Theis, EGR Forge Championship Paths

November 3, 2018

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN — The crown is staying in the family.

One year after Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis ran the fastest time ever at the MHSAA Girls Cross Country Finals, her sister assumed her vacated Lower Peninsula Division 2 title Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

Cougars junior Jaden Theis won with a time of 18:01.9, finishing 14.6 seconds ahead of Makenna Veen of Plainwell.

The first three finishers were juniors. There were no seniors in the top 11.

“I’ve got to keep the tradition going,” Theis said. “It just feels really good to keep the last name out there ruling D2.”

Last year, Olivia Theis set the Finals record with a time of 16:52.1, breaking a mark held by 2009 Foot Locker national champion Megan Goethals of Rochester. So, it helped that Jaden didn’t have to contend with her sister this year. It also helped being healthy.

“I was sixth last year,” she said. “My ankle was bothering me.”

Jaden had the benefit of getting sisterly advice from an MHSAA record holder.

The advice?

“Just stay calm, relax, have fun out there,” Jaden said. “I wasn’t too worried about time today, knowing the course conditions. I’m happy with it.”

Veen has finished in the top five three times at MIS, with one season remaining. She was fourth as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and second this year.

“I honestly didn’t expect to place as well as I did,” Veen said. “But I race well in these nasty conditions.”

East Grand Rapids won the team championship in commanding fashion, scoring 51 points to win by 108 over runner-up DeWitt. The Pioneers had their five scoring runners across the line before DeWitt got its second finisher.

All five of East Grand Rapids’ scorers made all-state by placing in the top 30. Junior Margaret Coney was fifth in 18:38.2, freshman Ainsley Workman was 11th in 18:51.2, junior Katie Hessler was 15th in 18:56.6, junior Anna Petr was 20th in 19:02.8 and senior Audrey Whiteside was 21st in 19:04.4.

The Pioneers moved back to Division 2 after placing 13th in Division 1 last year. Their times Saturday would’ve made them competitive with Division 1 champion Clarkston. Clarkston’s first two runners were faster than East Grand Rapids’ by considerable margins, but the Pioneers had the advantage by close margins with their third, fourth and fifth runners. The teams would’ve tied, 147-147, if East Grand Rapids ran the same times in Division 1, with Clarkston winning the sixth-runner tie-breaker.

It was the sixth MHSAA Finals championship for East Grand Rapids, which last won in 2011.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Catholic’s Jaden Theis comes around a bend during the Division 2 Final on Saturday at MIS. (Middle) East Grand Rapids’ Katie Hessler (1334), Anna Petr (1335) and Audrey Whiteside run as part of a pack early in the Division 2 Final. (Click for 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.