Dudek's Dominance Paces Pioneer Title Run

November 2, 2019

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN – Zofia Dudek wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a potential MHSAA champion cross country runner during her freshman year.

She not only wasn’t running in Michigan, she wasn’t running in the United States.

Dudek was in her homeland of Poland when she was in ninth grade after two years in Florida and one year in Indiana because of her father’s job as a visiting professor of economics.

When Maciej Dudek was hired at the University of Michigan, Dudek enrolled at Ann Arbor Pioneer for her sophomore year.

From a school that has produced some of the top distance runners in Michigan history, Dudek may be the best of them all.

She won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship Saturday with a time of 17:00.4, the fourth-fastest time by a girl at Michigan International Speedway.

Dudek had the fastest time in the state this year, a 16:46.9 performance on Oct. 11 in Ypsilanti, but the muddy conditions at MIS made it a tough day for chasing personal records.

“It was mostly just going for place and trying to do my best out there,” Dudek said.

Dudek proved to be a solid addition to the Pioneer team two years ago when she placed 20th at MIS in 18:13.0. She improved to third last year in 17:59.8.

“My sophomore year when I got 20th place, I thought that was amazing,” Dudek said. “I thought I could never be one of the top five runners. Now it just feels amazing to be able to do this.”

The potential successors to Dudek’s throne made their presence known Saturday, as the next five places were taken by a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors.

It was the freshman, Arianne Olson of Holland West Ottawa, who took runner-up to Dudek with a time of 17:53.0. Olson had no intention of trying to chase Dudek when runners took off from the start line.

“Not really, because I saw her times were a lot faster than mine, so I was just going to run my own race,” Olson said.

Dudek’s victory led Pioneer to its first championship since 1997 and fourth overall. The Pioneers scored 80 points to finish 33 ahead of Traverse City Central.

Pioneer had been second twice and fourth once in the last three years before ending its championship drought.

“It definitely helped a lot having people to push me in workouts and racing,” Dudek said. “It’s just amazing and helps me a lot.”

Sophomore Sarah Forsyth was ninth in 18:14.4, sophomore Cookie Baugh was 32nd in 18:50.2, senior Anna Vogel was 36th in 19:01.2 and sophomore Charlotte Batra was 39th in 19:07.9 to round out Pioneer’s scoring.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Zofia Dudek charges down the stretch at MIS on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of the Division 1 field. (Middle) Pioneer’s Sarah Forsyth (1106) leads another pack, just ahead of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills’ Adit Dau (1973). (Photos by Matt Yacoub/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.