Scott, Pilgrims Finish Championship Chase

November 7, 2020

By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half

BROOKLYN – After all the uncertainty of this past fall season, one thing is for sure.

Makenna Scott will be cuddled up with her puppy Milo tonight, gazing fondly at her cross country championship medal.

And who knows, she might even be eating a piece of ice cream cake. 

“My parents told me last year that if I got top five I could get my dream puppy, so I got my Bernese Mountain Dog after getting fourth,” said Scott, a junior from Maple City Glen Lake High School. “And this year, they were like, ‘What do you want?’ I told them a state championship, I don’t need anything else — but maybe an ice-cream cake would be nice.”

Scott earned it after besting the field at Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Girls Cross Country Finals. She moved into the lead down the final stretch and finished in a winning time of 19:30.2.

“As a freshman, I never thought this would be possible,” Scott said. “I’ve worked my butt off this season. I just can’t believe I did it.”

She said all the sacrifices she’s made have paid off. All of her emotions came out after learning she had won the championship.

“The dedication, having to give up time with my friends to make sure I can run. All the times I’ve said, ‘No, I can’t have a sleepover tonight.’ At the time I wondered, is it all going to be worth it in the end,” Scott said. “Just looking back at it, you really have to want it if you’re going to win a state championship.”

Lansing Christian’s Madison Volz, a senior, was the race leader through the first two miles. But as she neared the three-mile mark, her legs gave out on her. She gutted it out and finished 12th overall, earning all-state honors. Her efforts helped the Pilgrims capture the Division 4 team championship with a score of 93 points.

“She said she wasn’t going to finish the race, but she knew it mattered for the team score, so she just got up and walked it in, which was actually the difference,” her coach, Jonathan Watson said. “If she doesn’t finish, we don’t win.”

Sophomore Ashlyn Kephart led Lansing Christian with a sixth-place finish. Senior Natalie Tebben was ninth overall, followed by Volz. Also scoring for the Pilgrims were freshman Hope Tebben and junior Mia Judd.

“We had a goal at the beginning of the season,” Watkins said. “We knew we were in it and had a shot. Our girls worked really hard this year — with this as their goal — and so to get there I know is a relief for them. 

“It was a fun day to watch them run their race and go after it.”

Kalamazoo Christian was runner-up, finishing with 142 points. Sophomores Aubrey Herder and Hope Zichterman led the way, finishing 18th and 21st overall. 

Beal City was third behind strong finishes from junior Rachal Weber (fourth) and sophomores Tailor Onstott (13th) and Kaylee Locke (14th). Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart was fourth, and Hillsdale Academy rounded out the top five.

Individually, Webberville senior Sara Spalding finished runner-up in a time of 19:44.53. She ran in the first of two division races. Ubly’s Maze Gusa was third, while Weber and Buckley’s Aiden Harrand rounded out the top five.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Maple City Glen Lake’s Makenna Scott pushes toward the Division 4 individual title Saturday. (Middle) Ashlyn Kephart crosses first for team champion Lansing Christian, coming in sixth overall. (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.