MUNISING — It was a historic day for Sault Ste. Marie’s cross country program Saturday as its girls team completed a sweep of the Upper Peninsula Division 1 titles 90 minutes after the boys started the championship run at Pictured Rocks Golf Course.
The Sault girls, placing three in the top 10 individuals, used their depth to win for the second time in three years with 56 points. Last year’s champion Marquette edged Houghton on a tie-breaker for runner-up honors as both teams scored 66 points.
“This is one for the record books,” said Sault coach Jim Martin. “This is the first time we won both in the same year.
“We had six girls who were hurt at some point of the season, but they kept getting better. We have a great coaching staff and new AD (athletic director) who’s doing an excellent job. This is a great day for our program.”
Negaunee junior Emily Paupore retained her championship, covering the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 58.5 seconds on a cold, windy and blustery day.
“My original plan was to run this in about 18:40, but once we got here I kind of knew that wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “I was really excited to run. The weather didn’t really bother me. Once I got up the (last) hill, I saw my time and decided I wanted to go under 20.
“My dad and mom are always there to support me, and today my whole family was here to cheer me on.”
Marquette junior Ericka Asmus was runner-up at 20:30.5, followed by Houghton senior Anabel Needham (20:34.8), Ishpeming Westwood senior and last year’s D-2 champion Tessa Leece (20:40.1) and Houghton freshman Maria Velat (20:46.6).
Hancock grabbed six of the top 12 spots to gain its first D-2 championship in five years with 26 points.
The Bulldogs were followed by 2017 champion St. Ignace with 62 and Munising at 79.
“The tightness among our girls was huge,” said Hancock coach Matt Dennis. “We were pack runners all year, and it was just a question of how close to the front we would be.
"The teams were very competitive in our area. We had great competition from Houghton and Chassell all year, which only made us better.”
St. Ignace senior Elizabeth Becker earned her first individual title in 20:46, followed by Munising senior Madeleine Peramaki (21:09), Ironwood senior Emily Carey (21:17.9), Ishpeming freshman Abby Racine (21:36.2) and Hancock freshman Kalli Chynoweth (21:37.3).
Eben Junction Superior Central junior Danika Walters gained her D-3 crown at 20:37.9.
She was followed by Rock Mid-Peninsula sophomore and 2017 champion Daisy Englund (20:57.5), Chassell senior Lela Rautiola (21:32.8), Mid-Pen freshman Landry Koski (21:43.8) and Chassell freshman Paige Sleeman (21:49.7).
"I took a little more conservative approach today and tried to keep up with the Chassell girl (Rautiola),” said Walters. “I put on a surge at the mile mark and kept that pace.
“It basically feels great to be a U.P. champion, although it hasn’t quite set in yet. I took third at Norway last week, and I think it motivated me.”
Chassell, which grabbed five of the top eight places, retained its title with 25 points. The Panthers were followed by Cedarville with 84 and Mid-Pen with 95.
“Many of our girls have been running together for five years,” said Chassell coach Marco Guidotti. “This is a real cohesive unit. Our leadership is really infectious.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee's Emily Paupore (116) leads the pack in Division 1 with Sault Ste. Marie's Anna Hildebrand and Haleigh Knowles (131) following close behind. (Middle) Hancock's Kalli Chynoweth (142) and Ellie Sturos (147) led their team to the Division 2 title. (Below) Eben Junction Superior Central's Danika Walters (268) leads the Division 3 race with Chassell’s Lela Rautiola (263) and Rock Mid-Peninsula's Daisy Englund (355) pushing the pace. (Photos by Cara Kamps. Click for more at RunMichigan.com.)
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.