Performance: Oxford's Connor Bandel

June 1, 2016

Connor Bandel
Oxford senior – Track & Field

Bandel could’ve been a selection most weeks this season; the spring has included that many highlights for the reigning Lower Peninsula Division 1 champion in shot put and discus. He was perhaps most dominant at his Regional on May 20 at Lake Orion, winning shot put by 16 feet with a toss of 63, 7 inches, and discus by  nearly 28 feet at 189-2 to earn the Michigan National Guard Performance of the Week for May 16-22.

Bandel went on to win the Oakland County Championship titles Friday in both at 67-2½ and 192-0, respectively, and his top throws this spring are that shot put and a discus toss of 204-2 on April 23 at the Oxford Invitational. He will compete in the LP Division 1 Finals this weekend with opportunities to break the all-Finals records in shot put (Todd Duckett, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, 64-0½, 1999) and discus (Cullen Prena, Walled Lake Central, 210-1, 2012). Prena is among those Bandel has consulted for advice as he’s improved significantly over the last few seasons; his top throws in 2016 are six feet better in shot put and 11 in discus from a year ago.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior also played goalkeeper for Oxford’s varsity soccer team the last four seasons and will be the second sibling from his family to play at the Division I college level; he’s signed for track & field with the University of Florida, while his older sister Darien plays volleyball at Oakland University. Connor also played basketball as a freshman and carries a 3.3 grade-point average; he’s considering majoring in chemical or biomedical engineering.

Coach Matt Johnson said: “The number one thing Connor brings is (his example) that track and field is a year-round event, from conditioning to weight training to building camaraderie with his teammates around the track. … He’s a dedicated athlete, he sets goals for himself, and that would be a value set that I’d say could be passed on to another level of student. He’s not just setting benchmarks for things within reach; he’s setting dreams he’s going to work toward. Early on last year, he told me he’s aiming not for the state record, he’s aiming to become an international competitor, and that raises the bar right there. Most high school kids are not even thinking (about that) at that point.”

Performance Point: “I’m trying to improve every meet; that’s always the goal. But this past week I started to improve more. I’m constantly moving the benchmark forward a bit. … Sometimes I just can’t really explain how much emotions I'm feeling when something (like a personal record) just happened. When you PR something that you’ve never reached, it’s just so satisfying to actually do that.”

Expert advice: “The biggest thing with (my sister) was her type of dedication and trying to do the same thing as her. Another big thing was the recruiting process; it was nice to have a sibling because not only did I get to learn from her but my parents got to learn a lot from her about the questions to ask coaches and that kind of deal. (From Prena), I learned definitely technique from him; it’s nice to have him having worked with his college coach, because … then he could teach me a lot of what he had learned. I always ask him about summer track, nationals and international competition. Even though he hasn’t gone to an international competition, he went to meet qualifiers for those, and if I have questions about what the atmosphere is like, things like what I need to bring, he’s always a good resource.”

The mental game: “For me, it’s not to get really tense. If I get really tense, really focus on trying to throw as far as I can, I’m not going to throw as well. The more relaxed you are, the longer you’ll be, the more comfortable you’ll be. Not getting tight and seized up and that sort of deal, that’s the biggest thing to me, to really relax … and trust what I’ve been doing the last couple of years, be comfortable and have fun with it. If you have a smile on your face, you’ll probably throw farther … (and) I’m just trying to throw farther than I did before.”

Final countdown: “I’d definitely, now that I’ve won (in 2015), I would like to re-break the shot put record, and I would like to break the discus record for the first time. I really want to hit my goals; I wrote them down before the season, and I’m still on pace. I feel like breaking 79 (feet in shot put) and 215 (in discus) before the season is over, that would be absolutely fantastic.”

Create and explore: “I’ve always really been into math and science, always really liked the engineering aspects of creating and exploring new ideas. I thought with how much petroleum that the United State is using, and with how many athletes have injuries, I thought it would be cool to create new ways to produce energy, or for athletes the fastest ways to recover.”

– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2015-16 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom, or protecting lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2015-16 honorees
May 18: Kalyn Breckenridge, Birch Run girls soccer - Read 
May 11: Morgan Beadlescomb, Algonac boys track & field - Read
May 4: Abby Krzywiecki, Farmington Hills Mercy softball - Read
April 27: Mike Mokma, Holland Christian baseball - Read
April 20: Abby Divozzo, Cadillac girls soccer - Read
March 30: Cassius Winston, Detroit U-D Jesuit boys basketball - Read
March 23: Kierra Fletcher, Warren Cousino girls basketball - Read
March 16: Jacob Montague, Grosse Pointe South swimming & diving - Read
March 9: Kyle Tuttle, St. Charles boys bowling - Read
March 2: Brittney Schnicke, Caledonia girls bowling - Read
Feb. 24: Kamari Newman, Detroit East English boys basketball - Read
Feb. 17: Jason Whitens, Powers North Central boys basketball - Read 
Feb. 10: Rachel Hogan, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Read
Feb. 3: Nehemiah Mork, Midland Dow swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 27: Mardrekia Cook, Muskegon girls basketball - Read
Jan. 20: Sage Castillo, Hartland wrestling - Read
Jan. 13: Rob Zofchak, Dexter swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 6: Tyler Deming, Caro wrestling – Read
Dec. 15: Jordan Weber, East Jordan boys basketball – Read
Dec. 8: Kaitlyn Geers, Kent City girls basketball – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Oxford's Connor Bandel unloads a shot put during a meet this season. (Middle) Bandel is the reigning champion in both the discus and shot put in Lower Peninsula Division 1. (Photos courtesy of Connor Bandel.)

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“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.

John GuilleanGuillean 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.”

Great anticipation

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.

Derek GriblerGribler 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 ShebestPam 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 pamkzoo@aol.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.)