Cedar Springs' Weiler Takes Next Step

November 2, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half 

BROOKLYN — Kenzie Weiler was satisfied with being the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 cross country runner-up the last two years. 

She knew as well as anyone that nobody was going to challenge two-time champion Julia Bos of Grand Rapids Christian.

With Bos now in college, that left a wide-open race for this season’s Division 2 individual title. 

This time, Weiler wasn't going to be content with second place. 

The Cedar Springs junior made one final surge with fewer than 100 yards to go, passing Detroit Country Day junior Jackie Bredenberg just before the finish line to win by 0.8 seconds with a time of 17:55.1 on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

Weiler finished 18.7 seconds behind Bos last year and 10.4 seconds behind her in 2011. Weiler's times were faster the last two years (17:35.1 in 2011, 17:49.1 in 2012), but a mud-slicked course limited runners' ability to produce personal records Saturday.

"I've gotten runner-up two years in a row," Weiler said. "I really wanted one more (place) this year. I was staying mentally strong. It was a really great day. I'm really happy." 

Weiler could appreciate her championship even more after missing track and field season with an injury.

"I decided after missing out on a whole season, I'm just so thankful to run, so thankful to be in the state meet," she said. "I was staying mentally strong. I haven't had a physical change. It's been more mental to be a stronger person." 

A pack of four runners reached the two-mile mark in 11:30 before Weiler and Bredenberg began to separate themselves. Bredenberg held a slight lead as the two sprinted down the long straightaway at MIS. Just when it appeared Bredenberg would hold on, Weiler found another gear and made the decisive pass.

"I was hoping I didn't start too late," Weiler said. "I trusted myself. It came over me, and I was like, 'I'm not done yet.' It was exciting." 

Such a close loss might be difficult to take, but Bredenberg was in good spirits immediately following the race. She didn't come into it figuring to be in the mix for the title.

"I definitely did not expect this," she said. "I've been running since sixth grade. I never would've thought I would come this close. It's definitely motivating to do that extra pool workout every weekend. I could hear her and I was thinking, 'That girl has an amazing sprint.' It was really exciting." 

The top six finishers were juniors, with St. Johns' Karrigan Smith in the hunt until late, finishing third in 18:04.0.

Grand Rapids Christian overcame the graduation of Bos to improve upon last year's third-place finish, winning its fifth MHSAA championship and fourth in the last nine years. The Eagles have been in the top five for 12 straight years. 

Grand Rapids Christian scored 109 points to win by 96 over Spring Lake. The battle for the runner-up trophy was considerably closer, with 21 points separating second through sixth places.

The Eagles should be favored to repeat, with no seniors among their top six. Junior Rachel Warners led the team, placing sixth among team runners in 19:01.2. Junior Katie Verhulst (12th, 19:15.8), sophomore Claire Brouwer (19th, 19:38.3), junior Lindsey Fox (27th, 19:45.9) and sophomore Leah Bishop (45th, 20:00.8) rounded out the scoring.

Click for full results. 

PHOTO: Cedar Springs' Kenzie Weiler (262), Detroit Country Day's Jackie Bredenberg (291) and St. Johns' Karrigan Smith (476) lead at the 1.5-mile point during Saturday's LP Division 2 Final at MIS. (Click to see more from 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.