ADA – Don't ask Jamal Hailey to explain winning two MHSAA Finals titles without relying on his best effort.
Don't get Hailey wrong. The Berrien Springs senior is thrilled with not only winning Saturday's 100 and 200-meter dashes, but also helping his somewhat undermanned team to the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championship at Forest Hills Eastern.
Hailey won the 100 with a time of 10.77, a fraction better than runner-up Ian Thompson (10.78) of Wayland. Hailey also took the 200 (22.11) over second-place Julian Bailey of Dearborn (22.25). Neither winning time was a personal best for Hailey, but he'll gladly take both his individual efforts, which resulted in 20 points. And with his inclusion on the winning 400 relay, the Western Michigan-bound Hailey was part of 30 of the team's 41 points – and nearly equaled the 33 points totaled by runner-up Forest Hills Eastern.
"I can't explain it," Hailey said. "It's preparation, being fortunate and knowing what I came here to do. I came here to win."
What is explainable is Hailey's value to a team which brought just 10 participants to the meet. Most track coaches are more comfortable with 15-20 potential point scorers, Berrien Springs coach Jon Rodriguez said. Hailey is also a standout football player who rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last fall.
The team championship was Berrien Springs' first in the sport, to go with runner-up finishes in 1953 and 2018.
"We had an idea we could win because Jamal is so special. He scores a lot of points for us," said Rodriguez, who finished up his 10th year as coach. "If we were healthy, we thought we had a chance to win. It all comes down to who can be best on that day. We were the best today."
Berrien Springs senior James York contributed a key first place in the long jump (22-10).
Three other Finals titles were grabbed by longtime friends Patrick Adams of Allendale and Sparta's Lance Riddle. The two seniors have competed back and forth against each other for at least the last six years and culminated in Riddle winning the 300 hurdles (39.28) and Adams capturing the 110 hurdles (14.73). Riddle was third to Adams in the 110 and Adams was only three tenths of a second behind in finishing second to Riddle in the 300.
Adams was the 2021 champ in the 110.
"I ran faster this year," said Adams, who will attend Cornerstone University next season. "But it was definitely more competitive. It's definitely tougher trying to win back-to-back. Me and Lance have been going at it since middle school, so I know him.
"I started kinda slow, but I just trusted my training and ran. The pressure got to me a little, so I just tried harder. Honestly, you just want to get to the finals; nothing is guaranteed in the hurdles. Getting to the final is what counts."
Spring Lake's Ian Hill won the 1,600 (4:16.99) after finishing third a year ago as a junior. Hill said there was one simple explanation for jumping two spots.
"Confidence," he said. "Last year I didn't really give myself a chance. I had a lot of confidence this year even though there are a lot of good runners here. But I was confident in my ability. I have all the respect for the other runners, but I have confidence.”
Even having to bounce back from the flu bug at midseason failed to dent Hill's' confidence. He also helped the 1,600 relay to a first place (3:23.78).
"I knew this would be close, but I thought I had as much a shot as anyone else," said Hill, who will attend Michigan next season. "I'm really happy to win this."
Other champs in the running events were senior Caleb Jarema of Pinckney, who won the 3,200 (9:17.36), and Stuart Gould of Howard City Tri County in the 400 (49.18). Aiden Sullivan of Forest Hills Eastern won the 800 (1:56.40). Whitehall won the 800 relay (1:29.73), while Holland Christian took first in the 3,200 (7:54.35)
Heading the field event winners was Alex Mansfield of Monroe Jefferson, who won the shot put (57-6). The Oakland University-bound Mansfield, who was also runner-up in the discus, said the title came despite some technique difficulties.
"I couldn't get the ball to throw; it kept slipping out of my fingers," he said. "But I got the job done; you still have to perform."
Edwardsburg senior Luke Stowasser successfully repeated in the high jump (6-8). He also won the long jump a year ago, but finished runner-up this time to Berrien Springs’ York.
"It was definitely a lot tougher, but I was more confident this year, which only pushed me to be better," Stowasser said.
Landon Cosby of Charlotte won the pole vault (15-9), while Dalton DeBeau of Frankenmuth took first in the discus (175-7).
Chelsea junior Jacob Nelson competed in one of the first-time adaptive events, in the 100 (33.19).
PHOTOS (Top) Berrien Springs’ Jamal Hailey (in green) crosses the finish first in the 400 relay Saturday, just ahead of Detroit Martin Luther King’s Terrence Brown to his right. (Middle) From left, Sparta’s Lance Riddle, Allendale’s Patrick Adams and King’s Teon Parks stride toward the finish of the 110 hurdles. (Click for more from Dave McCauley/Run Michigan.)
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.)