Petr's Kick Highlights EGR D2 Dominance

November 2, 2019

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN – As Anna Petr charged toward the finish line at Michigan International Speedway, trying to overtake the reigning champion, her mind began to think of all the people who helped her get to this position.

One special memory was that of her mother, Angela, who died from breast cancer Jan. 4, 2018.

“She was my coach until then,” said Petr, a senior at East Grand Rapids. “It was just really cool. I could just kind of feel her with me. I knew this was more than just about me. It was about my team and my family.”

Petr’s years of hard work came together in a duel with Lansing Catholic senior Jaden Theis in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship Saturday. Petr ran down Theis to win in 17:59.6. Theis, who won last year and finished sixth at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships, was second in 18:02.7.

Petr moved to Michigan from North Carolina, where she was 38th in the state meet as a sophomore. In her first year at East Grand Rapids, she placed 20th in the Division 2 meet in 19:02.8, finishing behind 15 runners who returned this weekend.

“I wrote out all my goals at the beginning of the season and the steps I was going to take to get there,” Petr said. “It’s a little bit of a weird thing, but I found it really helps. I wrote like ‘top five.’ So, even that was a stretch. My coach looked at it and was like, ‘OK.’ I really wanted to make it happen.”

Petr first saw herself as a potential Finals champion eight days earlier when she beat Theis in the Regional at Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns. Petr posted a time of 17:52.5 that day to edge Theis by 3.4 seconds.

On Saturday, she didn’t believe she actually had a chance to win until about midway through the race.

“I got to the front of the pack I was running with,” she said. “I saw one and two not that far off. I was like, ‘OK, I have to go win now.’”

Even though she was the winner in 2018, Theis wasn’t disappointed in her finish this time. She has battled hip injuries since track & field season, greatly limiting her running. Taking that into account, she was content with her performance.

“I’ve run like five times in the past month, so not my best training ever,” Theis said. “But I’m really happy with the result from this, because I’ve been doing so little running.”

Petr led another dominant performance by East Grand Rapids, which repeated as Division 2 champion by scoring 36 points. Petoskey was second with 91.

The Pioneers put all five of their scoring runners in the top 13 in the team race. Hannah Bodine was seventh overall in 18:32.0, Katie Hessler was eighth in 18:32.9, Abigail Petr was 14th in 18:52.0 and Margaret Coney was 38th in 19:19.6.

“It’s such a cool experience to have my best friends racing and training with me all the time,” Anna Petr said. “It’s truly unique, so I’m very thankful for it.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids’ Anna Petr (1351) pulls away from Lansing Catholic’s Jaden Theis (2052) and Plainwell’s Makenna Veen during the final stretch at MIS. (Middle) The Pioneers’ Katie Hessler (1349) and Hannah Bodine pace each other to top-10 finishes. (Photos by Matt Yacoub/

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.