Anderson Shows Way for Fenton Runners
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
October 10, 2018
The runners on the Fenton girls and boys cross country teams admired and respected coach Jesse Anderson before he placed 20th overall at the 2018 Boston Marathon.
But that performance definitely didn’t hurt his credibility.
“Like everyone else on the team, I was shocked and very proud when I heard the news,” Fenton senior Nolan Day said. “It’s so crazy to think that our coach that we see every day took 20th out of 30,000 in one of America’s most prestigious marathon races. We all feel very lucky to have him as a coach as it is, and this just adds to it.”
Anderson, who finished the marathon in 2 hours, 29 minutes and 19 seconds, is in his fourth year as coach at his alma mater. The 2008 graduate was a two-time all-state finisher and four-time MHSAA Finals qualifier for the Tigers. While he didn’t run competitively while attending University of Michigan, he wound up picking the sport back up on his own and competed in road races before making the jump to marathons in 2013.
“The (Fenton) position came open in 2015, and I was encouraged to apply for the spot because I was running a business in town and I had picked up competitive running at the time after college,” Anderson said. “I cared a lot about the program and wanted to have an impact at that level. It has surpassed my expectations.”
In his first three seasons, the Fenton boys have qualified twice for the Division 1 Finals (2015 and 2017), and the girls qualified in 2017. Both teams are projected to finish first in their regions by Athletic.net, although the boys hypothetical Regional meet sees the Tigers tying Highland Milford for first and just one point ahead of Walled Lake Central. On the girls side, junior Alexa Keiser – who earned all-state finishes in both of her first two seasons at Fenton – has a top time this fall that once again would put her on stage at Michigan International Speedway on Nov. 3.
Anderson gives a lot of the credit for the team’s success to his assistant coaches, Sue Larsen and Nathan Loersch.
“I couldn’t do what I do without those two,” he said.
He also said that both his experience as a high school runner and as a currently competitive runner are what he’s needed to be a complete coach.
“They kind of go hand in hand,” he said. “When I’m talking to the kids and communicating a workout, my experience as a runner in high school is more valuable, especially when it comes to racing tactics,” he said. “But training to be consistent over road races has really taught me about making consistent habits. I wouldn’t feel as complete as a coach without one or the other experience.”
While Anderson acknowledges training for marathons is different than training for 5Ks, he also points out that there are plenty of similarities, which his experiences make him uniquely qualified to see.
The mileage an athlete is running per week may be different, but he said the rhythm of that week – when to rest, what to work out – is very much the same. And, of course, he has a willing participant to test the effectiveness of his workouts – himself. That helps him communicate why his high school athletes are running what they’re running, and what it will do for them, something Anderson feels very strongly about.
His athletes appreciate all of the experience he brings to the table.
“As a person and a coach, we think very highly of him, and his decorated running resume backs his already trustworthy judgment and advice,” Day said. “Just when I think that I couldn’t have any more respect for him as a person and as a coach, his achievements keep on grabbing even more of my respect.
“When it comes to relating to his runners and understanding what they are going through, Coach Anderson’s skills are unparalleled. He knows the stretches and fixes for every injury, and knows how to push his runners to their highest potential while not being detrimental. For these reasons, among many others, I truly feel Coach Jesse Anderson is the best cross country coach in the state of Michigan.”
Of course, not all of Anderson’s lessons are taught from his successes. In 2013, he attempted for the first time to run the Boston Marathon and had to drop out. It’s the only race, Anderson said, he’s hasn’t finished.
“I didn’t prepare very well,” he said. “I was in the midst of starting up a business in town, and I had kept myself busy that weekend and drove out the day before. I didn’t drink enough water. I drank too much coffee. I made a lot of mistakes, and I use it as an example now for coaching.”
The 2013 race also served as a personal learning experience as Anderson prepared for the 2018 marathon, helping him to his biggest triumph at the site of what was previously his rare racing failure.
It was made more special by the group of Fenton runners he has been mentoring seeing that success.
“They’ve always been super supportive, and it was really heartwarming to have a bunch of people reach out to me,” he said. “I really try not to make too much out of it because a lot of circumstances went into being able to place that high, but I would like to think I was just trying to practice what I preach to the kids. This wasn’t the result of some Herculean effort. That said, it was pretty cool, and Boston is pretty recognizable to most people, so it was really cool to see the kids get excited about it.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Fenton coach Jesse Anderson is surrounded by his runners during their preseason camp at Sleeping Bear Dunes. (Middle) Anderson crosses the finish line 10th at the Aug. 25 Crim 10-mile run in Flint. (Top photo courtesy of Fenton cross country, middle by RunMichigan.com.)
Kent City's Evers Selected for NFHS National 'Coach of the Year' Honor
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
January 11, 2023
Kent City cross country coach Jill Evers has been named the 2021-22 National Coach of the Year for girls cross country by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.
Evers was selected by a committee including representatives from all eight NFHS sections – Michigan is part of Section 4 with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The following brief bio includes an excerpt from Evers’ coaching philosophy, which nominees were asked to submit after being identified as candidates for the awards.
Jill Evers joined the Kent City athletic staff as an assistant cross country coach in 1991 after previously coaching a season each at Allegan High School and Allegan Middle School. She took over Kent City’s girls and boys varsity cross country programs in 1993 and also has served as head girls track & field coach since 1993. She led Kent City’s girls cross country team to a Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final runner-up finish in 2021, the program’s second runner-up finish under her leadership, and she’s also guided Kent City’s girls program to 15 league and seven Regional titles and nine total top-eight Finals finishes. She previously was named an NFHS Section Coach of the Year for girls track & field in 2006 after leading Kent City’s girls track & field team to its first MHSAA Finals championship in that sport, and inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012. Evers also is a longtime science teacher at Kent City and advisor and mentor for a variety of school activities in addition to coaching.
“I know people say, ‘Athletics is an extension of the classroom,’ but I believe it's so much more than that. While participating in sports, young people can learn about themselves and others, challenge themselves and grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Athletics is where we learn life lessons, such as how to lose with grace, cheer for teammates and even opponents, win with humility, deal with adversity, empathize with others, respect all those involved, be grateful for healthy bodies and opportunities to compete and push ourselves beyond what was originally thought possible. Success is different for each person, but I believe cross country lends itself to individual success. Everyone can improve and learn lifelong healthy habits. Everyone can set and achieve goals. Those who aren't as fast often earn the respect of the more gifted runners because of their perseverance. It is my job as a coach to encourage, motivate, and challenge all students who want to participate, and then congratulate them for a job well done.”
Three more Michigan coaches earned honors in Section 4. Mark Posey was honored in boys golf after leading Big Rapids to a 10th-place finish in Lower Peninsula Division 3 in 2022 after four straight Finals runner-up finishes. (There was no LP boys golf season in 2020 due to COVID-19.) Lake Orion boys lacrosse coach Ronald Hebert was honored after guiding his team to the Division 1 Quarterfinals last spring after taking the Dragons to the Semifinals in 2021. Scott Werner was honored in girls track & field after leading Pewamo-Westphalia to a runner-up finish at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. P-W shared the LPD3 Finals championship in 2021 and has won titles four of the last nine seasons (not counting 2020).
The NFHS has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982.