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Hope springs eternal for strong-willed Whitehall track and field phenom

Aquinas College signee Maelie Hope excels in throws and sprints. She might be more impressive away from track.

WHITEHALL – Maelie Hope draws attention from track and field spectators, competitors and coaches alike because of her muscular build and for her rare ability to thrive in both the throws and the sprints.

Those attributes do not begin to describe the depth of the new Whitehall High School alumna or how compassionate she is for others.

Hope, 18, the daughter of Lorand Hope and the late Juliana Hope, is extraordinarily driven. Ultimately, she’d like to become an Olympian and an orthopedic surgeon. In the very near future, her mission is to be crowned a state champion in at least one of her four track and field events.

Maelie Hope does not spend a lot of time worrying what others think of her. Hope, who graduated with a 3.84 cumulative GPA, continues to pour everything into becoming the most complete person she can be – physically, intellectually and emotionally.

“I think I’d just like to be remembered as somebody who put their absolute best into everything that they want to do and worked the hardest, but at the same time was able to be a compassionate person,” she said.

When it comes to her discus throws and powerlifting feats, Hope IS the best.

According to, Hope ranks No. 1 in discus among Michigan high school girls for the 2023 season with her toss of 153 feet achieved during the Fruitport Trojan Invitational on April 14.

A four-time Michigan High School Power Lifting Association state champion, the 5-foot-7 Hope holds records for the 165-pound weight class in squat (325 pounds in 2023), bench press (240 pounds in 2023) and total weight (920 pounds in 2022). She also set a state record in 2021 in bench press for the 155-pound weight class (185 pounds).

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

These days, Hope is benching 250 pounds and squatting more than 400. She said her workouts take anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours to complete. Her father has been a professional bodybuilder and trainer and he got her into weight training when she was around 11 or 12 years old.

Hope’s explosive strength is what allows her to dominate in the throwing events – she ranks sixth in the state in shot put with a personal-best of 42-3.75 – and also become a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 state finals qualifier in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

“Nobody does that. Nobody does that,” Whitehall throws coach Josef Stachowicz said about Hope’s unusual combination of throws and sprints. “She’s just a very gifted athlete, who has worked very hard to develop some explosive strength, which translates to anything she’s going to do. She’s successful on the sprint side of things and can come over here (and thrive in the throws).”

Ironically, this is the first season in which Hope has been able to fully compete in the four track and field events.


Check out this behind-the-scenes footage of Whitehall track and field standout Maelie Hope’s Profile of the Week video shoot! Catch the full episode Sunday.#fyp #catchmark #catchmarksportsnet #catchmarksports #CSN #whitehall

♬ Memories – Lux-Inspira

During her freshman year, spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a sophomore dual-sport athlete, Hope broke her leg in a soccer injury. Last year as a junior, she tore her hamstring early in the season and could no longer run.

Maelie Hope’s boyfriend, Whitehall’s Wesley Russell, is also a serious bodybuilder and claimed that those with a lot of muscle mass tend to suffer tears.

“It’s like trying to make a diesel go 100 miles an hour when it’s only been warming up for about five minutes,” he said, alluding to a bodybuilder doing sprints.

The sprinting events have gone very well for Hope this season. She won the 100 at the 8th annual Kent City Elite Invite with a personal-best time of 12.58 seconds and took first place in the West Michigan Conference Lakes Division championships. In the 200, Hope captured first in the WMC Lakes meet and she established a new PR of 26.03 in her runner-up finish at regionals.

Hope is a product of her hard work. Whitehall girls track coach Crystal Vaughn said that Hope is “super dedicated.” She’s always at the track honing her craft, be it working on the throws or perfecting her sprinting form. According to Vaughn, Hope is also sneaky funny and especially fond of dad jokes.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

“It’s my first year (as head coach), but I feel like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” Vaughn said. “She’s so dependable and it’s so fun watching her. … Watching the way she is with her teammates and the way that she communicates with people around her is really amazing.”

College programs certainly noticed Hope. Several recruited her, including interest from University of Michigan, but Hope felt most comfortable with Aquinas College.

Hope and Russell, who also competes in throws for Whitehall’s track and field program, both signed letters of intent with the NAIA school on May 11.

“When I visited there, what really stood out to me was the aspect of it’s right in Grand Rapids but as soon as you walk on the campus you don’t hear any of the cars going by or anything,” Hope said. “It’s its own little, secluded place. It’s got woods, it’s got little creeks going around with little bridges going over them – I thought that was really cute. I was like, ‘This place looks awesome.’”

Maelie Hope is not the typical high school student-athlete. She has dreams of throwing discus in the Olympics. She’s fascinated by science, specifically anatomy and physiology.

Lorand Hope said his daughter would like to open her own medical practice one day.

“I’ve always just been interested with the human body and specifically like the muscles, how they work,” she said. “It’s one of those things ever since I was little, I always thought it was really cool.”

Hope’s road has not been an easy one. She lost her mother in March 2022. According to Lorand and Maelie Hope, Juliana battled some demons. Consequently, it pushed Maelie away from her mother and even closer to her father.

Hope has a diverse set of friends, which she believes broadens her perspective and respect for others.

“I think it’s really important actually because you can’t really grow as a person if you only think one way, which is why I have friends from every category of the spectrum,” she said. “I have friends that play D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) and I have other friends that sit there and make fun of D&D. I have friends that are really passionate with music and art and then I have some friends that are passionate about athletics, too.

“You just get all these different opinions and, at that point, you grow your own mind and how you think and you can just grow better. It just changes the way that you kind of see life and I think you enjoy it more once you see know all these different experiences and all these different ways of thinking because if you just experience one little thing, it changes the way that you think. Now you have another look at life.”

Photos by Billy Mann | CatchMark

If you see Maelie Hope, then chances are Lorand Hope and Wesley Russell are nearby.

They’ll joke and call themselves the “three amigos,” but they do really lean on each other.

“When I first met her, she was the person that I wanted to be,” Russell said. “I needed someone to push me and to be a good influence in my life and she was one who was willing to step up and help me grow as a person. She’s everything that I’m trying to be.”

Lorand Hope is proud of the fact that his daughter is an independent thinker.

“I don’t think you can find a better representative for women in sports,” he said. “I mean, she still has that, ‘I’m not going to let you win’ thing on the field, to that compassion for someone who needs extra help or whatever. It’s so rare to find.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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