Reigning Champ Sets Pace in D3 Repeat

November 2, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half 

BROOKLYN — Amber Way of Charlevoix made up a lot of ground since last year, but couldn't quite close the gap entirely against Gina Patterson of Macomb Lutheran North. 

Patterson repeated as the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 girls cross country champion, but had to win a ferocious duel with Way to do so on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. The two runners went back and forth until Patterson edged ahead in the final quarter mile to win in 18:02.7. Way took second in 18:04.2. Nobody else was within 31 seconds of the frontrunners.

"I could feel her the whole way," Patterson said. "This race is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's a race I'll never forget." 

Patterson ran faster (17:43.4) and won by a more comfortable margin of 16.4 seconds last year – when Way finished in fourth place in 18:13.6.

In critiquing her performance last year, Way thought she wasn't aggressive enough early in the race, causing her to lose contact with the leaders. 

"I knew I could've done better," Way said. "I was too far in the back. That was a big goal of mine, not to get way behind the pack." 

Way took the lead at the mile mark on Saturday, but felt the pace was a little too hard.

"I just wasn't ready for that quite yet, but I did my best," she said. 

As they battled in the final mile, Patterson was aware of Way's track speed. Way took second in the 3,200-meter run at the MHSAA LP Division 3 track and field meet in 2012 with a time of 11:07.63. In that same race, Patterson was fifth in 11:28.71. Way then set the meet record in winning that event this spring in 10:48.48.

"I was extremely worried," Patterson said. "She's a great, great competitor and has a great kick. She almost won the two mile last year in track, so I know she's definitely a real strong competitor."

Patterson said she felt relaxed coming in as the reigning champion. 

"I am really blessed to have such a great school to represent, teammates, family and friends," she said. "There was really no pressure. They just encouraged me to do my best and hope that I can represent my school well. I'm so thankful to everyone to have their support."

Shepherd won the team championship with 120 points, outscoring runner-up Benzie Central by 66. 

It was the second MHSAA championship for the Bluejays, who were the 1994 Class C winners. Since then, their best finish was fifth place the following year. They were ninth, 12th and ninth the past three years in the MHSAA Finals.

Shepherd had only one senior last year, but overhauled its lineup with the inclusion of three fast freshmen. Senior Kaylie Rhynard was the team's No. 1 runner once again, placing seventh overall in 18:55.5. She was followed by the three freshmen, as Katelyn Hutchinson was 12th in 19:12.8, Kylie Hutchinson 44th in 20:15.0 and Rachel Mathers 47th in 20:20.4. Junior Taylor Thrush (49th, 20:21.6) completed the scoring. 

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PHOTO: Macomb Luthern North's Gina Patterson (right) chases Charlevoix's Amber Way on the way to winning Saturday's Division 3 Final at MIS. (Click for more from

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.