DaDamio Follows Sister as Elite Pacesetter

October 10, 2019

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

While the best part of a cross country or track race is the sprint to the finish line, it was actually having the race be over that excited Audrey DaDamio the most.

Growing up, DaDamio loved watching older sister Rachel, who finished second at the 2014 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Cross Country Final and won the 1,600 meters at the LPD1 Track & Field Finals the following spring. But Audrey enjoyed a postrace ritual with Rachel even more.

Once a race was over, Audrey DaDamio would join her older sister on the track or at the end of the cross country course and do a cool-down run with her, the only time the two could run together at meets since they were six years apart.

“I was such in awe watching her race,” DaDamio said.

Fast forward a few years, and more and more race fans are finding themselves in awe of watching Audrey DaDamio run.

Now a junior in high school and member of Birmingham Seaholm’s cross country team, DaDamio should be on the short list of contenders at this year’s Division 1 meet Nov. 2 at Michigan International Speedway.

DaDamio is off to a terrific start to this season. She won the first Oakland Activities Association Red jamboree in September in a time of 18:02.16. This past Saturday, she was the individual champion at the Oakland County meet held at Kensington Metro Park, besting a competitive field in a time of 18:09.3.

DaDamio also finished fifth in the “elite” race at the prestigious Spartan Invite at Michigan State University and has built on a performance that exceeded her expectations at last year’s LPD1 Final at MIS, where she finished 11th.

“My goal was to be top 20, so coming away 11th, I was really excited about that,” DaDamio said. “It definitely made my goals for this season a lot higher.”

DaDamio said she started running track in fifth grade, mainly because she was inspired by Rachel’s accomplishments.

“My goal was to be how she is,” DaDamio said of Rachel, who went on to run cross country and track at Notre Dame.

Before the MHSAA spring track season in March, DaDamio competed at an indoor national track event in New York, where she finished 15th.

She then finished fifth at the Division 1 Track Finals in the 3,200-meter run and placed seventh in the 1,600-meter run to set the stage for this cross country season.

Seaholm head coach Craig McCardell said a big reason for DaDamio’s success is how well she knows her body and how to train.

“She intuitively knows when she can train hard and when she knows her body needs to recover,” McCardell said. “From this, she has avoided interruption in her training caused by injuries.”

DaDamio didn’t run in the second OAA Red jamboree because of soreness after running in a meet a couple of days prior. Instead, she rested up for her winning performance at the county meet and has her eyes set on the third league Jamboree, the Regional meet, and of course, the Finals.

DaDamio said she has a goal of finishing among the top three in Division 1, and hopes learning some technical aspects of the course the last two years will pay dividends in November.

“Last year was kind of my first taste of being in a lead pack and being with girls who I know are very fast,” she said. “You have to put yourself into a position to be successful. Last year at states, by the two-mile mark, I wanted to be in the chase pack. That’s what I did, and it worked out. Hopefully this year, it will be kind of the same thing. That second mile, it’s going to be really hard. But I just have to stay mentally in the race.”

PHOTO: Birmingham Seaholm’s Audrey DaDamio races to an 11th-place finish during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo courtesy of Seaholm cross country.)

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.