Past Races Pay Off for EGR's Muller, While Otsego Rises Again as Top Team

November 5, 2022

BROOKLYN – How strong of a cross country conference is the Ottawa-Kent Conference White?

So good that Drew Muller of East Grand Rapids didn’t even win the two conference jamborees she raced this season.

Yet, she was first when it mattered the most, winning the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

Muller crossed the finish line in 18:18.47 to win by 9.36 seconds over Otsego freshman Emma Hoffman.

The winner of all three O-K White jamborees was Grand Rapids Christian junior Natalie VanOtteren, who was fourth in 17:55.3. Six of the top 10 runners were from the Grand Rapids area.

“It’s been like this a lot during the season,” Muller said. “All the teams we race against in our conference are so stacked. Everyone who runs there is so amazing, so it makes it fun.

“It helps so much. Everyone we race against are such good friends. It makes it even more fun. It makes you love the sport even more.”

Otsego’s Emma Hoffman, left, and Frankenmuth’s Mary Richmond follow Muller down the stretch to finish second and third, respectively.Muller ran with some familiar faces much of the race before making a break entering the track with one kilometer remaining.

“I was feeling pretty fatigued, but I found my group I run with a lot and we stuck with it together and kind of powered through,” she said. “In the back stretch, I took a chance and went at the 1K, which I’ve been doing in a couple meets before this. It’s worked pretty well. I was pretty fatigued, but it’s good, good to be done.”

Muller’s first words with reporters after the race were, “That hurt a lot.”

Muller became an MHSAA champion after finishing fifth in Division 2 both of the last two years. She applied lessons learned from her first two trips around the MIS course to put it all together Saturday.

“My past races were pretty rough,” she said. “It was definitely a learning experience.

“Definitely in the past, I’ve gone out a little bit faster as we entered the stadium. I feel there’s so much energy, it’s kind of hard not to. A lot of people I race also go out really fast, so I try to go with them. That didn’t really help in the past. This year, I feel like I have more endurance to keep up and have a good kick.”

The only title that eluded Muller was the team championship, something East Grand Rapids captured last year and three of the last four seasons.

Instead, it was Otsego that returned to the top for the first time since winning back-to-back championships in 2015 and 2016.

The Bulldogs scored 87 points to beat East Grand Rapids by 11. Grand Rapids Christian was third with 153.

Otsego put four runners in the top 14. Hoffman was second in 18:27.83, junior Logan Brazee was seventh in 18:42.95, junior Megan Germain was eighth in 18:47.56 and sophomore Taylor Mitchell was 14th in 18:57.08. No. 5 runner Rebekah Stachura crossed in 86th place in 20:12.64 to complete the team score.

East Grand Rapids had three runners in the top 15, then got a 39th and a 55th from its other two scoring runners.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) East Grand Rapids’ Drew Muller charges toward the finish line during the LPD2 Final. (Middle) Otsego’s Emma Hoffman, left, and Frankenmuth’s Mary Richmond follow Muller down the stretch to finish second and third, respectively. (Click for more from Dave McCauley/

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.