St. Johns' Smith Finishes Final Pursuit

November 1, 2014

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half 

BROOKLYN — Karrigan Smith of St. Johns had been closing the gap on Kenzie Weiler of Cedar Springs the past three years.

Smith finally caught her and passed her Saturday to win the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 cross country championship at Michigan International Speedway.

Smith won a kick to the finish to edge Weiler by 2.5 seconds, posting a time of 18:11.0. Weiler, the defending champion, took second for the third time in her career in 18:13.5.

"Kenzie is a really great competitor," Smith said. "I wasn't confident I would win until I crossed the pads at the end. I can't even describe it. It's so unreal right now. I know this state title means so much to me, my team and my community. They've been behind me the whole time through this whole process. I can't think of a better way to end my senior season." 

It was a process that began Smith's freshman year when she placed seventh in the MHSAA Final in 18:23.0, 48.9 seconds behind second-place Weiler.

Smith dropped to 17th place in 18:30.0 the following year, but cut the margin between her and Weiler to 40.9 seconds.

The big jump came last year when Smith took third in 18:04.0, just 8.9 seconds behind Weiler. 

Smith came to MIS on Saturday believing it could be her day.

"I definitely trained my mind to think that," Smith said. "Running is such a mental sport. You have to believe what you can truly do. Today it happened for me. You really have to believe it." 

Smith ran second behind Weiler for most of the race, using her rival to block some of the heavy wind.

"Going into the race and seeing the conditions, I knew I was going to need some help from the lead pack to get me through the race," Smith said. 

Morgan Posthuma of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern was third in 18:24.4.

Grand Rapids Christian added to its dynasty status, winning its fifth championship in the last 10 years by outscoring runner-up Otsego by an 87-145 margin. The Eagles have finished in the top five the last 13 years. 

Christian's only graduation loss from 2013 was its No. 7 runner. Although the top six returned, three newcomers cracked the lineup Saturday. The Eagles had three runners in the top 10 among team runners, with Claire Brouwer taking sixth (18:52.6), Lindsey Fox ninth (18:59.1) and Rachel Warners 10th (19:00.8). Completing the scoring were Michelle Koetje (26th, 19:27.0) and Megan Schenkel (36th, 19:39.6).

Otsego's Megan Aalberts was third among team runners in 18:34.5, but her team’s No. 2 runner didn't cross until 27th place. Second place is the best finish in school history, eclipsing last year's third-place showing.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Johns’ Karrigan Smith holds off Cedar Springs’ Kenzie Weiler during the final stretch of Saturday’s Division 2 race. (Below) Otsego’s Megan Aalberts works to stay ahead of Spring Lake’s Erin O’Keefe as they race for fourth place; Aalberts held on to help her team to its best Finals finish. (Click to see 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.