Negaunee senior – Cross Country
After an illness forced Paupore to miss a week of school and training – and threatened the rest of her season – the two-time reigning Upper Peninsula Division 1 champion returned to competition and set a Tracy Strom Invitational record of 19:29.2 at Al Quaal Recreation Area, earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”
Paupore cleared the field by 2:04 and cut seven seconds off her winning time from 2018 at the hilly Ishpeming-area course. She has won all but two races over the last two seasons – her only non-victories were in the “Elite” race at the Spartan Invitational at Michigan State University, where she finished 23rd this fall and 30th a year ago running against many of the Lower Peninsula’s best. Paupore will test herself against downstate competition again this weekend at the prestigious Portage Invitational as she seeks to push toward a personal record in the mid-18s. She has dropped her PR nearly nine seconds already this season, to an 18:48.8 she ran at the Marquette County Meet on Sept. 5. Paupore also dominates on the track – she’s won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals the last two seasons after finishing second in all three races as a freshman, with her 3,200 time in 2018 (11:25.52) the meet record.
Running certainly runs in her family. Paupore’s mother Vickie (Leathers) Paupore ran collegiately at Lawrence University in Wisconsin and is Negaunee’s girls track & field coach, and Emily’s father Mark Paupore has run half and full marathons. Emily Paupore also played basketball her first three years of high school but instead will run indoor track this winter. She’s unsure where she’ll continue after graduation in the spring – but she’ll have options. Paupore also carries a 4.222 grade-point average and is interested in studying elementary education or pediatrics.
Coach Lisa Bigalk said: “She's one in a million, one in a career. I’m very honored to be her coach. She is very dedicated, very enthusiastic and positive, and I think she really loves running and wants to become the best runner she can be. At times, it's pretty amazing, I've had to hold her back. That doesn't happen real often with high school athletics. ... Besides being a great role model and leader for our team, she's really looked up to by other high school and middle school runners in the whole U.P. I’ve heard coaches, parents other athletes say she’s very respected and is a great role model.”
Performance Point: “I was really sick, so I really wasn't sure what was going to happen that day. And it's a really challenging course, so I knew it was going to be a hard day for me,” Paupore said. “So I just went out and did what I could. … We weren't sure what sickness I had. We kinda thought I had mono(nucleosis) for a while, so they didn't want me running on it. It was a challenge, and just having that thought go through my mind that I wasn't going to be able to run the rest of the season and I wasn't going to be able to finish my senior year – I guess I take it for granted sometimes. But it made me realize how lucky I am to be able to run and use my gifts.”
It’s been a great high school run: “I just think every year, (I’ve been) trying to get better and faster, just to improve. And on improving myself instead of focusing on who I'm racing against, my competition – I think every year I've gotten better at that. And I'm a more confident runner, so I think I'm proud of that. … I've had a lot of fun running in the U.P. A lot of times it's a different kind of challenge because you don't always have that constant competition as you would downstate, but just getting to run -- I know everyone I'm racing against, and they're like my family.”
Road trip: “This past summer I met a lot of girls who run downstate and who are really good downstate. So I got to run with them, and just getting to compete against them a little bit … and run against better competition, girls who are going to be in front of me and much faster and having girls all around you all the time, it really pushes you harder. I can get pushed up here, but it's really fun getting to run downstate. I love it. … I think (downstate) they're kinda like, 'Who are you?' And I tell them I'm from the U.P., and they’re like, 'Oh, really?'”
Cheering us on: “I know a bunch of people who have run in the U.P., and we just get so much support from all of our communities. I think that's one cool thing about running in the U.P.: The whole community is always behind you and always supporting you. It's really everywhere we go. It doesn't matter if it’s your rival school or anything; they’re always supporting us, and I think it's a really special thing.”
Those before me, and after: “Obviously a runner in the U.P. like Lindsey Rudden (Marquette grad 2016/now runs at Michigan State), she did a lot of cool things up here. So I definitely respect her, and Colton (Yesney, Negaunee grad 2018/now runs at University of Michigan). Past runners in the U.P. have done well for themselves, I think. I'm hoping I can show (younger runners) that you can still be a good runner in the U.P. and show people what U.P. kids are made of. You can still do it just as well, and we have a little bit of extra fight.”
– Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee's Emily Paupore leads the pack at the Tracy Strom Invitational on Saturday. (Middle) Paupore pushes uphill at the Ishepming-area course. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.