GRAND RAPIDS – The Rochester Adams competitive cheer team had a veteran group of athletes who had been there, and done that.
The nine seniors departed the program on top by bringing home one last championship.
The Highlanders captured the Division 1 Final on Friday at the Delta Plex after a highly-competitive run at the title among all eight teams.
The margin of separation between them was less than nine points, but it was Rochester Adams emerging victorious as the Highlanders completed a rare three-peat.
“It just takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but there were 16 girls who have been here since the beginning of our first state title and they've just learned the ropes and they know what it takes,” Adams coach Brooke Miller said. “They just put their whole heart and soul out there today, and it really paid off.”
The Highlanders finished with a three-round total of 793.74 to edge runner-up and 2019 champion Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (791.36).
“I can't put it into words because everything has been leading up to this moment, and we've gotten so close together,” said senior Sabrina Lee, who’s been on varsity all four years.
“It just really means everything to ourselves, this third one, and we just really needed to prove it to ourselves and we finally did. I’m proud of what we put on that mat.”
The two-time reigning champions staked their claim early and snared the lead with their best Round 1 of the season.
“Round 1 was our peak, and we absolutely nailed it,” Miller said.
They followed with another top score in Round 2 (232.94) before entering the third round with a mere one-point lead over Rochester.
“Another great Round 2, and then we felt like we were ready to hit Round 3,” Miller said. “We had a couple of things that weren’t our absolute best, but we were so proud of ourselves for that.
“We had four girls who have been here all four years and some three years, and that leadership and experience were just absolutely valuable to our success today.”
Rochester Adams became the third school in Division 1 history to win three consecutive Finals titles, joining Rochester (which has done so multiple times) and Southgate Anderson.
“This has been a dream come true for us and only a few teams have ever done a three-peat,” senior Elizabeth Doran said. “To do it with my best friends and to make history for our school and to be a part of these teams has been incredible. I’m so sad to leave all of this.”
Stoney Creek secured its highest finish since winning its first championship in 2019.
“It’s a great honor,” Cougars coach Tricia Williams said. “There are a lot of great teams in our state and eight phenomenal teams here today. We just came out and wanted to put our three best rounds on the mat, and I think we did that. Coming out as runner-up feels fantastic.”
The Cougars jumped into second spot courtesy of a flawless third round effort. They tallied the highest Round 3 score of the night with an impressive 321.90.
“All the rounds were important, but we wanted to hit the third round and make sure we felt that feeling of being a team on that mat,” Williams said. “They were on fire, and there was not one deduction in that round. They hit it amazingly well, and I think our score showed that.”
PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams competes on the way to winning its third-straight Division 1 title Friday at the Delta Plex. (Middle) Rochester Hills Stoney Creek celebrates its runner-up finish. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
The Croswell-Lexington competitive cheer team had finished fourth, fifth and fourth, respectively over the last three Division 3 Finals as this season began in November with more high expectations – but also the annual challenge of believing those could be attained.
Competing in the same Blue Water Area Conference as Richmond, the Pioneers are more familiar than most with the program that entered the season coming off a fourth-straight Division 3 title. And as a regular at Finals weekend, Cros-Lex also is plenty aware of the power of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, the only other team besides Richmond to win a Division 3 championship between 2012-22.
But during the Pioneers’ first competition this winter, coach Katie Tomlinson knew this could be the team to rise above that history and make some of its own.
Cros-Lex finished fifth of 18 at the Jan. 6 Richmond Invitational, but second in Division 3 to only the host Blue Devils, and with scores including a D3-best 309.30 in Round 3.
“For our first competition, (we had) some of our best scores we’ve ever received – and typically our first competition is really tough for us. So that was kind of a turning point,” Tomlinson said. “Just the confidence they had that first night, competing for the first time, it was just a shift.”
That shift provided early momentum as Cros-Lex made one of the most impressive championship moves in any winter sport this season.
The Pioneers are the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for March after finishing their season as MHSAA Finals champions in the sport for the first time, overcoming a 1.24-point deficit to Richmond after Round 2 to win the Division 3 title at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena.
Croswell-Lexington finished with three-round score of 776.72, seven-tenths of a point better than runner-up Notre Dame Prep and with nearly two points more than the Blue Devils. The Pioneers launched into the lead with a 314.50 in Round 3, the second-best score for that round in the competition.
“I think that it was such a shock for them in the moment and so exciting and rewarding,” Tomlinson recalled this week, “but it definitely was the work put in, just like every other team, and believing in themselves and just going out there and doing what we always do and what we’d worked hard for and what we’d put in that time and effort for – and just watching it pay off. It was kind of a mix of just really believing in ourselves – it’s been a challenge for a few years now building up that confidence to know that they are a team that’s worthy of a state championship and then proving that. They earned it.”
And it was truly a team effort. Cros-Lex had 28 athletes, and only one of the other 31 teams across four divisions at the Finals – Division 1 Grandville with 30 – had more on the roster. Of those 28, 22 competed in at least one round at CMU. Juniors Alexis Bales, Cora Katulski, Shelby Oliver and Makayla Rice and sophomore Carly Old competed in all three rounds, while seniors Noelle Golda, Santanna Horning and Emma Six and sophomores Larkin Krohn, Niah Krohn, Kaleigh Kelch and Addyson Sharpe competed in two rounds. Seniors Cassidy Seaman, Deborahann White, Maria Tabernero and Alleyna Martinez; junior Grace Hodges, sophomores Emma Yearkey, Madison Greenaway, Maggie Wallace and Addison Gardner; and freshman Chelsea Miller also took the mat.
Oliver, Katulski, Rice, Bales, Old and Kelch made the all-state first team. Wallace, Hodges and Sharpe made the second team, and Six, Horning and Golda earned honorable mentions.
Cros-Lex had finished second to Richmond in the BWAC and second to Notre Dame Prep at their District before finishing third to both at the Regional. The Pioneers had never finished higher than fourth at a Final.
“We are up against (Richmond) quite a bit and I’m super close with Kelli (Blue Devils coach Kelli Matthes) … and honestly, we enjoy going to the competitions that have those teams that have won on that stage,” said Tomlinson, who has been part of the Pioneers cheer program since seventh grade beginning as an athlete and including the last eight seasons as head coach. “It sure pushes us further to be better and keep improving instead of staying satisfactory.
“It does make it hard when you’re up against such powers for years where they take it every single year. It makes the girls second-guess themselves and their capabilities, so that was a big thing that we started back in June for sideline and tried since to implement every day – the confidence and the belief in ourselves that even though they’re great, we are too.”
Past Teams of the Month, 2022-23
February: Hart girls & boys basketball - Report
January: Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
December: Byron Center hockey - Report
November: Martin football - Report
October: Gladwin volleyball - Report
September: Negaunee girls tennis - Report