Sarah Shulze was energetic, ambitious, committed.
She served her hometown of Oak Park as a member of the National Charity League and was a dedicated member of the Associated Student Body at Oak Park High for four years. She was the senior class secretary in 2019 and helped plan the senior prom.
In her time at the University of Wisconsin, she earned an internship to the Wisconsin state Legislature and volunteered as a poll worker for the 2020 presidential election.
Shulze was worldly, with her thirst for adventure taking her on trips to Europe, Africa and Alaska.
She was a stellar athlete, too. Shultz’s powerhouse senior season in cross country for Oak Park High included a Coastal Canyon League title, a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship and a runner-up finish in the CIF-State Division III finals.
At season’s end, Shulze was named The Star’s Runner of the Year for 2018. She, in turn, earned a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin.
Now that bright light has been extinguished, at least in life. Her family has announced that the 21-year-old Shulze died on April 13 in Wisconsin. They revealed, in a website posting, that their daughter “took her own life.”
“Balancing athletics, academics and the demands of every day life overwhelmed her in a single, desperate moment,” the posting said.
She is survived by her parents, Brigitte and Scott, and sisters Abbey and Ella.
“She was surrounded by her loving family,” the tribute website said.
It is the family’s hope that their daughter’s suicide helps awaken others to the fragility of mental health.
Shulze will be honored in Ventura County in a Celebration of Life ceremony set for May 2 at 3 p.m. at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village. The address is 5495 Via Rocas. The family said all are welcome.
A similar ceremony will be held Sunday at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Shulze is remembered affectionately by those who knew her at Oak Park High.
“The world is a better place for Sarah having been part of it,” said athletic director Tim Chevalier. “While her passing has been difficult to process, I take hope that her stories will continue to be told and her positive impact on others will be remembered.”
Chevalier said Shulze excelled in sports and in life.
“In the classroom, Sarah was a top-notch student,” he said. “On the track, Sarah was a fierce competitor who absolutely electric and continually pushed herself to be great.
“Off the track, Sarah was a gentle and kind soul, a loving daughter, sister, friend and human who will be dearly missed by those who knew her and loved her.”
Dr. Jeff Davis was appointed superintendent of the Oak Park Unified School District after Shulze’s high school graduation, but noted her impact on the school and community.
“I sadly never had the honor to know Sarah,” he said. “However, I can tell you that Sarah left a lasting and indelible imprint on the Oak Park Unified School District, Oak Park High School and the community of Oak Park that will never, ever go away.
“Sarah was a top student, a tremendous athlete and teammate, a wonderful friend, and a loving daughter and sister. She will be missed by so many, yet never forgotten by those that were fortunate to know her.”
The University of Wisconsin said its community is “heartbroken.”
“Sarah was a beloved daughter, sister, granddaughter, friend, teammate and Badger student-athlete,” the statement read. “We extend our deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to Sarah’s family, friends and Badger teammates during this extraordinarily difficult time. Our primary focus is the support of the Shulze family and our student-athletes.”
Among Shulze’s athletic exploits as an Oak Park senior was winning five of eight cross country races in which she competed, including the CIF-SS Division 3 title with a time of 17 minutes, 15.9 seconds.
Among her proudest achievements was winning the Ventura County Championship at Lake Casitas with a time of 17:30.3, then the No. 6 all-time mark in the race.
In addition to her success in cross country, Shulze starred in track and field for the Eagles. She won league and Ventura County championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 races and capped it all by winning the 3,200 title in both the CIF-Southern Section and Masters Meet.
As a junior for the Badgers, Shulze recently finished first in the 3,000 meters and notched a personal best in the mile at the Larry Wieczorkek Invitational.
Her high school coach, Steve White, noted in The Star’s story honoring her cross country achievements as a senior that Shulze relied on more than physical ability.
“She has that unique gift to go out there and punish herself,” said White. “Knowing what it’s going to take to meet the goals she would set. It goes to her mental toughness.”
Her family, in the website posting, said Shulze was instilled with deep compassion for others.
“Above all other things, Sarah was a power for good in the world,” they wrote. “Her deep compassion was evident in her devotion to her sisters Abbey and Ella, the love her parents felt from her every single day and the extra care she took in moments shared with her grandparents and cousins.”
Shulze’s death is the second tragedy involving a former Ventura County standout athlete in the past two months.
Katie Meyer, a former Newbury Park High soccer standout and Stanford University star, took her own life on March 1 at her residence on the Palo Alto campus.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for both English and Spanish speakers, can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Loren Ledin is the Prep Editor for The Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0285.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Former Oak Park High standout runner Sarah Shulze dies at age 21