Carlson Raises Bar with Perfect Run

March 1, 2014

By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Gibraltar Carlson senior Sarah Tritt was sporting three shiny MHSAA championship rings on her left hand following Saturday’s competitive cheer Division 2 Final.

She soon will be adding another one to the collection.

“Yes, we are going to be designing our fourth one,” Tritt said after the Marauders captured their fourth consecutive Division 2 crown at The DeltaPlex.

Gibraltar Carlson tallied a three-round score of 780.10, while Dearborn Divine Child placed runner-up for the fourth year in a row with a 772.24 total. Allen Park finished third at 769.06.

The Marauders continued their string of dominance in Division 2. They have won the Finals six of the last eight years and were runners-up in 2010.

“It never gets old,” Gibraltar Carlson coach Danielle Jokela said. “I think that these kids did something that was close to impossible – they won four state titles in a row.”

In fact, the Downriver League champions never lost a competition this season – an impressive feat in itself, especially considering the league includes four MHSAA Finals qualifiers and three-time reigning Division 1 champion Southgate Anderson.

“This is the first season that I’ve ever coached an undefeated team where they have won every single competition,” Jokela said. “They fought hard, they did everything I asked them to do, and today they became state champions.”

Tritt joined teammates Alexis Kopchia and Maelyn Russo as the only seniors to compete on the mat all four years at the Finals.

“This feeling is indescribable,” Tritt said. “It’s like nothing I could ever imagine, and I could not ask for anything more. We were able to overcome so much this year and we pushed through it all and still were able to end on top every time.”

Senior Kiah Manthei agreed with her coach – winning championships never gets old.

“No, it feels better every time,” Manthei said. “This year’s team is the best that we’ve had. There was no drama and we’re all really close. We just knew today that if we performed how we practiced, that it was ours.”

Gibraltar Carlson charged to an early advantage with a pair of dominating rounds.

It posted high scores in Round 1 (234.9) and Round 2 (230.1).

“Round 1 has been our saving grace this year and is amazing, and we have very talented girls in Round 2 who have beautiful skills,” Jokela said. “Getting those high scores definitely boosted our confidence and kept us ahead. That’s what won the state title for us.”

The Marauders held a nearly eight-point cushion entering the final round.

“It’s always good to be a little ahead after Rounds 1 and 2,” Tritt said. “It makes it so much easier going into Round 3.”

Gibraltar Carlson registered a 315.1 in Round 3, which was the third highest among the eight teams.

“We nailed the first two and Round 3 was good enough to seal the deal,” Jokela said.

Dearborn Divine Child, which won the Detroit Catholic League title, trailed Gibraltar Carlson by four points after Round 1 despite scoring a solid 230.2 to open the Final.

It had another superb Round 2 (226.84), and capped the day with the second-highest Round 3 score (315.2).

“It was their goal today to hit three perfect rounds, and really, at the end of the day, we don’t have any control over anyone else or what the judges give us or anybody else,” Falcons coach Amber Genevich said. “They haven’t hit three perfect rounds all season and they did that today. We would’ve loved to finish first, but we’re proud because not many teams here can say that they hit solid rounds, and we did.”

While the frustration of placing runner-up again still lingered, Genevich said this year’s team peaked at the end of the year.

“You get a little tired of being second best, but this year’s second place feels a little different than maybe last year,” she said. “We weren’t a second place team all season. We were third place or fourth place, so we had to work from the bottom and really climb our way to the top.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Gibraltar Carlson athletes look into the crowd during Saturday’s Round 2. (Middle) Dearborn Divine Child performs its Round 3 routine. (Click for action and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Team of the Month: Croswell-Lexington Competitive Cheer

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 14, 2023

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
Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
Byron Center hockey - Report
Martin football - Report
Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report