Munising Goes from No Team to Best
By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com
October 25, 2020
MUNISING — Hattie Cota was the lone runner on the Munising girls cross country team last year.
She became part of an Upper Peninsula championship team here Saturday as the Mustangs earned the Division 3 title with 54 points.
“We’re just so happy,” said Cota, who was individual runner-up on this partly sunny and chilly afternoon at Pictured Rocks Golf & Country Club. “I’m not used to being on a team, especially a good team.”
This marked the first title in seven years for the Mustangs, who were followed by three-time reigning champion Chassell with 73 points and Stephenson with 106.
“I’m just so excited,” said Munising coach Mark Kinnunen. “I thought it’d be many, many years before I’d have a championship team. We came in blind, not knowing who’d come out on top. We didn’t really know what to expect from Chassell. We told the girls to ‘run like you want to win.’ The only reason why we had a full team is because Hattie went out and recruited some girls.”
Rock Mid Peninsula senior Daisy Englund won the individual title for the first time since her freshman year by covering the 3.1-mile course in 21 minutes, 16.4 seconds. Cota, who led much of the third mile, was clocked at 21:27. They were followed by Ewen-Trout Creek senior Elise Besonen (21:41).
"That was so scary,” said Englund, who ran a 6:17 split for her first mile. “I could hear Hattie after the second mile, and I kind of lost my focus for a little while. I knew everybody was going to be targeting me today and told myself I had to hang on. I finished strong, but I don’t know where that came from. I didn’t feel strong the whole race. I was cruising for sure in the first mile. This was my last high school cross country race. I just wanted to win so bad.”
Englund was trailing until the last turn when she used a strong surge to regain the lead.
“I was behind a bunch of girls.” said Cota. “I didn’t think I’d be able to catch her. Daisy ran a great race herself. Once she started pulling away (after the last turn), I knew I couldn’t catch her. I just didn’t have enough left.”
Mid Pen junior and last year’s champion Landry Koski took fourth this time at 21:46.7, and Stephenson senior Kylee Kuntze was fifth (21:47.5).
“This was one of my better races,” said Koski. “I actually felt pretty strong until the last mile. This was also the last race of the year. I had to leave it all on the course.
“I’m just so happy for Daisy. I’m also happy with the weather. This was better than I was expecting. The course was a little wet, but I just went through the puddles. I was going to get wet anyway.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Munising's Monique Brisson (143) and Hattie Cota (144) run in the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Final held at Pictured Rocks Golf Course in Munising. (Middle) Rock Mid Peninsula's Daisy Englund approaches the finish line on the way to winning the individual title. (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 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.