D1 Preview: Adams Leads Field of Hopefuls

March 6, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Rochester Hills has regained its status as the hub for Division 1 competitive cheer, with Stoney Creek and Rochester High combining to win three of the last four Finals championships.

Rochester Adams hopes to join its neighbors Friday night with its first title after finishing runner at the Grand Rapids Delta Plex the last two seasons. But the Highlanders hardly are alone in that pursuit – seven of tonight’s eight contenders will be competing to win their first championship at this highest level.

Below are glances at all eight teams. Round 1 begins at 6 p.m. and the event in its entirety will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis. Click here for the Finals rotation schedule and other important information.

League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Christina Wilson, eighth season
Championship history: Class A runner-up 1999.
Top score: 788.44.
Team composition: 22 total (six seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, two freshmen)
Outlook: The Bulldogs are looking to build on last season’s fourth-place finish and have finished first or second in all of their events this season except the Regional, where they came in fourth. Brighton scored 784.06 to win a fifth-straight District title, and the team has gone over 780 five times. Seniors Lexi Maximoff and Yale Zultowski both earned all-state honorable mentions last season.

League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Christina Swansey, ninth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 792.12.
Team composition: 28 total (eight seniors, eight juniors, nine sophomores, three freshmen)
Outlook: The Bobcats have finished fifth and fourth at the Finals the last two seasons and enter as one of the favorites this weekend. Grand Blanc has the highest average total score (785.1) in Division 1 and all three rounds rank fourth or higher with its top Round 2 (233.0) also best in the division. The Bobcats have won five straight competitions, including their league, District and Regional meets. Senior Jacquelyn Engel made the all-state second team last season, and seniors LaNya Bates and Kalyn Olson earned honorable mentions.

League finish: Second in KLAA West
Coach: Candace Fahr, third season
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2013.
Top score: 780.86.
Team composition: 20 total (four seniors, two juniors, 10 sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: Hartland returned to the Finals last season after three away and finished eighth, and they’re surging at the right time with two of their top three scores this season coming over their last three meets. The Eagles are loaded with underclassmen, so Friday could provide another block on a growing foundation. Hartland is especially strong at Round 3, where its best score is 319.2.

League finish: Fourth in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Nicole Hills, sixth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 784.06 at the District.
Team composition: 30 total (six seniors, eight juniors, 10 sophomores, six freshmen)
Outlook: The Dragons are back at the Finals after a season away, having finished second at their District and Regional with their two highest overall scores of this season. They too are especially strong in Round 3, where their top score of 319.6 ranks eighth in Division 1 this season. Senior Kaitlin Dolland and junior Tara Koncelik made the all-District first team in 2019.

League finish: First in KLAA East and overall
Coach: Samantha Koehler, fifth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 791.98 at the Regional.
Team composition: 26 total (nine seniors, four juniors, nine sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Plymouth is headed to the Finals for the first time, adding to an impressive run that also has included the overall KLAA title ahead of two more teams competing in Division 1 this weekend. The Wildcats finished second at their Regional to Rochester Adams by just 14 hundredths of a point. Plymouth has the second-highest Round 3 score (322.3) in its division, and its Regional overall score was third-highest in all of Division 1 for this season. Senior Allison Stepek made the all-District first team in 2019.

League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Susan Wood, 39
th season
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA titles (most recent 2017) 
Top score: 791.34 at the Regional (and OAA Red final).
Team composition: 28 total (seven seniors, 10 juniors, six sophomores, five freshmen)
Outlook: Rochester had a rare season not making the Finals in 2019, but the Falcons have stormed back posting their four highest overall scores of the season over their last four meets. They’re capable of big things – Rochester’s best Round 1 score (239.2) ranks first in Division 1, while its best Round 2 (232.6) ranks second and best Round 3 (321.9) ranks third. The Falcons finished third overall at their most recent Finals two years ago.

League finish: Third in OAA Red
Coach: Brooke Miller, sixth season
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2018 and 2019, Class A runner-up 1996. 
Top score: 793.78 at the District.
Team composition: 27 total (four seniors, six juniors, nine sophomores, eight freshmen).
Outlook: Adams has been on the verge of a first title with two straight runner-up finishes, last season scoring 788.89 to finish behind only Stoney Creek. After placing third in one of the state’s strongest leagues, the Highlanders won both their District and Regional with their two highest overall scores of the season. Their best Round 3 (322.5) and overall scores are the best in Division 1 this winter. Standout veterans lead the way: seniors Delaney Crowe, Katie Crowe and Lyndi Harmon made the all-state second team last season, and juniors Claire Crutchfield and Olivia Ris earned honorable mention.

League finish: First in MAC Red
Coach: Kristy Potance, second season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 791.82 at the Regional.
Team composition: 25 total (10 seniors, nine juniors, five sophomores, one freshman)
Outlook: After making the Finals for the first time last season – and placing seventh – Eisenhower is making the trip again. The Eagles graduated 10 seniors last spring but bring back 10 more plus nine juniors. Their top round scores all rank among the top five in Division 1 this season, led by a third-best Round 2 (232.6). Aside from a third place at the Regional, Eisenhower has finished first or second in all of its competitions. Seniors Julia Milke and Christian Milosavljevic and junior Alexis Mitchell all earned all-Regional recognition in 2019.

PHOTO: Rochester Adams performs its routine during its Regional championship run at Troy Athens. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

Team of the Month: Croswell-Lexington Competitive Cheer

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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