By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
As a Hall of Fame radio broadcaster, Jim Moyes has told stories of high school sports for more than 50 years – and helped others do the same with his contributions as an authority on Michigan high school track & field history.
In the latter role, Moyes decades ago endeavored to uncover the names of every champion in MHSAA Finals history. And amid that research, he uncovered stories he knew he must share from the state’s rich tradition.
Moyes’ initial inspiration added to the expertise of another of the state’s foremost historians in the sport – Michtrack.org creator and Track & Field News associate editor Jeff Hollobaugh – has culminated in a 439-page must-have tome covering more than a century of the state’s best.
“The Fleet Feet of Spring: Michigan’s High School State Championships in Track & Field, 1895-2018” is co-authored by Moyes and Hollobaugh and tackles exactly that – more than 100 years of track & field results, beginning with an era before the MHSAA was created during 1924-25, with summations of championship meets, photos and features along the way that paint an all-encompassing picture.
“My initial project was simply to develop a data base of state champions in track & field, but it soon mushroomed into much more. While delving into the research I was inspired by many of the vast accomplishments dating back over the years,” Moyes said. “It wasn’t long before I realized that this was a story that should be told, and it soon became a labor of love.
“Before my research, I had never heard of many of these great athletes of the past. I was dumbfounded to learn that Alan Smith, an eight-time state champion, was killed in action in World War II, as well as deeds of others both on and off the athletic fields.”
Moyes said he first was “piqued” to write during his days as a student at North Muskegon, where at his school library he picked up a copy of “Athletics in Michigan High Schools: The First Hundred Years” by Lewis L. Forsythe, the first president of the MHSAA Representative Council.
Moyes’ gathering of names began long before the internet and led him to libraries all over our state. He also wrote hundreds of letters as he tracked down thousands of names – mostly first names, as often only the last names of competitors were listed in newspaper reports during the early eras.
With Hollobaugh’s imprint, all of those years of research became not just an encyclopedia, but a story.
“What Jeff has accomplished with this book cannot be thanked enough with just words,” Moyes said. “Jeff took this data base and created a format for state champs that took him many hours, days, weeks, months and even a couple of years to finalize.
“He laboriously fact-checked this entire book and created many of those amazing ‘nuggets’ that gave this publication the character that goes beyond boring our readers with just stats.”
“The Fleet Feet of Spring” is available from Amazon for $24.99. The first 268 pages are filled with stories of every meet dating back to events conducted by the Michigan Inter-School Athletic Association. The next 170 pages are packed with every championship listing imaginable, including names of contributors to winning relays through the years and a list of total individual champions per school.
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.)