Ojala has done it all in sports

CALUMET – At an age when most sports figures are still filling out their resumes, Shana Ojala has already accomplished a couple of big ones in hers.

For one thing, the Trout Creek native has already been inducted into two sports hall of fames. She was recently chosen for the Northern Michigan University Sports Hall, and was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports in 2008.

“Sports was something I became interested in at a very young age,” Ojala said recently. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, and it’s something kids growing up in Trout Creek naturally did.”

That interest in sports was only natural since Shana DeCremer came from a family noted for sports achievements.

Late grandfather Ben Manning, a U.P. Hall of Famer himself, was a good athlete in his youth. But he’s probably better remembered as a longtime basketball official – a connection Shana shares with him. But more on that later.

Her uncles, Jim and Bob Manning, were stellar athletes at Trout Creek High. In fact, Jim is still the second all-time scorer in U.P. history with 2,147 points. He later pitched in the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins.

Her aunt, Sandy Manning, was no slouch, either. She led Ewen-Trout Creek High to a state basketball championship in her only season in 1973. That was the year girls sports were mandated under Title IX.

“I had the chance to learn a lot from all of my family, my aunt was my biggest supporter,” she said. “They all emphasized having a good work ethic … and I’ve tried to do that.”

Playing under legendary coach Nancy Osier at Ewen-Trout Creek High, she accumulated 1,732 points in gaining all-state honors.

Osier, the winningest skipper in prep U.P. history with more than 582 victories, remembers Ojala as a “tireless worker.”

“She was always working on her game,” Osier commented a few years ago. “If there’s such a thing as a gym rat, she was it.”

While the Panthers had a lot of success in her career, they ran afoul of excellent Baraga squads in her final two seasons.

“They (Vikings) had four or five really good players,” she recalled. “And they managed to beat us at tournament time.”

Michigan Tech women’s skipper Kevin Borseth recruited her after her prep career ended in 1993.

“Kevin Borseth was an excellent coach,” she said. “He was a lot like Nancy (Osier) in that he wanted to see you improve as a player and a person.”

Shana transfered to NMU for her final two seasons and helped lead the Wildcats to glory.

Combining with Kris Manske, she helped Northern gain the Elite 8 in her junior season. NMU hosted the regional tournament the following season but was upset by Southern Indiana.

In all, she netted 1,057 points at NMU to go along with 534 points at MTU. She gained First Team All American laurels along with All-GLIAC first team and league defensive team honors.

Then NMU coach Mike Geary described her as “the most competitive player I’ve ever coached.”

“She goes all-out, all the time,” Geary noted at the time. “You can’t ask much more of a player.”

After her playing career was over, Ojala started officiating basketball – something she’s been doing for 12 years.

“Being a referee has enbabled me to stay involved in the game,” she said. “You also get to see how the players develop as the years pass.”

Like her grandfather, who kept a tight control on the games he worked, Ojala has gained a similar reputation.

“She (Ojala) keeps control of the game,” said local basketball official Dave Dow of Hancock. “She doesn’t let things get out of hand, she’s a good official.”

While she has worked both boys and girls prep (and GLIAC) games, that will change in a couple of years when twin sons Matthew and Travis reach high school.

“I won’t be working too many boys games then,” she said. “They’re both hard-working kids and I’m looking forward to watching them play in the future.”

The Ojala twins also have some pretty good genes on the other side of the family.

Shana’s former husband, Mike, totaled more than 1,800 points in his career at Ewen-TC, and is the current boys cage coach at Calumet High.