Ithaca's Bloom Gets Her Title, Hart Ties LP Finals Team Record
November 6, 2021
BROOKLYN — A year ago, Lani Bloom of Ithaca was in first place with a decisive lead, less than 100 meters from the finish line at Michigan International Speedway.
But then she fell and was reduced to a slow crawl.
As she desperately tried to reach the line on her hands and knees, three runners passed her. It was the second year in a row that Bloom led coming down the stretch at MIS, only to experience a catastrophe. She was 18th in 2019 after leading with 800 yards remaining, collapsing after crossing the line.
So, that fist pump she gave when she crossed the line at MIS on Saturday was almost as much for the fact she finished upright as it was for winning the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 individual championship.
There would be no drama awaiting Bloom on the home stretch this year, as she cruised through the finish line in 17:29.69, winning by 30 seconds ahead of Hart sophomore Alyson Enns.
“I was in the same position last year,” Bloom said. “I was ahead by quite a bit. I just fell. This year, I made a conscious effort, I got to that point and I said, ‘You have never run this part of the course. You have crawled it for the past three years. It’s time to run it. It’s time to finish it.’”
Perhaps because of her past issues at MIS, Bloom showed empathy for fellow runners who were struggling after crossing the line.
She helped sixth-place Mylie Kelly of Benzie Central get back to her feet and moving, then helped hold up two teammates who were completely spent after racing 3.1 miles.
“Usually if I’m feeling good enough to stand up on my own, I’m feeling good enough to help people,” Bloom said. “The girls I went back for are girls I’ve competed against, ran with forever now. It seems they’ve given me so much respect that the least I could do is hold them up at the end.”
Bloom went through the mile mark in 5:38.1, holding a 7.8-second lead over Hart freshman Jessica Jazwinski. The lead stretched to 19.2 seconds when Bloom reached two miles in 11:17.3.
“I was expecting them to hang on to me for a little longer,” Bloom said. “I was reading these Michigan Speed Ratings. He said these girls get out hard and dare the field to hang on. I said, ‘I’m going to do that. I’m going to see who is ready to race today.’”
Following Bloom across the line were three Hart runners who took places two through four. Alyson Enns was second in 17:59.67, Jazwinski was third in 18:00.59 and senior Audrianna Enns was fourth in 18:32.27.
Hart’s strength up front was able to offset more consistent top-five finishes by the other contenders. Hart scored 143 points to win its fifth consecutive Division 3 championship by 36 points over Kent City.
The fifth-straight Finals title tied Rockford’s run in Class A/Division 1 from 1998-2002 for longest championship streak in Lower Peninsula girls cross country history.
Kent City’s top five runners were in the top 72 overall and top 53 among team runners, while Hart counted a runner who was 159th overall and 111th in the team race.
Lexie Beth Nienhuis was 31st in 19:36.65 for Hart, while Abigail Pretty completed the team score by taking 159th in 21:47.49.
PHOTOS (Top) Ithaca’s Lani Bloom approaches the finish line on the way to winning the LPD3 individual championship. (Middle) Hart’s Alyson Enns (255) and Jessica Jazwinski (257) lead the way as their team wins a record-tying fifth-straight title. (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 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.