GRAND RAPIDS – Allen Park senior captain Adri Carone answered the question before it was even asked.
“It never, ever, ever gets old,” said Carone with a big smile, after helping her team secure its third-consecutive Division 2 championship Saturday morning at the Delta Plex.
“I can honestly say it feels just as amazing every time.”
The Jaguars had their huge throng of fans sweating it out, but another powerhouse Round 3 performance was the difference as Allen Park (791.60) edged upset-minded Downriver League rival Gibralter Carlson (788.02).
Southgate Anderson placed third with 773.54 points, giving the nine-school Downriver League the top three spots in the state in Division 2 – and the same order of finish as the league tournament and last week’s Regional.
Carlson made things interesting by taking the lead by one tenth of a point after Round 1, then still hung within a razor-thin, 0.38 of a point after Round 2.
It came down to a test of physical and mental discipline in the final round, and that’s when Allen Park’s tradition and experience showed through.
“Round 3 has been our strength all year, and that was the case again today,” said veteran Allen Park coach Julie Goodwin, now in her 16th year. “We have amazing stunters who rise to the challenge.”
Carlson went last in the final round and delivered a fantastic performance of its own. The Marauders’ third-round score of 317.30 was more than five points better than six other teams – all but Allen Park.
The Jaguars, going sixth out of the eight teams in the last round, scored a 320.60 – pushing them over 790 points for the sixth time in their last seven competitions.
“I am so proud of this team because we worked so hard this season – day after day after day,” said Cassidy Kuhn, one of two returning senior all-staters for Allen Park, along with Carone. “Today just feels like a dream.”
Kuhn and Carone are two of nine seniors for the Jaguars, who will leave with a runner-up finish as freshmen and championships the past three years. Other seniors were Kirstyn Ferguson, Sharlotte Kehr, Cassidy Reardon, Emily Unger, Makenzy Varner, Mackenzie Waddell and Cara Wischow.
Dearborn Divine Child placed fourth, followed by last year’s runner-up, DeWitt.
First-year Carlson coach Alyssa Tocco knows all about the Allen Park cheer program. Tocco was a standout and 2016 graduate of Allen Park, who coached the past five years at Plymouth before taking over a Gibralter Carlson program which has won 11 Finals titles (the last in 2019) and now has seven runner-up finishes.
“I am so proud of this team because 18 of the 23 girls we brought here are at the state finals for the very first time,” said Tocco, who had just three seniors on the roster. “They truly are the hardest-working team I’ve ever met.”
Goodwin gave a special shoutout to the Allen Park community, which seemingly abandoned town Saturday morning and packed the Delta Plex, shaking the building’s rafters in all three rounds – particularly the pivotal Round 3 as the Jaguars nailed stunt after stunt and landing after landing.
“Our crowd makes us who we are,” said Goodwin, who is assisted by Meaghan Terry, Tina Johnson, Jessica Tremonti, Theresa Couturier and Tera Waddell. “We feed off of them. It takes all of us.”
PHOTOS Allen Park (top) and Gibraltar Carlson (middle) compete during Saturday’s Division 2 Final at Grand Rapids’ Delta Plex. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photo.)