Nearly two calendar years have passed the last Upper Peninsula Boys Track & Field Finals.
But three past individual champions will return Saturday with opportunities to add to career achievements first built up before COVID-19 led to the cancelation of last season.
Gladstone’s Blake Servant and Calvin Thibault and Gwinn’s David Duvall all have won at least one Finals title and will be among those to watch as all three divisions again will be competed at Kingsford High School.
Below is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all three divisions.
Top Regional scores: Marquette 71, Houghton 70, Gladstone 60.
Team forecast: Gladstone is the reigning champion after a 2019 run where it broke Marquette’s previous four-year hold on the Division 1 title. But Marquette may be the team to chase again with top seeds in two relays, four individual races and shot put. Houghton was runner-up in 2018 and 2016 and is seeking its first championship since 1992. The Gremlins got three individual championships and a leg of a relay winner from junior Eric Weiss at their Regional, and he could be important stacking up in the distance races. Gladstone’s star hurdlers also should factor into the team title mix.
Derek Douglas, Escanaba: The now-senior was fourth in the 800 and ran on three relays at the 2019 Final, and at this year’s Regional he won the 800 (2:01.73) by more than a second and was second in the 400.
Brady Schultz, Menominee: The Maroons junior high-jumped 6-foot-6 at his Regional to win by two inches, and a repeat of that jump would set the UPD1 Finals record by an inch.
Blake Servant, Gladstone: The discus champion as a sophomore in 2019, he may be in line for much more after outpacing two-time reigning Finals champ and teammate Calvin Thibault (see below) in the 110 (15.98) and 300 hurdles (41.9) at the Regional in addition to winning discus (136-9) and long jump (20-8).
Calvin Thibault, Gladstone: Now a senior, Thibault won the 110 and 300 hurdles Finals championships as both a freshman and sophomore, and in addition to Regional runner-up finishes in those races two weeks ago also took third in the 200 and fourth in the 100.
Carson & Colin Vanderschaaf, Marquette: After finishing third and fifth, respectively, in UPD1 cross country in the fall, Marquette’s sophomore distance standouts could be climbing the podium. Carson has the fastest seed times in the 3,200 (10:14.24) and as part of the 3,200 relay (8:45.36). Colin also runs on that 3,200 relay and is seeded first in the 1,600 (4:38.98).
Top Regional scores: Iron Mountain 63, Norway 53½, Ishpeming 39.
Team forecast: Ishpeming won back-to-back team championships in 2018 and 2019 and has earned five over the last six seasons, but that streak could be coming to an end as Iron Mountain seeks its first title since 2000 and Norway its first since 2005. Norway could be in line for some big points with the top seeds in two field events, two relays and two individual races. Iron Mountain, however, has an advantage on depth with all four relays and 17 individual entries competing. Ishpeming is right behind with all four relays and 14 individual entries.
Silas Broberg, Ishpeming: The Division 2 cross country champion in the fall will attempt to cap his high school career with another title or more, entering as the top seed in the 3,200 (11:23.9) by 18 seconds while also running the 800, 1,600 and on the 3,200 relay.
Adam Cavagnetto, Norway: The junior distance standout enters the weekend as the top-seeded contender in both the 800 (2:10.85) and 1,600 (4:46.47).
David Duvall, Gwinn: He was one of the most impressive performers as a sophomore in 2019, winning the 110 hurdles and finishing runner-up in the 300 and long jump. He’ll be a contender in those three events and as part of the 400 relay, with his 18.16 seed time in the 110 pacing the field.
Christian Koiveniemi, St. Ignace: After running two Finals relays as a freshman in 2019, he’s back as a junior with the top seeds in the 100 (12.08) and 200 (24.77) and also the high jump (5-6).
Landon Sudelius, West Iron County: He took sixth in both hurdles races two years ago as a freshman, but enters this weekend seeded first in the 300 (45.36) and second in the 110.
Top Regional scores: Pickford 73, Stephenson 65, Rapid River 64.
Team forecast: Rapid River has had the most recent success of the teams listed above, with two titles and two runner-up finishes between 2015-18 and a fourth place in 2019. Dominant field events would be the Rockets’ ticket this time, while Pickford has some likely high scorers throughout the lineup. Stephenson could be in line for its first team title since 2007 with 23 individual entries and all four relays running including two that are top-seeded. Powers North Central finished only three points behind Stephenson at their Regional and also has some interesting high-scoring possibilities.
Cameron Hoornstra, Brimley: After running the 800 and 1,600 two years ago as a sophomore, Hoornstra has found his stride in the sprints and enters this weekend with the top seed in the 100 (12.0) and fourth in the 200, and he’ll also run the 400 and is fourth-seeded in the long jump.
Kolson Kytta, Chassell: The Division 3 cross country runner-up in the fall could end his Chassell career as a champion entering this weekend with the top seeds in the 1,600 (4:39.17) and 3,200 (10:36.52).
Conner LeClaire, Dollar Bay: He got on the board with a fifth-place finish in the 300 hurdles in 2019 and returns as a senior with the top seed time in that race (43.85) and third-fastest in the 110.
Ben & Max Lenaker, Rapid River: The senior twins both are top seeds in field events, with Ben’s 20-9 pacing long jump and Max’s 6-0 tops in high jump. Ben also is top-seeded in the 400 (52.80) by more than a second.
PHOTOS: (Top) Gladstone's Blake Servant earns one of his four championships during the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet May 24 in Negaunee. (Middle) Houghton's Eric Weiss wins the 3,200 at the Mid-Peninsula finals with Ishpeming's Silas Broberg taking second. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)