Freyhof, Otsego Celebrate Finals Wins

November 7, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

BROOKLYN — Erika Freyhof didn't say a whole lot when talking about herself, even on the day she won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 cross country championship.

What really got her to light up and open up was when the topic shifted to her team. 

Hamilton's girls, who had three straight top-four finishes from 2009-11, were back in the Finals after missing out the last three years. Ending an even longer drought — like forever — was the Hamilton boys, who had never qualified for the Finals.

Even the modest finishes by those teams — 17th for the boys, 19th for the girls — couldn't dampen Freyhof's enthusiasm on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. 

"Our team made it, which was awesome," Freyhof said. "We had only six girls at our Regional, because one of them is injured, and we made it as a team. That's amazing. And the boys made it, which is like the first time in school history. So our whole cross country team was so excited. It was awesome."

And what about her championship performance? 

"I really wanted to just go out and win," she said.

Freyhof has moved up the Division 2 ranks during her three trips to MIS. She was 15th in 19:07.6 as a freshman in 2013 and seventh in 18:45.4 as a sophomore last year. 

"All of the ones in front of me last year were seniors," Freyhof said. "That was exciting when they graduated, so I could get a chance."

Her only loss in 12 meets this season was a second-place finish to Division 1 champion Madison Troy of Grandville in the Otsego Bulldog Invitational on Oct. 3. 

There was only one senior in the top 11 of this Final, so there will be plenty of runners looking to build on their experience at MIS to take a shot at Freyhof's title next year.

Finishing second was Holland Christian sophomore Kayla Windemuller in 18:22.5. Linden junior Alia Frederick was third in 18:30.6. 

"Last year I became the fastest freshman at my school," said Windemuller, who was 47th last season. "I just wanted to keep on improving. I figured out I love running. I just wanted to keep pushing myself to see what I could do. I started running in Girls on the Run in sixth grade. I ran in seventh grade, but I hated it so much I didn't want to do it again. Then someone convinced me to do it my freshman year."

Otsego won its first team championship by a comfortable margin, scoring 97 points. East Grand Rapids was second with 180, while two-time defending champion Grand Rapids Christian was third with 199. Linden was fourth with 205.

Otsego has moved up in the top three the last three seasons, placing third in 2013 and second in 2014. The Bulldogs returned six of their seven runners from last year's finals squad, while adding freshman Sydney Kubiak, who was the team's No. 4 runner on Saturday. 

Leading Otsego from near the front of the pack were juniors Megan Aalberts (fifth, 18:38.8) and Sophia Hirzel (sixth, 18:42.1). Also scoring for the Bulldogs were sophomore Maddie Marciniak (27th, 19:02.8), Kubiak (39th, 19:19.4) and sophomore Gracie VerHage (45th, 19:26.5).

Click for full results.

The MHSAA Cross Country Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hamilton’s Erika Freyhof cruises the final stretch on the way to her first MHSAA individual title (Middle) Otsego’s Sophia Hirzel finishing sixth overall, just behind teammate Megan Aalberts, as they led the Bulldogs to their first MHSAA team championship. (Click for more from

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.