Maples Win First Title, Finn Wins Second

November 3, 2012

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

BROOKLYN — The level of competition made its first MHSAA cross country championship even sweeter for Birmingham Seaholm.

Seaholm, Grosse Pointe South and Saline took turns beating each other this season, setting up a three-way showdown for the Lower Peninsula Division 1 girls cross country title Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

In the end, it wasn’t as close as expected. Even with a sub-par day by its No. 1 runner, top-ranked Seaholm won by a 69-88 margin over third-ranked Grosse Pointe South, the defending champion. No. 2-ranked Saline was third with 101.

Seaholm was fourth in Division 1 last year, its best finish before Saturday. The Maples had been in the top 10 only twice before posting top-nine finishes three of the last four years.

“It’s indescribable,” Seaholm coach Jeff Devantier said. “It’s fantastic. It’s just a lot of hard work that’s finally paid off.

“That’s what makes it even better, knowing the competition around you is as tough as it is. But that was our focus all year. We knew this team and this team — Saline and Grosse Pointe South — were the teams we had to compare ourselves to and had to continually improve to beat. It came together today.”

Seniors Aubrey and Tess Wilberding — two of three triplets — led Seaholm. Aubrey was fourth overall in 17:55.9, while Tess took 12th in 18:16.4.

Rounding out Seaholm’s scoring were freshman Marissa Dobry (15th, 18:23.9), sophomore Rachel Dadamio (20th, 18:27.9) and sophomore Audrey Belf (33rd, 18:32.8).

“The scary thing about this lineup is that we haven’t had the same girls finish in the same order all year,” Devantier said. “My top girl actually did not have the kind of day she wanted to. We wanted to have as many girls in the top 30 to 35 as we could.”

Individually, West Bloomfield senior Erin Finn repeated as champion with the fastest time in all four divisions, a personal-best 17:07.9. Grosse Pointe South senior Hannah Meier set a fast early pace before taking second in 17:34.5.

Finn’s time was the fourth-best ever in an MHSAA meet. She has three of the top 15 times ever run at MIS, more than any other runner.

“I’m definitely getting back there,” Finn said. “God has blessed me. I don’t think I ever prayed so much before a race.”

Less than a month ago, Finn wasn’t sure if she would be able to defend her championship, let alone run that fast.

She trained harder than ever over the summer, had a good race in the season opener, but then saw her times get slower and slower. Finn was eventually diagnosed with an iron deficiency, which she’s been able to correct primarily with supplements.

Once the problem was identified, Finn set her sights on being strong at the end of the season.

“I told myself the Spartan Invitational doesn’t matter, the Regional doesn’t matter as long as I qualify,” Finn said. “All that matters is state, regionals and nationals. Hey, I think I’m back for those. That’s all that counts.”

Meier, the MHSAA Finals record holder in the 800 and 1,600, held the lead until about one kilometer into the five-kilometer race.

“She just really bolted the first two miles,” Meier said of Finn. “I saw her slowing down the last mile. I wasn’t thinking about individually; I was thinking about team. I just wasn’t feeling it today. I think I could’ve done better but, oh, well.”

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PHOTO: Birmingham Seaholm senior Aubrey Wilberding crosses the finish line first for her team, in 17:55.9, as the Maples went on to win the Division 1 team championship at MIS. (Click to see 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.