Former Oak Park High standout runner Sarah Shulze dies at age 21.
She was a dedicated member of the Associated Student Body at Oak Park High School for four years and served her hometown of Oak Park as a member of the National Charity League. In 2019, she served as the senior class secretary and assisted in the planning of the senior prom.
She completed an internship with the Wisconsin state legislature and served as a poll worker for the 2020 presidential election while at the University of Wisconsin.
Shulze was a world traveler, with visits to Europe, Africa, and Alaska under her belt.
She was also a fantastic athlete. Shultz led Oak Park High to a Coastal Canyon League title, a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship, and a runner-up finish in the CIF-State Division III championships during his senior season.
Shulze was voted The Star’s Runner of the Year for 2018 at the end of the season. She was awarded a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin as a result.
What was Sarah Shulze’s cause of death?
Shulze, who was 21 years old at the time of her death, died on April 13 in Wisconsin, according to her relatives. In a statement on their website, they said 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.
The family hopes that their daughter’s suicide will raise awareness about the vulnerability of mental health.
Shulze will be honored in Ventura County on May 2 at 3 p.m. at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village in a Celebration of Life ceremony. 5495 Via Rocas is the address. Everyone is welcome, according to the family.
A similar event will take place at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on Sunday.
Those who knew Shulze at Oak Park High School remember her fondly.
“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.