Olling Irons Out Health, Wins Again

November 3, 2012

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

BROOKLYN — Kirsten Olling couldn’t understand why the fast times she was running all summer weren’t translating to the cross country course in the fall.

The Breckenridge junior, whose personal best of 17:17.54 was set in last year’s Regionals, failed to break 18:06 in her first five races of the year and barely dipped below 18 minutes only three times all season.

A visit to the doctor three weeks before she was set to defend her title in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 meet revealed an iron deficiency, which was quickly corrected with an iron supplement and a diet of hamburgers.

With the problem corrected, Olling won her third straight championship Saturday at Michigan International Speedway with a time of 17:59.6.

“A lot of coaches thought I had (an iron deficiency) at the beginning of the year, but nobody really said anything,” Olling said. “They just figured I was having bad days.”

Frustration began to mount for Olling, who figured she was ready for a huge season after running well all summer.

“I was really upset,” she said. “This summer during road races, I’d be running 17:17, 17:20s consistently. I was like, ‘Oh, yes, this should be like the best cross country season.’ No, I jinxed it. So, I’m never going to say, ‘It’s going to be the best cross country season ever.’ You’re going to jinx it.”

With her health turned around, Olling had to only tackle the mental side of running. Even having two MHSAA championships to her credit didn’t completely calm her nerves entering Saturday’s race as she won by 22.1 seconds over runner-up Holly Bullough of Traverse City St. Francis. Tessa Fornari of Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes was third in 18:38.8.

“I was actually worried I was going to lose it,” said Olling, who was never threatened Saturday. “I was really worried today.”

One of the mental tricks Olling used to push herself was basically to have teammates lie to her during the race.

“I told everybody to tell me someone’s right behind me,” Olling said. “That way when they tell me that, I’ll go faster. I had four different teams tell me that. They made me run faster.”

Homer, which made the top 10 for the first time with a sixth-place finish last season, won the team championship by a 118-142 margin over Bear Lake.

Homer placed three girls in top-30 all-state positions, with sophomore Jessica Reagle taking ninth in 19:26.3, sophomore Bailey Manis 19th in 19:59.6 and junior Amanda Reagle 23rd in 20:04.9. Rounding out the scoring were freshman Kayla Kline (45th, 20:37.3) and senior Johnica March (70th, 21:01.4).

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PHOTO: Breckenridge's Kristen Olling leads the pack again on the way to her third MHSAA championship. (Click to see 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 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.