Paupore Closes Career with 3-Peat Run

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 19, 2019

By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half

MARQUETTE – Negaunee senior Emily Paupore is used to leading the way in cross country races.

She has done that in most races since her sophomore year.

That held true again at Saturday's Upper Peninsula Finals as she earned her third straight Division 1 title at Gentz's Golf Course in Chocolay Township.

Paupore covered the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 18.7 seconds. She was followed by Kingsford junior Melanie Wenzel (20:27) and Houghton sophomore Ingrid Seaholm (20:38.9).

"Honestly, this was one of my toughest races this year," she said. "This wasn't my best race, but I'm thankful to end with a U.P. championship. Our coach (Lisa Bigalk) is retiring after this year. This is a very special day. I knew her since I was born, and she was in the hospital (Marquette General) when I was born. We have a special bond for sure. She's awesome.

"Coming across the finish line in a cross country race for the last time as a high school runner is bittersweet. Although, I'm ready for my next chapter (college cross country and track). It's cool to have had the experience of running high school cross country."

Marquette edged Kingsford 66-69 for its fifth title in seven years. Last season’s champion Sault Ste. Marie squeezed past Houghton 79-80 for third place.

"We knew it would be close," said Marquette coach Kyle Detmers. "Lillian Weycher, who was our sixth or seventh runner all year, and was our No. 3 runner today. And Ericka Asmus and Josie Danielkiewicz ran after having some time off. Kingsford came in behind them, and that was the difference."

This marked the first runner-up finish for Kingsford in its program's history.

For Wenzel, the race closed the book on her first cross country season.

"We trained hard this summer," she said. "I think we all did good for running on a windy day. There were a lot of rolling hills on the course. We really had to pick it up there. We were very consistent. We were all getting our times down."

Click for full results.

Division 2

Hancock retained its D-2 title with 34 points, followed by St. Ignace with 56 and Ishpeming with 84.

"We lost three girls from last season, but gained three girls," said Hancock's Jennifer Smith, who previously coached in Ohio. "They absolutely pulled it together and did what it took. Four of our girls were playing volleyball, and four were always running. We knew St. Ignace was our competition, and Ishpeming has some good runners.

“This is my first year coaching cross country up here. I jumped into an already great program, and we want to keep it going."

Hancock freshman Maylie Kilpela won in 21:16.9, followed by Munising freshman Hattie Cota (21:43.5) and Ishpeming sophomore Taylor Longtine (22:00.3).

"I just stayed right behind (Cota)," said Kilpela. "She's a good runner. I passed her in the last mile and knew I had to keep going.

“It feels great to be part of a championship team. We were running against good competition all year, and that pushed us a lot. All our girls did well."

Click for full results.

Division 3

Chassell, placing four in the top eight, captured its third consecutive D-3 championship with 36 points. The Panthers, who also won for the fifth time in six years, were followed by Rock Mid Peninsula with 73 points and Cedarville at 90.

Mid Pen sophomore Landry Koski earned her first Finals championship in 21:31.2, followed by Cedarville freshman Lilianna Cason (21:42.1) and Mid Pen junior Daisy Englund (21:49.4).

"This was a nice course," said Koski. "Although, I didn't know what to expect. The wind was a factor today. It was like hitting a wall in the last stretch, plus we had all the little hills. The course didn't look that hard at first, but once you're running on the hills you realize how challenging they are.

It feels great to be a U.P. champion. This was very unexpected. I'm just kind of on Cloud Nine right now."

Chassell placed the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth runners to dominate the team standings. Kamryn Sohlden, Paige Sleeman, Ayla Miller and Gwen Kangas all ran between 22:07 and 22:24.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee’s Emily Paupore opens up a big lead during the Division 1 Final on Saturday. (Middle) Hancock’s Sierrah Driscoll (187) leads a Division 2 pack including Norway’s Taylor Adams (210). (Below) Chassell’s Paige Sleeman (348) paces a group in the Division 3 race. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

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.