Sprint Star Pacing Kent City's Run at #1

May 15, 2019

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Giovanni Weeks has always been fast, racking up plenty of blue ribbons during his elementary school days in Kent City.

But now his coach looks at him and sees something else.

“He’s a beast,” said 26th-year Kent City boys track coach Jeff Wilson. “He is thick and strong as an ox. Now he’s like a locomotive coming down the track.”

Weeks, a two-time all-state running back and three-sport athlete, is barreling toward the finish line of his prep career – starting with Friday’s MHSAA Division 3 Regional meet at Saugatuck.

His ultimate goal is to improve on last year’s impressive performance at the Finals, where he won the 200 meters, placed second in the 100 meters and fourth in the long jump.

The hardest part might be choosing which four events to do.

“I think I could do good in the 400, but that is so close to the 200 and I really want to defend my title in that,” explained Weeks, who helped the Eagles place third as a team at last year’s Finals. “And I’d like to do both sprint relays, but then there’s the long jump. I’ll just do what Coach puts me in.”

Weeks said it was his year-round weightlifting and speed and agility training which allowed him to emerge as one of the most decorated competitors at last year’s Finals as a junior.

“I’m most proud of how I kept sticking to it,” said Weeks, who was a key part of Kent City’s resurgence on the football field the past three seasons. “I put in the work and got faster and stronger. You can’t become a state champion any other way.”

The bigger and stronger Weeks won the 200 meters last year in 22.25 seconds and narrowly missed sweeping the two sprints, finishing three hundredths of a second behind winner Caleb Schutte of Grandville Calvin Christian in the 100.

Weeks and Schutte are back as seniors and expected to duel once again in the 100 and 200, at both Regionals this week and the Finals on June 1 at Jenison.

Weeks believes if he can get a good start that he can pull off the double.

“I have been working on my starts a lot, which is my biggest weakness,” said Weeks, whose best times are 11.06 seconds in the 100 and 21.9 in the 200. “Last year in the 100 at state, I lost it in the first 30 meters. If the race was 10 meters longer, I would have won, so I just need a better start.”

He also has a shot in the long jump, where he placed fourth last year at 20 feet, 10.25 inches. He recently leaped a career-best of 21-8.75.

Weeks is the third of four children of Chris and Michelle Weeks. Chris Weeks is the pastor of Kent City Baptist Church and a former college rugby player. Gio’s younger sister, Jasmine, is a sophomore sprinter for Kent City’s girls team.

Wilson describes his star sprinter as a “great all-around kid,” who is committed to academics, faith and sports. Weeks tries to encourage his teammates and younger kids in the community to reach their full potential.

“You need to work your tail off if you want to be successful,” said Weeks, a 3.87-GPA student who represented Kent City athletics at the West Michigan Student Showcase event in March.

He said the secret to his success is hard work and his Christian faith, adding that his only superstition is that “I pray before each race.”

Kent City has become known around the state for its terrific distance runners under Wilson, a former distance standout at Sparta who also ran at Central Michigan University. Wilson guided the Eagles to a second-place Finals team finish in 2009 and third place in 1998, primarily behind its strength in the longer races.

Last year, it was Weeks who sprinted and leaped for 23 of his team’s 32 points as Kent City took third.

Wilson hopes for another strong showing at both Regionals and the Finals behind Weeks and about “seven or eight good sprinters,” a crew which also includes Will Wright, Mateus Mello and Jayden Williams. Dolan Bair has produced consistent points in the two hurdle events and Evan Jones (800) and Nick Flegel (1600) are the leaders in the longer distances.

Weeks will take his work ethic and strong character to Wheaton College (Ill.) this fall, where he will play football for the traditional Division III powerhouse. He plans to study business economics and may also run for the track team.

Weeks, who has grown from about 5-9 and 140 pounds as a freshman to 6-1 and 200 pounds, holds career records at Kent City with 3,725 rushing yards and 57 touchdowns. He led the Eagles to three consecutive Central States Activities Association Silver titles and three straight playoff appearances.

He said a freak accident that occurred when he was little convinced him that he was called to play football.

