ZEELAND – The Frankenmuth boys track & field team knew it had a chance Saturday to win its first MHSAA Finals championship since 2011 – but only if everything went right.
Not everything did – but plenty went better than planned as the Eagles won for the first time in Lower Peninsula Division 2, outpacing runner-up Flint Powers Catholic by 3¾ points to add a third championship to those won in Division 3 in 2005 and 2011.
Frankenmuth’s power in relays paid off in the final event, as the Eagles finished second in the 1,600 relay to Yale, scoring eight points while Powers came in eighth to add only one point to its team total.
That runner-up finish matched another in the 800 relay, and Frankenmuth also won the 400 relay with senior Daniel Barger joining junior Ian Stephens and sophomores Sam Barger and Andrew Braman. Those four ran the 800 together as well, with senior Ryan Brenner and junior Seth Malmo joining Sam Barger and Stephens on the 1,600.
“We knew it came down to the mile relay, and I was pretty easy going the entire time – and then the mile relay hits and we knew Powers had to do something and we knew we had to do something, and I had to be alone for a little while,” Frankenmuth coach Luke Sheppard said. “I just had to sit and soak it all in, but it was a lot of fun – it’s a lot of fun to watch these kids run. They always compete. They always do what they’re supposed to.”
The Eagles’ lone win came in the 400 relay, but they picked up other points throughout the day in the 100 and 200 dashes, 300 hurdles, high jump and discus.
Powers, meanwhile, got a first in the 100 and third in the 200 from junior Austin Hamlin and placed in all four relays among a variety of scoring performances.
Powers had entered seeded first in the 400 relay and Frankenmuth third based on Regional times, but the Eagles crossed the finish line 41 hundredths of a second faster than the runner-up Chargers.
“We always know coming into meets we’ve got to up-seed – be better than what we’re seeded, be better than what we’ve been doing,” said Brenner, who in addition to his 1,600 relay leg contributed a sixth place in the 300 hurdles and seventh in high jump. “That was our mindset through this whole meet, knowing we had to perform at the best of our capabilities to do what we just did.”
Motivation was not in short supply anywhere this weekend, or throughout the season, after COVID-19 led to 2020 spring sports being canceled.
Fremont senior Nathan Walker capped his senior year Saturday by adding wins in the 1,600 (4:16.12) and 3,200 (9:34.30) to the cross country championship he earned in the fall. Edwardsburg junior Luke Stowasser also was a double champion in Division 2, claiming the long jump in 21-10 and high jump in 6-6 after also winning the former two years ago as a freshman.
Hudsonville junior Ryan Shinabery edged Monroe Jefferson junior Alex Mansfield by 15 inches to win the discus with a toss of 163-7, but Mansfield won the shot put by more than eight feet ahead of the field with a toss of 59-2½. Allendale junior Cam Battjes rounded out the field event champions with a pole vault of 14-4.
Romulus junior Troy Cranford won the 200 in 22.84, pacing a race where the top three finishers were separated by a tenth of a second – after he was third and Berrien Springs junior Jamal Hailey second to Hamlin in a 100 decided by less than two hundredths of a second between those three. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s senior Edward Watkins won the 400 in 49.1 seconds, and Marysville senior Evan Woodard won the 800 in 1:55.25. Allendale junior Patrick Adams won the 110 hurdles in 15.19 seconds, then finished second in the 300 as Vicksburg senior Levi Thomas edged him in 40.10.
Fruitport won the 800 relay in 1:29.64, while Yale won the 1,600 in 3:25.85 and Holland Christian won the 3,200 relay by less than a second, in 8:01.26.
PHOTOS: (Top) Frankenmuth’s Daniel Barger, middle, crosses first in a close 400 relay finish Saturday. (Middle) Fremont’s Nathan Walker finishes one of his two championship runs. (Below) Flint Powers Catholic’s Austin Hamlin, middle, edges Jamal Hailey of Berrien Springs (far left) and Romulus’ Troy Cranford in the 100. (Photos by Dave McCauley/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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)