Theis Leads Cougars, Leaves a Legend

November 4, 2017

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN — Of the thousands of girls who have run in the MHSAA Cross Country Finals at Michigan International Speedway, only one had ever broken the 17-minute barrier.

Winning the 2009 Lower Peninsula Division 1 meet in 16:54.8 just a month before winning the national Foot Locker championship made Rochester’s Megan Goethals a legend in the sport.

So, where does that put Olivia Theis?

Theis, a senior at Lansing Catholic, took down Goethals’ record by blistering a muddy MIS course in 16:52.1 to win the Division 2 title. Her performance also led the Cougars to the team championship.

“I didn’t expect it, especially coming in as a freshman,” Theis said. “I just had no idea how good I could be. I think my team has definitely pushed me to be the best I could be.”

It was the first individual title for Theis, who improved from 19th as a freshman to ninth as a sophomore to second as a junior when Lansing Catholic ran in Division 3.

Defending champion Kayla Windemuller of Holland Christian stayed with Theis until the second mile. A 5:29 second mile, followed by a 5:11 third mile, allowed Theis to break the record and win by a landslide.

“I didn’t know if she was going to come with me or not,” Theis said.

Mason junior Cecilia Stalzer was second in 17:35.9, Lansing Catholic junior Lauren Cleary was third in 17:43.7 and Windemuller was fourth in 17:50.8.

Lansing Catholic beat Grand Rapids Christian, 77-145, for the team title. DeWitt took third with 197 points.

Sophomore Jaden Theis was sixth (18:18.7), senior Grace Frost was 33rd (19:15.2) and sophomore Rachel Reid was 63rd (19:15.2) for the Cougars.

“We knew going in we were going to have to race really hard, and that’s just what we did,” Cleary said.

It was the first MHSAA championship for Lansing Catholic, which took second in Division 3 in 2000 and 2016.

Olivia Theis and Frost ran in all four meets as the Cougars progressed from sixth place in 2014 to fourth in 2015 to second last year.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis charges by a mile marker en route to the fastest 5K time in MHSAA Finals history. (Middle) The Cougars’ Lauren Cleary (1395) leads Mason’s Cecilia Stalzer (1422) early in the Division 2 race; they’d finish third and second, respectively. (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.