“When I was little, a curling iron fell on my hand in the bathroom and it left a scar in the shape of a football,” Weeks said with a laugh. “I always tell people that I knew because of that I was meant to be a football player.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kent City’s Giovanni Weeks, second from left, paces the field during a sprint this season. (Middle) Weeks lands a long jump, one of three events in which he placed at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. (Photos by Mary Wilson.)

Chippewa Valley's Heard Has Big Plans to Add to All-Time Sprint Legacy

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

May 10, 2024

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clinton Township Chippewa Valley senior Shamar Heard admits he’s thought about it, and for good reason.

Greater DetroitAfter all, why not at least entertain the thought of doing something unprecedented in state history when it comes to track & field?

Two years ago as a sophomore, Heard achieved the double in the fastest races, winning both the 100 and 200-meter dashes at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. 

Last year, Heard completed the trifecta when it came to sprint state titles, focusing solely on the 400 dash and winning that event in 47.78 seconds while also running on first and third-place relays.

So, how about trying to train for and win all three events this year as a senior? Who in the state would be able to stop him? 

“I definitely have been thinking about it,” Heard said. “Because why not? It probably hasn’t been done in a long time, if ever.”

But while the thought has crossed his mind, it won’t happen. It’s a little much on the body — in particular running the 100-meter dash — to try and do all three at once. 

However, Heard in the coming weeks is still in a good position to cement what already is a place among the greatest sprinters to come through the state of Michigan. 

First, he has big things in mind for his specialty race, the 400 meters. He has won two consecutive AAU national titles in that event in addition to the Finals title he won last year, but is craving more.

“I want to be at 45 seconds for the state meet,” Heard said noting the June 1 Finals at East Kentwood. 

In addition, Heard plans on competing in the 200 meters at East Kentwood. He also is a part of Chippewa Valley’s 800 relay team that won last year in 1:26.41. He’s expected to qualify for all three at the Regional on May 17 at Romeo.

Heard prepares to run the winning 400 at last season’s championship meet.When Heard is done with high school, he will continue running track at Tennessee. 

It’s all mighty impressive for a speedster that Chippewa Valley head coach Terry Wilson said hates lifting weights and is “barely above 150 pounds.”

“He doesn’t weigh a whole lot, but he generates a lot of power,” Wilson said. “His strength-to-weight ratio has to be astronomical. He’s just gotten better with his form.”

Throughout his entire life, Heard said he’s simply loved racing. When he was a kid, he would constantly pick out a stop sign on a street or another spot in a yard and race others to the finish, often beating them with ease. 

When he was 10 years old, he was invited by a friend to come out for a track team, and he proceeded to beat others in races continuously. 

As he got a little older, Heard discovered how gifted he was running the 400 meters and started to focus more on that event. 

Heard said he loves the 400 meters so much mostly because he loves embracing a challenge many sprinters don’t want to face. 

“I like that not many people want to go through that pain,” he said. “I take it as a compliment when people look at (the 400) and they say, ‘Hey, people are crazy for doing that.’ That makes me motivated to do it.”

Wilson admits there doesn’t have to be much coaching done with Heard. It’s just simply a matter of getting together before races to discuss how he feels and what his body can do that day. 

“He understands his body a little bit better every year,” Wilson said. “He understands what he needs to get done in races. He’ll run the 200 in practice and I’ll have a stopwatch on him, and he’ll say, ‘That felt like a 24 (seconds). I look at my stopwatch and it’s a 24.2. He has that ability to gauge how fast he’s going. It’s just different with him.” 

Heard also was a football player at Chippewa Valley, but gave the sport up before last fall to focus solely on his track career. 

“I was just looking at the bigger picture,” Heard said. “I was more consistent in one sport than I was the other.”

He will run the 400 meters at Tennessee, and then the sky could be the limit given what he’s accomplished already on a national level.

Until then though, Heard will spend the rest of his high school career trying to win more hardware and leave a mark that might be impossible for future sprinters in Michigan to surpass. 

“I want to give everyone a senior year that they will remember,” Heard said. “I want to go out with one of the most memorable years of a high school athlete.” 

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Chippewa Valley’s Shamar Heard crosses the finish line while anchoring the winning 800 relay at last year’s LPD1 Finals. (Middle) Heard prepares to run the winning 400 at last season’s championship meet. (Click for more from Jamie McNinch/RunMichigan.com.)