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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)