Sleeman, Houghton Earn 1st Finals Wins
By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com
October 25, 2020
MARQUETTE — It was a day for making history for the Houghton girls here Saturday as they edged reigning champion Marquette 56-58 for their first Upper Peninsula Division 1 cross country title.
Houghton previously had finished Finals runner-up in 1989 and 2007.
Sault Ste. Marie squeezed past Ishpeming Westwood 82-83 for third place.
“All of the girls really stepped up today,” said Houghton assistant coach Erik Johnson. “Marquette and Sault are tough, and Westwood has a strong team. We worked our tails off.
“We were off for two weeks due to COVID-19, but the girls ran on the own and it paid off. This was a tough year with the virus and everything else. Our No. 1 goal was to get here and finish the season.”
Houghton junior Paige Sleeman was crowned champion for the first time, covering the 3.1-mile course at Presque Isle Park in 20 minutes, 55.2 seconds on this chilly and overcast day. She was followed by Westwood sophomore Heidi Meglathery (21:00.8) and classmate Ingrid Seagram (21:19.4).
“I just tried to stay with the top runners,” she said. “I like running in colder weather.
“I wanted to win and wanted our team to win. We were willing to do whatever it took. Marquette has tough runners. Ingrid had a real good race. I felt she held it together well. All the teams and girls ran well.”
Seagren, who has asthma, said she had some breathing issues.
"I’m trying to get it under control,” she added. “I’m still happy with the way I ran. I just had to keep preparing myself. Paige had a great race. I’m really proud of her.
“This is really a boost for our program. I’m super proud of our team and how we ran.”
Meglathery was fresh from earning her first Mid-Peninsula Conference title.
“I really, really wanted to win,” she said. “I just thought about the positives and helping the team. I think winning the M-PC gave me some momentum. It was tight the whole race. Ingrid was right behind me for a while, then she started trailing a little. There were a lot of hills on the course and it was super windy by the lake (Superior). I like running in the cold more than in the heat.”
Marquette senior Olivia Moffitt placed fourth (21:50.2), and Westwood senior Elizabeth Williams took fifth (21:53).
“Hats off to Houghton,” said Marquette coach Kyle Detmers. “They missed two weeks and their girls still came through. Their 1-2 punch is hard to beat. Olivia was battling a cold, but she came through for us. This is the only meet we lost all year, yet there’s nothing inside me that’s disappointed.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Houghton's Paige Sleeman (88) leads Ishpeming-Westwood's Heidi Meglathery (92), the eventual runner-up, on the way to winning the Division 1 Final at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. (Middle) Sleeman runs with Marquette's Olivia Moffitt (104) near the beginning of the race. Moffitt took fourth. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.