By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half
HUDSONVILLE – Concord distance runner Jesse Hersha imagined the Yellow Jackets would win the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 track and field championship as far back as last summer.
Or just about the time he heard that Nolen Bright-Mitchell was coming to Concord from Albion High School, which had closed its doors because of budget issues.
“Last spring, we were already thinking we were going to be really good and we had a shot to win the state title,” Hersha said. “Later that summer, I heard a rumor that Nolen was coming, but they were trying to keep it on the down low.
“I asked my dad - he’s the coach - and he just said, ‘He is.’ I was like, ‘Yea, we’re going to win the state title.’ ”
Concord did it convincingly, too. The Yellow Jackets finished with 78 points, far ahead of the 46 registered by defending champion and runner-up Saugatuck.
Bright-Mitchell was as good Saturday as Hersha was with his premonition last summer. After winning the 200 last year for Albion, Bright-Mitchell swept the 100 and 200 and ran on Concord’s winning relay teams in the 800 and 1,600. He set LP Division 4 records in the 100 (10.7 seconds) and 200 (21.62), and the 1,600 relay also set an LP Division 4 record in 3 minutes, 24.19 seconds.
Bright-Mitchell, wearing a blue shoe on his left foot and an orange one on his right, will attend Grand Valley State University in the fall. But he hasn’t forgotten his Albion roots.
“I wore my Albion warm-ups in every meet we had,” he said. “But I love Concord. It’s a great community with great teachers and a great school.”
It was the second MHSAA championship in five years for Concord, which won the 2010 title.
“It’s been a really good year, and we accomplished a lot,” Concord coach Mark Hersha said. “We had a vision for it at the beginning of the year, and it’s really good to see the guys put it all together.”
Coach Hersha also received a bonus as he watched his son Jesse win his first individual track title as he took the 3,200 in 9:38.54.
“That was kind of nice, too,” Mark Hersha said. “It was a fast 1,600, so it was disappointing he was third. He cooled down a little bit, and it was courageous to go back out there and run again in the 3,200.”
Jesse Hersha, just a sophomore, already is a two-time individual champion in cross country.
“My whole high school career has kind of been like an only-distance track team, but now we’ve had a lot more people to come out from the baseball team and everything,” he said, “and a couple of Albion guys, especially Nolen.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Nolen for winning four events.”
Bright-Mitchell had some help on the relays as was joined on the winning 1,600 relay team by Lonelle Langston, Chase Hinkle and Zach Hudson, another Albion transfer.
The winning 800 relay team also included Brett Lehman, Langston and Chevy Burk. Langston also was seventh in the high jump, Lehman was eighth in the 100 and Burk was 11th in the long jump.
Concord also placed fourth in the 400 as Lehman, Hinkle, Treyvon Miller and Langston finished in 44.77 seconds.
Another Albion connection is on the coaching staff as former Albion coach Mike Jurasek and his assistant Dan Davis serve as volunteer coaches. Jurasek is a Concord graduate, and Coach Hersha welcomed him to the staff.
“From a distance, we’ve all seen the success he’s had at Albion and stuff like that,” Hersha said. “It’s kind of almost a miracle to see the things he does with kids – his personality, the way he prepares himself to prepare them – again, there’s a reason why he’s successful.
“Everything about him is a model of excellence, and it’s been a blessing all year long to have him. He doesn’t only help with the guys but with the girls, too.”
Saugatuck had only one individual champion, but it came with some flash. Freshman Blake Dunn won the 300 hurdles in 40.22 seconds, while David Dykstra of White Cloud took the 110 hurdles.
There were two LP Division 4 state records broken in the field events. Curtis Bell cleared 15 feet, 1 inch to set a record and win the pole vault, while Tyrell Hall of Marion soared 12-11.75 to win the long jump.
Other winners in the field events were Tucker Scharf of Unionville-Sebewaing in the discus (148-6), Tyler Crenshaw of Brown City in the shot put (51-8), and Hunter Weeks of Homer in the high jump (6-7).
In the running events, Austin Sandusky of Morenci won the 400 in 50.48, Bryce DeGrammont of Mio took the 800 in 1:58.09, and Luke Anderson of Harbor Beach captured the 1,600 in 4:17.49. The 400 relay went to Southfield Christian, and Muskegon Western Michigan Christian took the 3,200 relay.
PHOTO: Concord’s Nolen Bright-Mitchell (4) set LP Division 4 Finals records in both the 100 and 200 Saturday in Hudsonville. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.
“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”
Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.
“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.
Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.
As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.
He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.
“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.
Guillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.
“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.
Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.
At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.
“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”
Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.
In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.
Gribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.
“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”
Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.
“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”
In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.
“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.
“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”
Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.
“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”
Big shoes to fill
As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.
Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.
Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.
Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.
“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.
As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”
His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.
He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.
“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”
Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.
“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.
“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)