#TBT: MHSAA Cross Country Goes 5K

September 3, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Oxford Hills Country Club hosted the 1980 Lower Peninsula Class B Cross Country Finals on what had to be a chilly day, considering the heavy coats and winter gloves worn by spectators in the photos above and below taken during the races that day.

A little cool in the air isn’t unusual for this annual championship event. But there was a little change in the air as well on this day, as it was the first MHSAA Finals ran at the current race length of five kilometers (3.1 miles).   

Brighton’s Pat Hamparian ran the fastest girls time of the 1980 Finals, 17:54.2 – which remained the fourth-fastest 5K time in LP Class A Finals history when those records were retired with the move from classes to divisions in 2000. Mount Clemens’ Bill Brady ran the fastest boys time of 15:07, also in Class A. His time remained the third-fastest 5K time in LP Class A Finals history when the records were retired.

There were plenty of differences too from the meets that will take place this season Oct. 24 in the Upper Peninsula and Nov. 7 in the Lower Peninsula.

From 1961-96 for the boys and 1979-96 for the girls (girls cross country at the MHSAA tournament level began with just one open class Final in 1978), MHSAA individual championships were awarded separately to the first-place finishers among both team and individual qualifiers. Also, while all three 1980 Upper Peninsula Finals were run at Gladstone, the four Lower Peninsula Finals were run at multiple sites, one class at each.

Flint Kearsley, Caro, Concord, Kingsley, Marquette, Ishpeming Westwood and Norway won MHSAA boys team championships in 1980. Brighton, Livonia Ladywood, Williamston, Ann Arbor Greenhills, Marquette and Ishpeming won girls titles (there was one fewer girls race, with Class C-D U.P. teams in one class rather than two for that sport).

PHOTOS: (Top) Livonia Ladywood’s Kelly Champagne crosses the finish line to finish first among team racers at the LP Class B Final in 1980; her time was 18:37.1. (Middle) Cadillac’s Mark Smith finished first among team racers in the boys race with a time of 15:25.5.  

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.