Tolson, 3-Peater Hart Find Winning Plans

November 2, 2019

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN – Rylee Tolson got her rookie mistakes out of the way last year.

Running for the first time in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 cross country championship, Tolson was too wired, burning up needed energy before she ever started the race.

“It was a rough experience, but it was definitely a learning experience,” the Stockbridge sophomore said. “Last year, I was really, really nervous. I got myself all pumped up. I was running all over the place before. I learned I have to relax, stay calm and focus on the job that is in front of me.”

That approach served Tolson well when she approached the track Saturday at Michigan International Speedway in a six-way battle for the championship.

She took the lead at the 2.5-mile mark of the 3.1-mile race and focused on her pre-race plan to maintain her lead over a hard-charging pack. She finished in 18:31.4, winning by 7.6 seconds over Maddy Bean of Richmond.

“Our plan was every 100 meters I’ve got to think, ‘I’ve got to pick this up. I’ve got to push harder, harder, harder every 100 meters,’” she said.

As a freshman, Tolson finished 20th in the Division 3 meet in 19:48.7 after winning the Regional. She maintained her composure Saturday even though she had a momentary freak-out moment leading the race coming down the long straightaway.

“It was scary,” she said. “I thought she was right behind me. I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ I said, ‘Let’s not focus on what’s behind me; let’s focus on what’s in front of me. Let’s do my best to be the best that I can be.’”

For Bean, taking second place was a huge accomplishment after placing 40th in Division 3 as a sophomore and 78th in Division 2 as a junior.

“Once we got on the track, we spread out,” Bean said. “I knew it was now or never. She was cooking. It’s nerve racking, because you never know. But it’s awesome at the same time, because the spectators help. It’s just surreal being here.”

Hart won its third straight team championship by a 77-133 margin over Shepherd. Grandville Calvin Christian was third with 136 points.

Hart put three runners in the top nine in the team race. Savannah Ackley was fourth overall and second among team runners in 18:49.0, followed by Audrianna Enns in fifth overall and third in the team race in 18:56.2.

Lynae Ackley was 14th overall and ninth in the team race in 19:26.2. Completing Hart’s scoring were MacKenzie Stitt (42nd in 20:11.6) and Brenna Aerts (77th in 20:20.4).

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Stockbridge’s Rylee Tolson pushes toward the finish of the Division 3 Final at Michigan International Speedway. (Middle) Hart’s Savannah Ackley (1583) paces the lead pack, including Tolson, earlier in the race. (Photos by Dave McCauley/

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.