SAULT STE. MARIE — Weather conditions in early April can sometimes be frightful in the Upper Peninsula.
On a day with snow showers falling outside, eight schools took advantage of an opportunity to compete in Friday’s indoor track & field meet at Lake Superior State University’s Norris Center.
“The first meet of the season is very important to me,” said Alpena senior Madi Szymanski, who plans to run cross country and track at Northern Michigan University. “This gives me a starting base and a better idea of where I’m at. I prefer to run outdoors, but I’m very grateful to be indoors today. Conditions are always perfect inside.”
Szymanski was a triple-winner in the LSSU Large School Yooper Invitational, taking the 800-meter run in 2 minutes, 28.26 seconds, the 1,600 (5:27.83) and helping the Wildcats take the 1,600 relay (4:44.39).
“I’ve been doing indoor meets during the winter,” she said. “I go to Saginaw Valley a lot and have been to Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan, but this is my favorite 200-meter track. I always look forward to coming here. It’s real exciting and my adrenalin is very high. It’s always great to do well in the first races.”
This marked the first of just three indoor meets in the U.P. this season. Many U.P. schools were scheduled to compete in the Michigan Tech Keweenaw Classic on Tuesday in Houghton with another indoor event taking place April 21 at LSSU.
Both Alpena teams were crowned champions, and the two Manistique teams placed fourth.
Manistique junior Grant Mason won the boys 400 in a personal-best 56.88 seconds, and the girls opened with a victory in the 3,200 relay (11:34.36).
“I expected it to be a little harder on a 200 track, but ended up with my best time,” said Mason. “I had a pretty good start. It’s real important to get this meet in. It’s a lot warmer in here. Early-season meets aren’t very easy to find up here. We had some good competition up here today. The downstate schools are ahead of us because they get an opportunity to see some real good competition.”
The Emeralds finished three seconds ahead of the field in the girls 3,200 relay.
“We’re pretty happy with our time,” said sophomore Emma Jones, who led off that relay. “We still have snow on our track. We’ve been working on our handoffs inside which is not the same, especially on a 200-meter track. It feels like you’re going faster. It’s pretty important for us to get this meet in because we haven’t been outside. This is the first time many of us have been in our events this year. It was good to see different competition today. This is definitely pushing us to our new potential.”
Junior Kelsey Muth, who took the baton from Jones, had similar thoughts.
“It was an awesome feeling to win it,” she said. “We went into it not knowing what to expect. That was a real good starting point for us. Emma and I had a real good handoff, but overall we were a little shaky. Our athletic director (Nate Zaremba) has been scheduling meets (we) need to reach the next level. We’re excited about going downstate for the first time. We’re hoping for nice weather down there.”
Jones placed second in the 400 (1:10.14) and Muth was fourth (1:11.64) for the Emeralds, who resume in Friday’s Ram Scram at Harbor Springs.
“I think today was a good first showing,” said Emeralds’ coach Amy Nixon. “In the first meet of the year, you never know what to expect and we had some girls step up. Some of the new girls stepped into events which others couldn’t. We’re proud of them for being willing to do that. Now we know what the girls are capable of doing. It’s fun to compete again.”
The Manistique boys secured fourth place by taking third in the 1,600 relay (4:03.25).
“Overall, the meet went well,” said Emeralds boys coach Cody Kangas. “Some guys did some real good things, and Grant did a great job in the 400.”
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 Athletes took advantage of the opportunity to compete indoors at Friday’s Yooper Invitational at Lake Superior State University. (Photo by Robert Roos/Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.)
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.)