Johnson, Allen win Hometowne Athlete of the Year

Iron Mountain High School junior Marcus Johnson, left, and Anna DeForge are shown during the 39th annual Hometowne Athlete of the Year banquet on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Iron Mountain’s Marcus Johnson and Kingsford’s Olivia Allen were named the male and female Hometowne Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.

The 39th annual banquet featured former WNBA star and Niagara High School graduate Anna DeForge as guest speaker.

“I was excited to be back home and be able to share my journey of basketball with these student-athletes and the impact it had on my life and career,” she said.

The duo makes it the ninth time in 39 years that an Iron Mountain and Kingsford athlete were named male and female winners in the same year.

Johnson, a junior, made the All-UP Dream Team this season. He was also named co-player of the year in the Mid-Peninsula Conference with teammate Foster Wonders. Johnson was also a standout in football, golf and baseball this year.

“It’s just an awesome accomplishment to be recognized by the area people as one of the best athletes around,” Johnson said. “There’s a bunch of other great athletes around. Just to be able to win is a blessing. I’ve just go to give all the credit to the people who drive me, push me to do what I do.”

Allen, a senior, made a name for herself in track and field with appearances all four years at the UP Finals. This year, Allen took two firsts and a runner-up finish. She also received Great Northern Conference accolades in basketball. She did not attend Wednesday’s banquet.

Johnson led the Mountaineers to the state finals. They were halfway out the door with the state championship trophy before Pewamo-Westphalia grabbed the lead on a pair of free throws with a half-second remaining for the win.

“Day by day,” Johnson said of moving past the state championship game. “It’s still a thought that comes up every day. It’s very hard to still think about it. Can’t change it. Can’t change what happened now. You just basically use it as fuel and motivation to get better for next year and hopefully get back to where we want to be.”

Johnson, who became Iron Mountain’s all-time leading scorer last season, said he’d trade all of his personal accolades for a state title.

“I’d give up everything — all the accolades I’ve ever won — to win a state championship,” he said. “Personally I think so far in my career I’ve accomplished a lot. I really don’t have to accomplish anything more to satisfy myself. The team comes first, so that’s basically what my mindset is.”

In DeForge’s 20 minutes at the podium, she spoke about the importance of dedication and commitment. She also said distractions in the form of social media and internet make it harder for athletes to stay focused on training.

“My message was basically you’re going to be as good as you want and it’s all up to you. What are your habits? Do your habits support who you want to be or what you want to be? You’ll get out what you put in.”

DeForge also took questions from the audience.

DeForge played at the University of Nebraska after a stellar career at Niagara High School, where she graduated in 1994. According to the Wisconsin Sports Network, DeForge’s 2,601 career high school points total ranks fourth all-time in Wisconsin girls basketball history.

DeForge was Wisconsin’s all-time leading scorer until Jolene Anderson in 2004. Megan Gustafson is now the leading scorer with 3,229 points.

After college, DeForge played professionally from 1998 until her retirement in 2015.

She still puts up shots in the gym.

“Obviously I run my basketball business, so I’m always trying to play with my kids and trying to compete with them. I’m sure there’s a day that will come where I’m not able to do that. I’m just trying to help these kids now who have aspirations to go on to the next level and achieve those dreams.”