Ackley, St. Francis Hold off Charging Cougars

November 5, 2016

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN – The finish line couldn’t arrive soon enough for Hart sophomore Adelyn Ackley.

There was no one in front of her at Michigan International Speedway as she sprinted down the final stretch Saturday in the MHSAA Division 3 cross country meet.

It’s what was behind her that had Ackley running scared.

Hot on her heels was Lansing Catholic junior Olivia Theis, the only Division 3 runner to beat her this season.

“It was a terrible feeling,” Ackley said. “I thought she was right there. At first, I thought the finish line was closer, so I dug. Then I realized it’s a lot farther.”

Ackley was able to hold off Theis, winning with a time of 17:40.6. Theis was a close second in 17:41.3, as the top two runners cleared the rest of the field by 42.9 seconds.

“I was getting there,” Theis said. “I just couldn’t pick it up any more. I was ahead, then she pulled ahead and I couldn’t catch her.”

Ackley and Theis raced head-to-head in the two biggest regular-season invitationals of the season. Ackley was third behind two Division 1 top-seven finishers in the Spartan Elite Race at Michigan State, with Theis taking fourth. In the Portage Invitational, Theis was first in 17:21, with Ackley taking second by 12 seconds.

Ackley was a distant second at last year’s Final to Traverse City St. Francis’ Holly Bullough, who now runs for Michigan State University.

Ackley went through the mile in 5:46, backing off about 700 meters into the race after a blistering start.

“I had a really fast start,” she said. “Then I realized I was going like a 4:41 pace for a mile, so I slowed down and followed Olivia.”

Ackley ran negative splits, running the second mile in 5:41 and the third in 5:39. Theis also ran a well-paced race, going 5:47, 5:40 and 5:42 for the first three miles.

Despite Theis’ performance, Lansing Catholic couldn’t keep St. Francis from repeating as Division 3 team champion.

St. Francis, which lost only two runners from its top seven of 2015, put five runners in the top 24 in the team race. Junior Joyana Tarsa was seventh in 19:13.6, sophomore Katelyn Duffing ninth in 19:23.1, senior Emmalyne Tarsa 14th in 19:37.2, freshman Libby Gorman 23rd in 20:13.5 and sophomore Christine Scerbak 24th in 20:18.0.

Lansing Catholic put three runners in the top five in the team race, but had to count 31st and 47th places. Olivia Theis was second among team runners, Lauren Cleary was third and Jaden Theis was fifth.

Benzie Central was third with 125 points.

Click for full results.

The MHSAA Cross Country Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hart’s Adelyn Ackley (right) charges toward the finish in Division 3 just ahead of Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis. (Middle) St. Francis’ Joyana Tarsa (1680) leads a pack including Benzie Central’s Lucy Karpukhno (1526). (Click to see more from

Kent City's Evers Selected for NFHS National 'Coach of the Year' Honor

By Geoff Kimmerly 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 EversJill 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.