#TBT: Legends Made at 1997 LP Finals

August 10, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals race day in 1997 looks a little gray as the Class B participants are taking their first strides above. 

But it turned out to carry plenty of significance in the four-decade history of Michigan girls cross country. 

The LP Class B race at Michigan International Speedway was memorable for Fremont, which claimed its first and still only title by edging runner-up Whitehall 111-118. Harmony Dykhuis claimed the individual title for Fremont in 19:41.

The Class A race included a few more significant details. Rochester Adams freshman Katie Boyles won the race in 19:07, by more than four seconds, claiming her first of what would be four individual MHSAA cross country championships. She remains the only girl in MHSAA history to win four Finals titles in Lower Peninsula Class A or Division 1, and one of seven total to win four Finals in any division or class. Her string of four titles beginning in 1997 also was significant because that season was the first that the MHSAA awarded only one individual champion per class/division, rather than an individual champion from the team qualifiers and an individual champion from those who weren't running as part of a team finalist. 

Ann Arbor Pioneer was an easy champion in the Class A team competition with 68 points, 46 fewer than runner-up Rockford with Emily Magner leading the way with an eighth-place individual finish. The team was coached by the legendary Bryan Westfield, who previously had led his 1987 and 1988 teams to LP Class A titles and also eventually guided the Pioneers' girls track & field program to 16 MHSAA Finals championships with the most recent coming in 2008. He died after a fight with cancer in 2015.

Kalamazoo Hackett won the Class C team title, its first in the sport, and Mendon also was a first-time winner in Class D before repeating as champ a year later. Saginaw Valley Lutheran's Bethany Brewster claimed the Class C individual title in 18:46 after also winning the individual race championship in 1996, and Mendon's Kasey Culp was the 1997 individual champion after finishing first in the team race the year prior. 

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 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.