St Ignace Girls Take Back Top Spot

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 25, 2020

The St. Ignace girls won for the first time in three years, squeezing past two-time reigning champion Hancock 53-54.

The Saints had finished runners-up to Hancock the last two seasons, finishing 22 points back in 2019 and 36 in 2018. 

St. Ignace’s five runners all crossed among the top 16 individuals. Hancock crossed three of the top eight.

Third-place Ironwood had 73 points. Ironwood junior Aundrea Stengard gained top individual honors at 23:28.1, followed by Ishpeming freshman Lola Korpi (23:42.9), Hancock sophomore Maylie Kilpela (25:10.5), St. Ignace freshman Wisteria Brady (25:13.7) and Hancock junior Sierrah Driscoll (25:25.8).

"I just wanted to stay with her and then maybe get a lead at the end, which is kind've what I did," Stengard said of running with Korpi. "For the first two miles I ran with her, and then the third mile I managed to get a little lead. 

"Some spots were slippery, so I struggled a little with that. But otherwise it went pretty well."

She added that running in the snow definitely made for a more difficult race, and the times showed it. But sun or snow, the opportunity to compete was worth it.

"It was just so different from normal years, with all the corona(virus) stuff and everything, and the snow, it was just really different," Stengard said. "But I'm glad we got to have a season overall." 

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PHOTOS: Ironwood’s Aundrea Stengard takes the final paces of her championship-winning race Saturday at George Young Recreational Complex. (Below) St. Ignace claimed its first Finals championship since 2017. (Photos by Theresa Proudfit.)

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.