Second Half reports
BROOKLYN – Petoskey was outmatched last year and knew it.
“East Grand Rapids had an amazing year,” Petoskey senior Emma Squires said. “Last year, even at our best, we would have never beaten them.”
It was a different story this year. The Northmen returned all five of their scoring runners from a team that took second to East Grand Rapids by 56 points last year in the MHSAA Division 2 cross country championship race. East Grand Rapids was ranked No. 1, just ahead of Petoskey, coming into Friday’s MHSAA Finals at Michigan International Speedway, but had graduated individual champion Anna Petr.
The loss of Petr was just the opening Petoskey needed to break through and win its first MHSAA championship by a 68-79 margin over the Pioneers.
This year, it was Petoskey that had the individual champion. Squires ran the fastest time in the two Division 2 heats Friday in an MHSAA Final that was altered to reduce the size of fields.
Squires ran a time of 17 minutes, 54.56 seconds to finish ahead of Mason freshman Meghan Ford, who ran 18:18.08.
“I knew a freshman was my biggest competition,” Squires said. “Just having more experience, I knew I had to get out fast, kind of scare them a little bit. That’s what I did. I went out really strong. I was a little scared around the middle. I was so tired already.”
It was the fourth MHSAA Final for Squires, who was 36th in 19:19.9 as a freshman, seventh in 18:45.3 as a sophomore and fifth in 18:27.1 as a junior.
“It’s been a progression, but I’ve always died in the last mile,” Squires said. “I was really trying hard not to this year.”
Bringing the title home for Petoskey were Cambrie Smith in ninth place (19:01.69), Noel Vanderwall in 17th (19:14.65), Sarah Liederbach in 28th (19:39.73) and Caroline Farley in 36th (19:54.99).
“Our second girl, she moved here from Gaylord two years ago,” Squires said. “She’s kind of been my training partner. It’s been really exciting and helpful to have someone to pace with. We’ve all been working together. Our whole team has been trying to get to that state championship. We did this year.”
Petoskey, a 22-time Finals qualifier, previously placed second in 2002 and 2019.
PHOTOS: (Top) Petoskey’s Emma Squires sprints toward the finish at Friday’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) Caroline Farley, left, and Otsego’s Chelsea Glessner (320) push through the final stretch. (Click for more from 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.