Troy, Rockford Leader Make Title Jumps

November 4, 2017

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN — Finally, a pleasant memory at Michigan International Speedway for Rockford junior Ericka VanderLende.

Her first two trips around the cross country course at MIS were OK, but weren’t indications of the greatness that awaited her.

VanderLende was pretty much a middle-of-the-pack finisher, placing 81st in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final in 19:13.1 as a freshman and 99th in 19:57.1 as a sophomore.

“It’s a lot different than all the other courses,” VanderLende said. “It’s a lot more intimidating going into it.”

Everything — both mentally and physically — came together for VanderLende on Saturday in her latest trip to Brooklyn.

After splitting two regular-season meetings with Traverse City Central senior Sielle Kearney, it was all VanderLende as she cruised to victory in 17:16.8. Kearney was second in 17:30.2.

“It’s been a really good season,” VanderLende said. “I stayed a lot more consistent with my races. Last year, I was kind of all over the place.”

VanderLende won eight of her 10 races this year.

She was fourth behind two Division 2 runners and a Division 3 runner in the Spartan Invitational, with Kearney taking fifth and Waterford Mott’s Rylee Robinson placing sixth. That turned out to be the finish order for the top Division 1 runners Saturday, with Robinson taking third behind VanderLende and Kearney in 17:34.8.

At the Portage Invitational, Kearney took first and VanderLende was third.

VanderLende and Kearney ran together until about the midway mark of the 3.1-mile race Saturday.

“I just let her get away, and she was going really strong,” Kearney said. “She had an awesome race. It was really cool to be in the same race and have that kind of competition.”

VanderLende’s victory led Rockford to a third-place finish with 153 points.

Troy won its first MHSAA championship since capturing Class A in 1993, edging Northville by a 127-132 score. Troy hadn’t made the top five since taking third in 2000, while Northville and Rockford are perennial title contenders.

Northville has six straight top-five finishes, while Rockford has been a top-10 finisher 21 times in the last 22 years.

While Troy didn’t have a runner break 18 minutes like Northville and Rockford, the Colts had their five scoring runners in the top 32 in the team race, with their second through fifth runners separated by only 3.7 seconds.

Senior Megan Worrel was 10th among team runners in 18:07.8, senior Hannah Palomino was 26th in 18:42.5, freshman Paige Anderson was 29th in 18:44.5, senior Meghan Monaghan was 30th in 18:44.8 and junior Katie Scoles was 32nd in 18:46.2.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Rockford’s Ericka VanderLende (1240) and Traverse City Central’s Sielle Kearney quickly moved to the front of the pack Saturday. (Middle) Troy’s Paige Anderson (1276), Meghan Monaghan (1279) and Katie Scoles (1281) all placed between 41st and 44th to help the Colts to the team title. (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.