Repeat Champ Paces Hart's 1st Title Run

November 4, 2017

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN — The arrival of four girls from the same family at Hart High School resulted in a day the Pirates have never experienced in any sport.

With four Ackley girls finishing in the team’s top four spots, Hart won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 cross country championship Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

It was the first MHSAA championship for Hart, its best finish being a second-place showing by the girls track & field team at the 1987 Class C meet. The 1985 wrestling team was third in Class C. Three Hart teams in bracketed sports reached the MHSAA Semifinals.

Until recently, girls cross country seemed like an unlikely program to deliver Hart its first title. Hart had never qualified for the MHSAA Finals in the sport until 2011. The Pirates have been to the Finals six times in the last seven years, the best finish being fifth in 2014.

Hart scored 55 points to win by 69 over Benzonia Benzie Central. Grandville Calvin Christian was third with 137 points.

“My dad (Calvin) started a middle school team,” said Hart junior Adelyn Ackley, who repeated as individual champion with a time of 17:49.4. “He got a lot of kids to go out. Pretty soon, they started going out in high school. He would write them running charts and how many miles they should run in the summer. Kids hooked on to it and are running pretty well now.”

Freshman Savannah Ackley took sixth in 18:51.3, senior Alayna Ackley was seventh in 18:52.0 and Lynae Ackley was 20th in 19:23.7. Lynae is the first cousin of the other three Ackleys, who are sisters.

Sophomore Brenna Aerts was 37th in 19:51.7 to complete Hart’s scoring.

“We train every day over the summer and through the winter together,” Adelyn Ackley said. “It’s fun. We like to push each other.”

There was nobody to push Ackley as she repeated as individual champion.

She was 24.8 seconds ahead of Shepherd junior Amber Gall, who made the top five for the third time.

It was quite a contrast from last year when Ackley won a sprint to the finish with Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis by 0.7 seconds in 17:40.6.

“I kind of wish I had somebody closer to me, so they could push me,” Ackley said. “I was looking to beat my time from last year. I couldn’t quite push myself hard enough. I had a girl with me last year. I went out pretty hard so I could get out of the crowd. It felt pretty easy at first. The second mile was definitely the hardest.”

Gall was third in 2015 and fifth in 2016.

“I decided coming in to just run my own race,” Gall said. “I thought that would be the smartest. Usually, I started really fast. I have a condition called hypoglycemia. My sugar runs at a certain level, then it just drops. It’s hard when I start out super fast, because I waste the sugar immediately. Pacing myself at the start was necessary. I don’t usually wear a Garmin, but I did just because I had to watch my time.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hart’s Adelyn Ackley (1589) begins to break away from the pack during Saturday’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Alayna Ackley (1590) leads another pack around a curve in helping her team to its first MHSAA championship in any sport. (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.