Successfully Juggling 2 Sports, Richmond Chases Cross Country Title

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

October 27, 2021

Mary Richmond is too busy to run slow. 

The Frankenmuth sophomore is splitting time this fall between the cross country and volleyball teams, while also working one day per week at an Italian restaurant in town. When those seasons end in the next month, she doesn’t exactly take a break. During the winter, school and work get balanced with travel volleyball. In the spring, track joins the fray, and in the summer, she plays travel softball.

“Both (fall) coaches are really accommodating with my schedules, and even with work, my boss is really good working with my schedules,” Richmond said. “My whole entire life I’ve been busy – I’ve always been going non-stop, so this isn’t a new thing this year.”

Richmond is passionate about each sport and the bonds created with teammates with whom she competes, which is why she wasn’t willing to give up volleyball or softball while becoming one of the state’s top runners.

Entering Saturday’s cross country Regional at Shepherd, Richmond shares the fastest time of the season in Lower Peninsula Division 2 (17 minutes, 56 seconds) with Grand Rapids Christian’s Madelyn Frens. She won a Regional title and placed fourth at the Division 2 Cross Country Finals as a freshman, and was all-state in a pair of events (third in the 1,600 meters, fourth in the 3,200) at last spring’s LP Division 2 Track & Field Finals.

“Mary works extremely hard in practice, and has learned to run on her own in most of our meets this season,” Frankenmuth girls cross country coach Mike Snyder said. “When there is a lead Gator, we simply tell her to chase the Gator. She loves competition and enjoys meets where she can compete with girls that have faster times than her. She has the potential to be the Division 2 state champion, and has the work ethic and focus to go after that goal.”

Frankenmuth cross countryWhile Richmond is very busy, she said her focus is currently on the Regional race, which will be in the same location she ran her previous best – a time that is nearly a full minute faster than her closest competition.

“It’s a really good course, and I really want to work on my time and the little stuff, like my form and stuff, so I can get prepared for states,” Richmond said. “States are going to be really tough, because there are four or five girls within seconds of each other.”

Richmond has won nine of the 13 meets she’s run in this season, but her 17:56 came while she finished fifth. While running after the motorized vehicle that’s showing the way has provided some extra motivation in a lot of those meets, it’s racing the best that motivates Richmond the most. 

“When my dad bikes next to me while I’m training, I always have him bike in front of me,” Richmond said. “With the Gator, I’m trying to catch it. It’s a racer’s mentality. I’ve never finished in first place when I’ve run a personal record.”

Anticipating she’ll get that chance again at the Finals has Richmond excited. And on that day, she said she won’t be concerned about time, just racing.

“Finishing at the top at states with those girls and being able to have a good race – being able to come out of it and saying I gave all I could give is probably my goal,” she said. “As long as I have no regrets afterward, I’ll be happy.”

In between the Regional and Finals, which are Nov. 6 at Michigan International Speedway, Richmond will be joining her volleyball teammates in trying to win a District title. Richmond, who stands 5 feet, 11½ inches tall, plays middle and outside hitter for the Eagles. She plays a reserve role on the volleyball court, but she’s enjoying it all the same.

“I’ve always loved volleyball, and I wasn’t ready to give it up,” Richmond said. “I don’t get much playing time, but we have such an athletic team that just being on the team and being there for all the practices has been great. I think I use volleyball as a little bit of a stress reliever from cross country. When I get to volleyball, I get to have fun with some of my friends, and at the same time compete.”

Frankenmuth will play in the District at Chesaning, and has a bye into the semifinal. Richmond thinks the team has the potential to make a run, and extend her busy fall.

“I think if we play like we can, those girls are just amazing when they come together,” she said. “Volleyball is barely any of their main sport, but when they come together, the athleticism in that group is nuts.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Frankenmuth’s Mary Richmond crosses the finish line during last season’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals at Michigan International Speedway. (Middle) Richmond leads the pack during this season’s Tri-Valley Conference championship race. (Top photo by, middle courtesy of the Frankenmuth cross country program.)

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.