Running Set Life's Stage for Grosse Pointe South's Record-Setting Meier Sisters
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
July 28, 2022
A decade ago the Meier twins, Haley and Hannah, were instrumental in changing the dynamics of the track & field and cross country programs at Grosse Pointe South.
South had never won an MHSAA Finals team title in either sport before their arrival at the school in 2009. Under longtime coach Steve Zaranek, the Meiers led South to three consecutive MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 track titles (2011-13) and another championship in cross country (2011), while forming half of a national record-setting 3,200-meter relay in the former.
“I've never seen anything like it,” said Zaranek, who will lead the program for a 44th season next spring and recently retired from teaching. “We had all of those athletes. The highlight was the distance (events) with the Meier twins. It was the perfect storm.”
The Meiers attended Duke University for their first two years of college before they transferred to University of Michigan. Their career paths have taken them in different directions, but they remain as close as ever.
Two years ago Haley moved to Adelaide, Australia, with her fiancé Jordy Hewitt, who she met at U-M. Hannah soon will leave Ann Arbor for Charlottesville, Va., where she will begin work as a dietitian within the medical school at the University of Virginia.
Two weeks ago, Haley and Hannah were together in Nashville, Tenn., along with four friends, for Haley's bachelorette celebration. The wedding is scheduled for Oct. 8 on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.
Haley, who received her bachelor’s degree in education, is in her second year as a middle school teacher in Adelaide, and Hewitt works as a consultant at Price Waterhouse just blocks from St. Mary's College, the all-girls private school where Haley teaches.
“I always loved spending time with kids,” Haley said when asked why she chose the teaching profession. “When they figure things out, it's so rewarding. It comes with its challenges. I've been practicing my patience daily.”
This past spring Hannah completed her master's degrees in both sports management and public health from U-M, to go with her bachelor’s in kinesiology. Her longterm goal is to work with athletes in their efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Hannah Meier began researching various types of food and how they affects athletes and their eating habits. For instance, Hannah is a firm believer in a person eating breakfast 30-to-60 minutes after rising to allow for metabolism to kick in properly.
“I was getting injured (so often) between lifting and cross training that I decided to go into public health,” Hannah said. “That's one of the reasons I left Duke. They didn't offer a public health (curriculum).”
The Meiers were highly competitive at both Duke and U-M. At Duke, Haley won the Atlantic Coast Conference title in the 1,500, and for U-M she won the Big Ten Conference title in the indoor mile. In her last season (2019), Hannah won the Big Ten title in the mile with a school-record time of 4:32.46. Both qualified for the NCAA Championships on multiple occasions.
Their college accomplishments stacked on top of significant achievements that helped Grosse Pointe South to those three Finals teams championships.
Hannah continues to own the all-Class/Division Finals records in the 800-meter run (2:06.35, 2013) and 1,600 run (4:39.23, 2013 – also ninth-best all-time nationally at the high school level). She and Haley, along with Kelsie Schwartz and Ersula Farrow, set that national high school record in the 3,200 relay of 8:48.29 in 2012. (Of note, the second-best 3,200 relay time in MHSAA LPD1 Finals history was recorded by Oak Park in 2015, 8:54.29, as Farrow teamed with Jayla Fleming, Lashae Bowens and Dorriann Coleman.)
To show how competitive and talented the twins were, when Hannah set the all-Finals record in the 1,600 in 2013, the previous all-Finals record was the 4:42.60 she had run in 2011. Haley's time of 4:42.43 in 2013 was good enough to top her sister's 2011 record, but not the time Hannah posted that June afternoon – as Haley finished in that race to her sister.
For Zaranek, the post-Meier era has included a team that placed sixth in LP Division 1 in 2014 and another top-15 finisher since, with at least a few Finals qualifiers almost every season.
“For me and our program,” Zaranek said, “to get to the Regional level and compete, that's the sign of a really good program. I really think the best programs are the ones that allow the students to try different events. We talk about opportunities. We talk about contributing to the team.”
For the Meiers, they cherish the memories and continue to run but at a much slower pace. In addition to the memories and accomplishments, they say the sport made them better people, more appreciative for what they have and who they are.
“Haley and I ... we have a better perspective on life,” Hannah said. “We are able to handle situations much more calmly.
“And it's all because of Coach Z. We weren't fans of running in middle school. Without running we wouldn't have gone to U-M and graduated. If we hadn't gone to U-M, we wouldn’t have met our significant others.”
(Hewitt, from Australia, was a middle distance runner for U-M when he and Haley met. Hannah's boyfriend, Kevin Haughn, was competing in the pole vault for the Wolverines when they first crossed paths.)
Haley said her life, and Hannah's, are so busy that finding time to run requires a few less hours of sleep at times.
“I enjoy it, but the hardest part is getting up in the morning to do it,” she said. “It's a transition.
“After all these years, it's still practicing good habits. Running has taught us to be resilient, to persevere.”
2021-22 Made in Michigan
July 25: 2005 Miss Basketball DeHaan Cherishing Newest Title: 1st-Time Mom - Read
July 21: Championship Memories Still Resonate with St. Thomas Star Lillard - Read
July 14: Portage Central Champ Rolls to Vanderbilt, Writing Next Chapter in Alabama - Read
July 12: Coaching Couple Passing On Knowledge, Providing Opportunities for Frankfort Wrestlers - Read
June 30: Hrynewich's Star Continuing to Rise with Olympic, Pro Sports Arrivals - Read
PHOTOS (Top) At left, Hannah and Hailey Meier enjoy the moment after helping set a national high school record for Grosse Pointe South in the 3,200 relay in 2012. At top right, Haley and fiancé Jordy Hewitt. At bottom right, Hannah and boyfriend Kevin Haughn. (Middle) The Meier sisters, center, bring their family together in Australia. (Below) Haley, left, and Hannah Meier top the LPD1 1,600 medalist podium in 2013. (MHSAA Finals photos from RunMichigan.com; recent photos courtesy of Hannah and Haley Meier.)
Kent City's Evers Selected for NFHS National 'Coach of the Year' Honor
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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 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.