Hancock, Munising Reign Again, While Marquette Wins Matchup of Rivals

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

October 22, 2022

FLAT ROCK — There was a feeling the race for the Upper Peninsula Division 1 girls championship would be a close one here Saturday.

That’s exactly how it played out as Marquette edged two-time reigning champion Houghton 35-37. Third-place Sault Ste. Marie scored 104 points.

“The girls did fantastic,” said Marquette coach Derek Marr. “I’m impressed with the way they came through. We were down slightly after two miles, then they really picked it up. I applaud the Houghton girls for their effort. They really went after it.”

Houghton freshman Tessa Rautiola won the 3.1-mile race in 20 minutes, 11 hundredths of a second. She was followed by Sault senior Cassandra Gallagher (20:07.7) and Marquette freshman Ella Fure (20:13.69).

“I just wanted to enjoy the last race of the season,” said Rautiola. “I’m happy with how everything went. We’re pretty happy with our performance. I think this will just make us work harder next year.”

Ishpeming's Lola Korpi smiles after she finishes the Division 2 Final. Gallagher achieved a personal record by one second.

“I’m very happy with that,” she said. “I’m also happy with how our team did. I didn’t want to go out too hard today. I was in 10th place at the mile mark. This was my last high school cross country race and I really wanted to give it my all. I tried to catch Tessa, but she ran a real good race. We had nice weather. There were a lot of hills out there, but I liked the course.”

Fure said this was a learning experience for her.

“I learned to work with our team and trust in myself,” she added. “I tried to spread out my energy, which takes a lot of practice. My pacing didn’t go as well in the past. We had been running on flatter courses the last couple weeks to save it for the Finals. We had a few hills out there today, and I had to get used to that all over again. I appreciate all the support I received from our team and coaches.”

Marquette placed the third, fourth, seventh, 10th and 13th placers to edge Houghton, which had finishers in first, fifth, eighth, 11th and 14th. Sophomore Monet Argeropoulos followed Fure in fourth, with junior Abby Harma crossing the line seventh for Marquette. Sophomore Lily Ross was fifth for Houghton, and junior Ayla Miller was eighth.

Click for full results.

Division 2

Hancock repeated as Division 2 champion with 23 points, followed by Ishpeming with 40 and Powers North Central at 68.

Ishpeming junior Lola Korpi retained her individual title in 20:18.81, followed by Manistique freshman Maya Carlson (21:26.38) and Bessemer (Gogebic) senior Natalie Stone (21:31.6).

Hancock's Ella Keranen (138), Rayna Towles (143), and Maylie Kilpela (140) run together during the Division 2 Final.“That’s awesome,” said Korpi, who had been battling a chest cold. “I was going for time. I’m still battling a chest cold and struggled a little with my breathing.

“We had a full team for the first time this year. I’m so happy the girls decided to run. Hancock was tough to beat. There was a little more pressure trying to defend my title, but it’s really nice to bring something back to our school.”

Carlson was also happy with the way everything fell into place.

“We had only four runners today, but still did good as a team,” she said. “I thought I had a chance to win it, but then I just wanted to stay in second place and finish with her (Stone). I think this was my best race of the year. I got stronger as the race went on. I did some races during the summer, and that helped a lot.”

Hancock surged on the strength of four top-10 individual placers – sophomore Ella Keranen in fifth, senior Maylie Kilpela in sixth, sophomore Rayna Towles in seventh and senior Liana Berg in ninth.

Click for full results.

Division 3

Munising captured its third consecutive title with 26 points, followed by Eben Junction Superior Central at 71 and Stephenson with 97.

“We knew what we wanted to do this season and came out of here with a huge win,” said Munising coach Mark Kinnunen. “This just shows what hard work and leadership can do for you, and our senior leadership was as strong as it ever was.

Competitors break away from the start during the Division 3 Final.“Competing with Superior Central is awesome. It’s fun having the two schools do so well. We went from having just one runner to earning three straight U.P. titles. I ran for Fran (former coach DesArmo) and learned a lot from him. It’s an exciting time to be coaching this team.”

Newberry freshman Samantha Taylor earned the top individual honor in 20:06.34, and junior teammate and 2021 champion Kaylen Clark was runner-up in a season-best 20:18.09.

“I’m obviously disappointed I didn’t win, but happy for Sam. She had an amazing season,” said Clark. I’m happy with the progress I made this year. We should be able to compete as a team next year, which will make it more fun. I gave it everything I had. I plan on training real hard. This just makes me hungrier for it.”

Munising senior Monique Brisson placed third (21:36.09), followed by classmate Hattie Cota (21:54.33).

“I think it’s pretty cool the two Alger County schools finished on top,” Brisson said. “We know each other pretty well. I’m proud of our team and definitely happy for them. It’s a pretty hard course, but I’m obviously capable of better. I’m happy for Hattie. She finished strong.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Houghton's freshman Tessa Rautiola (47) and sophomore teammate Lily Ross (48), and Marquette freshman Ella Fure (83) and sophomore Monet Argeropoulos (81) run together during the Division 1 race. (2) Ishpeming's Lola Korpi smiles after she finishes the Division 2 Final. (3) Hancock's Ella Keranen (138), Rayna Towles (143), and Maylie Kilpela (140) run together during the Division 2 Final. (4) Competitors break away from the start during the Division 3 Final. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

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.