Michigan Lutheran Schools Alumni Win Sportsmanship Awards2 min read

Basketball players Kayla Engelhard (pictured above on right) and Samantha Gehrls (on left) have more than basketball in common: both attended Lutheran schools from K-8th grade (Kayla also went to a Lutheran high school); both won the Christian Sportsmanship Award at Nationals, 7 years apart; and both ended up featured on the same issue of The Grand Rapids Press on March 1, 2015.

The Awards and the press article are no surprise to those who know these young women. They are both described as fine role models.

Kayla Engelhard attended K-8th grade at Christ the King, Sebewaing, where she played basketball from 5th to 8th grade. Bonnie Schamber, Kayla’s former 4th grade teacher at Christ the King, says, “she was an exemplary student academically and on the basketball court. She was always friendly, cheerful, fun-loving, willing to help other; a fine Christian example for our younger children to see as a role model.” She was the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award for the Lutheran Basketball Association of America ( in 2007. After Christ the King, Kayla continued her basketball career at Valley Lutheran High School, Saginaw. According to her mother, Cindy Engelhard, Kayla has played basketball throughout college as a starter, and at all levels (5th-8th grade, high school, and college), she surpassed the 1,000-point level. Kayla went on to study Kinesiology/Exercise Science at Calvin College, Grand Rapids and, as of fall of 2015, she accepted a Graduate Assistant program coaching position at Concordia University Chicago. Kayla will be the women’s basketball assistant coach, working on her master’s degree in exercise science, and also working with other women’s sports teams on strength and conditioning.

Samantha Gehrls attended preschool-8th grade at St. Mark, Kentwood. She began playing basketball for the school’s 5th & 6th grade team as a fourth grader, and in the last two years she helped the team finish 3rd and then 1st in the Michigan Lutheran Schools State Tourney at CUAA. John Bahr, principal at St. Mark’s, says, “Sammie plays hard, with a deep respect and consideration for her coach and teammates, opponents, and the referees. She is very coachable and an unselfish teammate. She is a fine leader and example for others to follow.” Samantha was the recipient of the LBAA Sportsmanship Award in 2014. She is now a freshman starter for the basketball team at Caledonia High School, where she is enjoying a good season.

Kayla and Samantha were the only two players from Michigan to have won the Sportsmanship Award, and it’s no small coincidence that they both came from Lutheran schools.

(Picture of Kayla Engelhard (c) Ron Karger. For the press article that mentions Samantha, click here; for the article that mentions Kayla, click here).

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About the Author

Elisa is a staff writer, copy editor, and photographer for the Michigan District, LCMS.

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Trevor Budewitz - February 25, 2022

Cool stuff!