By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half
KINGSFORD - Bessemer earned its name.
How could the aptly named Speedboys, whose logo is a winged shoe, not win a track & field meet?
They did just that Saturday at Kingsford High School's Flivver Field.
Bessemer's 136 points were enough to comfortably win its second straight UP Division 3 Finals after taking second place in 2017.
Lake Linden-Hubbell was second this time with 67 points, edging Brimley by a point for the runner-up spot.
"They've done excellent. We have done well for the past few years," Bessemer coach Tracy Rowe said. "We took first place last year, lost by four points the year before. They're a really dedicated group of boys.
“A lot of it starts with these kids in cross country, basketball, football. They're just really good athletes. It's just not one person. You can have one student or one athlete and you're not going to win. Of the 13 who made it, all of them except two or three were doing four events. That's phenomenal. They're multi-talented."
Rapid River took fourth with 60 points, and Powers North Central was fifth with 42.
Bessemer's Uriah Aili set Division 3 UP Finals records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200.
Aili's 800 was timed at 1:59.93, beating his own record (2:01.08) from 2018.
He set the 1,600 record with a time of 4:28.68, five seconds faster than Cedarville's Thomas Bohn ran in setting the previous record in 2018.
Aili's 3,200 time was 10:08.51. Wakefield's Ryan Holm had set the record in 2001 at 10:10.06. Aili’s 3,200 time may have been even better had he not run the 800 shortly beforehand.
"The 800 took some of the wind out of me," Aili said. "This is my last day of high school running. It's definitely a good way to end. This means the world to me. We have such a small school, and the younger kids look up to me. Now they know what's possible."
Jamie Jett gave the Speedboys wins in the 110 and 300 hurdles. He also took fourth in the 200 and fifth in long jump.
Bessemer won the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.
"Have fun. We told them have fun, do your best," Rowe said. "If you do your best, things will fall where they should fall. You can kind of look at where the seeds are. We've had years where everything has gone wrong. A few years ago a person trips on the hurdles, and someone else sprains an ankle the week of. Keep healthy, do your best, work as a team and support each other."
Lake Linden-Hubbell won the 200 and 400 relays. Stephenson's Montell Glover won the 100 dash. Powers North Central's Leo Gorzinski won the 200. Ontonagon's Noah Lukkari won the 400 with a 52.56.
Lake Linden-Hubbell's Cole Gregorie won the high jump at 6 feet. He also won the long jump at 19 feet, 9 inches.
Bessemer's Zach Baross won the pole vault, and teammate Tyler Busch won the shot put at 47-5.50. Rapid River's Gunner Larson won the discus at 141-4.
PHOTOS: (Top) Bessemer's Uriah Aili wins the 800 on Saturday, one of three individual victories for the Speedboys standout. (Middle) Lake Linden-Hubbell's Kellen Klein carries the baton for one of his team's two relay winners. (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.)