Keweenaw Classic Provides Indoor Competition as UP Spring Begins

By John Vrancic
Special for

April 28, 2022

HOUGHTON — The weather may still be in no particular hurry to warm up, but many Upper Peninsula track & field teams found a way to beat the elements earlier this month.

Michigan Technological University, as it had for many years, was ready to lend a helping hand and hosted its annual Keweenaw Classic indoor meet April 12.

Northern Michigan University also has hosted high school meets inside the Superior Dome for more than 25 years. Those meets, however, have been interrupted by COVID-19.

This year’s event at Tech included a pre-meet clinic for the first time.

“The Tech athletes were very helpful,” said Houghton boys coach Erik Johnson. “With no meets in the Dome, this kind of fills a void. It was absolutely critical to get this in. With 44 guys on the team, any open meet you can get is good. This gives us a chance to compete with schools we often don’t see.”

Baraga coach Tammy Crittenden was also thankful for the opportunity.

“The clinic was very helpful,” she said. “Hopefully, our kids got something out of it. We also brought our middle school kids to the clinic. They do a nice job putting on this meet and helping all the student-athletes.”

L’Anse coach John Jacobson had similar thoughts.

“The clinic was very valuable, and I think we learned a few things,” he said. “We’re very thankful to have this opportunity. A lot of work goes into this.”

Team scores weren’t kept, and shot put was the lone field event.

“We appreciate the opportunity to do shot put,” said Negaunee girls coach Vickie Paupore. “That’s one area I think we’re going to be real strong. It was nice for our younger kids to have this experience. I’m very grateful for our kids to have a chance to compete this early in the season. We still have snow on our track.”

Bark River-Harris sophomore Mackenzie Hoffmeyer, who won the 60 and 200-meter dashes, was grateful to have a chance to compete.

“I was real nervous at first,” she said. “After the 60 I felt little more relaxed. I was in the fifth lane in the 200. I knew I had to go out fast.”

Ontonagon junior Makennah Uotila was also anxious to get the season underway.

“Getting a meet in right now was huge,” she said. “Pretty soon we’ll be doing two meets a week. This was good for conditioning.”

Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie hosted two indoor meets this year with the more recent one taking place April 21.

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO Ontonagon’s Makennah Uotila, here starting the 400 at last season’s Upper Peninsula Division 3 Finals, was among athletes who competed at the Keweenaw Classic. (Photo by Kara Camps.)

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

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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/