Buckley's Harrand, Johannesburg-Lewiston Complete 1st-Time Champions Sweep

November 5, 2022

BROOKLYN – People in Aiden Harrand’s support system saw potential in her before she saw it in herself.

She was having a strong start to her freshman year at Buckley two years ago, but Harrand had no idea how good she could become.

Other people around her could see the greatness within her, however.

“My freshman year, I had all the people around me kind of saying, ‘You could win the state meet your freshman year,’” Harrand said. “I didn’t really believe it. Well, I started looking at the rankings and stuff, and I really could. But I had a rough morning that year. It didn’t turn out like I wanted. It lit something inside me like, ‘I want to get this done. I want this to be my main goal.’”

It took two years, but Harrand has fulfilled the promise that her coaches and teammates forecasted for her. She won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship Saturday with a time of 19:05.89 on a wind-swept Michigan International Speedway course.

Harrand was a contender her first two years, placing fifth as a freshman and second last year.

This year, everything came together.

Allie Nowak runs third for Johannesburg-Lewiston in leading the first-time team champion’s placers. “Both years, I was ranked 1 and 2 for both of them,” she said. “I didn’t quite get there. This year, I was able to do it.”

Getting her training plan and nutrition dialed in helped Harrand achieve her goal. So did showing up at MIS as the member of a qualifying team after racing her first two years as an individual qualifier.

“Mentally, it feels a lot better having a team, because you’re not only running for yourself, but you’re running for the people with you,” she said. “It just feels better.”

Harrand won 11 of her 12 races this year, finishing second at the Sparta Invitational to Kent City sophomore Lila Volkers, who was fifth in the Division 3 race.

Harrand won her Regional meet with a season-best time of 18:11, but MIS wasn’t going to yield personal records Saturday.

“I wish it went a little faster, but because of the wind and the weather, it was kind of hard to push through it,” she said. “It’s always crazy here.”

Johannesburg-Lewiston won its first team championship, scoring 118 points to beat last year’s program-best sixth-place finish. Hillsdale Academy was second with 151 and Whitmore Lake was third with 192.

Sophomore Allie Nowak was third in 19:20.80, freshman Yolanda Gascho was seventh in 20:04.18, junior Madalyn Agren was 49th in 21:17.05, senior Adelaida Gascho was 54th in 21:26.87 and junior Rosalinda Gascho was 58th in 21:32.23 for Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Buckley’s Aiden Harrand pushes toward the finish line at MIS on Saturday. (Middle) Allie Nowak runs third for Johannesburg-Lewiston in leading the first-time team champion’s placers. (Click for more from Dave McCauley/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 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.