Lansing Catholic Trio Bringing Pacesetting, Pack-Leading Prowess Back to Finals

By Steve Vedder
Special for

November 3, 2022

When it comes to success, Hannah Pricco sees no problem spreading the wealth.

Mid-MichiganWhile some cross country runners are guarded over their personal times and finishes, Pricco is one of three Lansing Catholic runners who have had no problem taking turns virtually dominating the Capital Area Activities Conference White over the last two seasons.

Not only are the three part of a Cougars program which hasn't lost a conference jamboree in 11 years, Pricco along with CC Jones and Tessa Roe have grabbed the top three spots in each conference jamboree over the last two seasons. They also took the top three places at their Regional last weekend.

When it comes to the specific order of those finishes, Pricco said there is complete agreement among the runners: it doesn't matter who wins.

"We all want to win; that's normal," said Pricco, a senior all-stater in both cross country and track. "But I've run with these other girls in practice and in meets, and if I beat them, okay. If I don't, that's okay, too.

"We're definitely all competitive in our own way. We push each other and want to get better. When you're in a race, it's better to look over and see someone you know rather than seeing someone from another team. There's nothing wrong with any of us winning."

The three have posted personal bests within 25 seconds of each other. Jones, a senior, tops the trio with an 18:13, Pricco an 18:14 and Roe, a junior, has gone 18:38. Those times are more than a minute better than the usual fourth-place finisher in a conference jamboree.

Pricco, Jones and Roe help set the pace during another race.Cougars coach Tim Simpson said whatever their individual finishes, the ultimate goal of the runners is the success of the team. Personal recognition is a far second.

"With them it's like, 'Well, I finished first this time and third the next. That's fine,'" he said. "Whether it's a league meet or a Regional or one of the bigger meets we go to, they just race. They work together. They're pretty similar, so it's just how they feel on that day."

The girls not only run cross country and track together, they spend time together away from athletics. They'll typically be found together at everything from bonfires to dining out to trips to a local park. Roe and Pricco also play on the basketball team.

The trio has been together since Jones transferred as a sophomore and Roe arrived at the school as a freshman. Pricco has been at the school all four years.

Jones said there is absolutely no jealousy among the runners as to who wins a meet. While the runners typically stay together during a race, there is often a scramble at the end to see who grabs first.

"The last hundred meters we sprint to see who wins – it doesn't matter if it's in practice or in a meet," Jones said. "We want to win, but we're all friends. We're not going to make anyone tense. We don't really think (about places). It's not like we need to beat each other."

Roe, a three-year varsity basketball player, said the benefit of having three runners within 25 seconds of each other is that each makes the next runner better. It's true none are obsessed with who finishes first, but like any athlete, they are competitive.

"All of us are definitely competitive. We look at that as a way to push each other," Roe said. "Obviously, we try to beat other runners; that goes hand-in-hand with running. I think it gives us all confidence that we have each other. It's that way in practice and in meets. We know we can pick up each other."

The runners do admit that their philosophy will be altered at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final at Michigan International Speedway. Headed by Pricco's seventh place a year ago, all three finished among the meet's top 20. Simpson predicts the meet's winner will likely clock in under 18 minutes, meaning his runners will have to post a career day to win. But he does call all three finishing among the top 10 "realistic."

"They're all capable of running under 18 minutes on any given day. They're shooting for that," he said. "They'll run their races and be very competitive with the others and with themselves."

Whether it’s in the Final or during the conference season, Pricco said the girls are only pulling for each other.

"There's nothing wrong with any of us winning," she concluded.

PHOTOS (Top) From left, Lansing Catholic’s CC Jones (749), Tessa Roe (745) and Hannah Pricco (755) lead the pack during a race. (Middle) Pricco, Jones and Roe help set the pace during another race. (Photos courtesy of the Lansing Catholic girls cross country program.)

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.