Upper Peninsula's Speediest Contenders Becoming Fast Friends As Well

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

September 23, 2021

CALUMET — They’re becoming close friends off the trails, but they’re fierce competitors on the cross country course.

Houghton senior Ingrid Seagren and Ishpeming sophomore Lola Korpi have emerged as the Upper Peninsula’s top two runners at this point in the season.

Seagren has won 2-of-3 meetings this year, but it was Korpi’s turn to win Monday at the Calumet Invitational.

Korpi covered the hilly 3.1-mile course in 21 minutes, 18.3 seconds at the Swedetown Trails on a hot, sunny and breezy day. Seagren was clocked at 21:39.3.

“I think it all depends on who’s feeling better on that day and the course,” said Korpi. “Ingrid is a very good downhill runner, and I wanted to make sure I pushed myself on those. I think the uphills worked to my advantage, and I was glad to see that last one before the finish.

“There was a pack of us for a while. It was pretty hot out there and I couldn’t feel the wind in the woods.”

Seagren won the Queen City Invitational (Aug. 27) and Dale Phillips Invite (Sept. 3), both at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. Korpi was runner-up both times.

“She’s definitely good competition, and I enjoy running against her,” said Seagren. “It’s hard to take her on the uphills. I didn’t feel the best today (Monday). I’ve had kind of a cold, but did the best I could. Lola ran a great race. I’m happy for her. It just wasn’t my day. That was a tough course and the heat was a factor for everybody. I didn’t feel the breeze, although I think it helped. There were quite (a few) of us up there (near the front) in the beginning.”

They were followed by Gogebic (Bessemer) junior Natalie Stone (22:08.8), and Negaunee junior Endla Harris (22:12.7) and freshman Marlee Plaxco (22:30.55).

Houghton cross country“I was pleased with my time because it’s a harder course,” said Korpi. “Ingrid and I are becoming good friends, and I think I’m getting closer with her and other girls. I’ve been dealing with some calf issues, but it seems to be getting better.”

Korpi and Seagren will meet at least four more times this season, but won’t be running in the same race at the Upper Peninsula Finals.

Ishpeming is entered in Division 2, and Houghton will try to repeat in Division 1.

“I’m expecting a tough race in the D1 Finals,” said Seagren. “I think we just need to keep pushing each other in practice. We would like to do it again. Paige (Sleeman) and I are seniors this year. We’re a real close team.”

The U.P. Finals take place Oct. 23 at Gentz’s Golf Course in Chocolay Township (near Marquette).

Sleeman is reigning U.P. Division 1 champion, and Seagren placed third at Gentz’s a year ago. Sleeman, who was feeling under the weather, didn’t run at Calumet on Monday.

Korpi was Division 2 runner-up to Ironwood’s Aundrea Stengard on a snowy course at the George Young Golf Course at Gaastra (near Crystal Falls) last year.

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming's Lola Korpi (823) and Houghton's Ingrid Seagren (785) lead the Queen City Invitational. (Middle) Seagren and Paige Sleeman (787) race through the opening stretch with their teammates at the start of the Queen City race. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

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.