Eagles' Frens, East Grand Rapids Find Fast Gears at Finals Time

November 6, 2021

BROOKLYN — The clock was ticking on Madelyn Frens’ hopes of winning an MHSAA cross country championship in her final season at Grand Rapids Christian.

After running a blistering time of 17:56.0 on Aug. 28 at the Pete Moss Invitational at Benzie Central, Frens was sidelined with a stress reaction in her right femur.

Cross country season is short. Any time away from training and racing makes it less likely a runner will be successful come championship time.

But after going nearly four weeks without a race, Frens returned without missing a beat. With five races as a build-up for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, Frens pulled away from a five-way battle for the championship to win in 17:52.30.

The time away from running was actually beneficial for Frens.

East Grand Rapids cross country“I was able to have a lot of time just to think about myself and what running actually means to me,” she said. “It doesn’t define all of who I am.”

It was in her second race back, an Ottawa-Kent Conference White jamboree Oct. 6 that she won in 18:11.9, that Frens knew she was still on track to become a Finals champion.

“I was like, ‘I’ve still got this; my team’s got this,’” Frens said.

Her team finished second with 99 points behind East Grand Rapids, which had 66.

It was the third MHSAA team championship in four years for East Grand Rapids, which took second last year to Petoskey. Grand Rapids Christian was third last year.

East Grand Rapids put four runners in the top 15, with sophomore Drew Muller placing fifth in 18:23.28, senior Ainsley Workman ninth in 18:55.57, freshman Sadey Seyferth 12th in 18:58.41, sophomore Sophia Lado 15th in 19:05.87 and junior Abigail Petr 52nd in 19:50.93. All seven Pioneers broke 20 minutes.

Following Frens across the line were four sophomores who will likely have more battles just like this in the next two years. Early leader Mary Richmond of Frankenmuth was second in 17:56.01, Meghan Ford of Mason was third in 18:10.81, Natalie VanOtteren of Grand Rapids Christian was fourth in 18:13.46 followed by East Grand Rapids’ Muller in 18:23.28. There was a 22-second gap after that before the next wave of runners reached the line.

It was the most competitive race of the day, with five runners within three seconds of one another at the two-mile mark. Frens was fourth at the mile and third at the two mile.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Christian’s Madelyn Frens pulls away during the final stretch of Saturday’s LPD2 championship race. (Middle) Drew Muller leads a group of eventual high-placing East Grand Rapids runners in their team title pursuit. (Click for 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.