Lansing Catholic senior – Cross Country
After missing out on winning her first Finals championship last fall by less than a second, Theis is undefeated at the 5K distance this fall. On Friday, she outpaced the toughest field the state has seen this season to date – running a personal record 16:59 to win the Spartan Invitational “elite” race at Michigan State University and earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Theis crossed the line first ahead of Hart junior Adelyn Ackley, who edged her to win last year’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 race at Michigan International Speedway. Also in the “elite” field were reigning LP Division 1 runner-up Anne Forsyth of Ann Arbor Pioneer, reigning LP Division 2 runner-up Anna Fischer of St. Joseph and a combined nine others who finished among the top 10 in either LP Division 1, 3 or 4 including sophomore sister Jaden. Lansing Catholic, which moved to LP Division 2 this season after finishing runner-up last year at MIS in Division 3, came in fourth at MSU on Friday behind two Division 1 teams and Hart.
Olivia did get her first Finals championships last school year, winning the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the LP Division 3 Track & Field meet. Her 16:59 on Friday made her one of four girls who have broken 17 minutes this fall (Forysth, Ackley, and Traverse City Central’s Sielle Kearney – who came in fifth at the Spartan – are the others) after no one broke 17 in 2016. Theis is exploring her college options and carries a 4.0 grade-point average, with interests in becoming an occupational or physical therapist. Lansing Catholic is ranked No. 2 in LP Division 2 this week and seeking its first team MHSAA Finals championship in girls cross country to go with last year’s runner-up finish and another from 2000.
Coach Tim Simpson said: “She has the talent and then adds in a desire to work as hard as she has to. We are lucky because we have a few girls who will do whatever it takes. Olivia is tireless in her work and very conscientious about it. I literally have to reign in her training. The fact that she ran track has now given her well over a year of continuous training for running; she has stayed injury free as well. In that year of running she has earned her way onto big stages like the FootLocker Nationals and New Balance Track Nationals. In those meets she has done extremely well and pushed her times to new heights as well as her confidence in her abilities. Track season showed everyone including her just how talented she was, and it wasn't just cross country. She has broken records of many of the best runners ever from Michigan and even though she doesn't pay a lot of attention to that, she knows what it means. But she takes everything seriously, never overlooks anyone and is diligent about being prepared.”
Performance Point: “I know that the original plan was to go out and stay with the lead pack, and that’s what Jaden and I did, essentially,” Theis said. “Not even halfway in, a girl started breaking away, so I was like, I’ll go with her. And eventually I just ended up being able to break away from her – Adelyn Ackley, she beat me at states last year. I didn’t want her to be close enough to me where she could out-sprint me again. So I just wanted to keep going, and eventually I realized I could break 17. I had no idea what time I was going to be at, and then in the straightaway I saw it and was like, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ It’s definitely a huge accomplishment. I was definitely hoping to do that at MSU. I knew the competition would be really good, but I had no idea how I’d be feeling. I felt really good, and I’m really happy I took advantage of that level of competition. “
Division 3 to 2: “I think it’s going to be a lot more challenging team-wise. There’s a lot of teams in D2 that have a lot of pack runners. So they have a lot of girls not necessarily individually that are fast, but groups that are fast. I feel like that will be challenging for us as a team.”
Speedy sisters: “It’s really nice, because I can train with (Jaden) at home. It’s someone to push me. A lot of times you don’t want your sibling beating you, especially when she’s younger than you, so it’s pretty motivational. Sometimes it’s hard because we’re siblings, but sometimes we just have to use each other as competition. It’s great. I love having her on the team. I think (eventually) she’ll beat me easily. She already almost beat my (personal record) from last year; she’s a sophomore. I want her to beat all my times, and I think she can do it.”
Born to run: “I like how it makes me feel, and I like how it’s hard. I like challenging myself. I like knowing the people I’m racing, because I know I can talk to them afterward and be like ‘good job’ no matter what happens. I think running has allowed me to get to know a lot more people.”
Also born to help: The human body interests me, and I want to help people. (Occupational therapists) help you get back from injury, back into normal life, from illness back into real life, so I think it would be really cool to be able to help people do that.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2017-18 honorees:
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Catholic's Olivia Theis pushes toward the finish line during Friday's Spartan Invitational "elite" race. (Middle) Theis comes down the stretch with the clock telling her how close she is to breaking 17 minutes. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)
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.