary Hokanson Littlebrant with these first scholarship awards to Kailee and Jennifer, who show such promise and commitment to their sport,” said committee member Christina Breed.
“We hope these scholarships will cheer each of them on to further successes in college. Going from zero female competitive sports in Grass Lake to a sports program that supported these young ladies – in part, we have Mary to thank for that.”
It’s a different era than when Mary Hokanson, a gifted sprinter, was in junior high school. At that time, during the 1960s, there were no competitive female sports opportunities offered in Grass Lake and no role models to guide her. That did not deter Mary. She joined a sports group in Ann Arbor, was coached by the head of the University of Michigan’s physical education department and trained before and after school each day.
Through her focused commitment, at age 13, she was the national record holder in the 220-yard dash. By 1974 she set a world mark in the 300-yard dash and ranked in the 100- 200- and 400-meter dashes.
Mary not only achieved these early successes but went on to coach other young female athletes. At the college level, she coached at Lake Michigan College and at the University of Kentucky. At the high school level, she coached both Grass Lake and Jackson high schools’ track teams.
“We wanted to honor Mary in some way,” said Janet Wolfinger, another member of the scholarship committee.
After graduating from high school, she married her high school sweetheart, Ron Littlebrant. The couple worked together throughout their entire professional careers, opening and managing fitness facilities throughout the United States as well as internationally.