D2 Preview: Carlson Chases History Again

March 4, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Gibraltar Carlson can add an MHSAA record Saturday to its already-incredible competitive cheer history.

With a sixth straight Division 2 championship, the Marauders would stand alone with the most consecutive MHSAA titles, regardless of class or division. They currently are tied for the longest streak with the Rochester teams from 1999-2003.

Following are glances at all eight Division 2 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. All four Cheer Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Third in Downriver League.
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 11th season. 
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2010, runner-up 2008. 
Top score: 782.98 at the Regional.
Team composition: 24 total (four seniors, four juniors, 10 sophomores, six freshmen). 
Outlook: This team has a much different look than the one that finished fourth last season; the Jaguars had 11 seniors on that squad, but have four now but a large sophomore class. The new group has kept the same level of success, finishing no lower than third in an event this winter and second at last week’s Regional. Allen Park’s top Round 1 score of 237.1 is tops in Division 2, and its average overall score of 761.4 ranks second in the division – and the Jaguars came less than a point from beating Carlson at the Regional.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League. 
Coach: Amber Genevich, 11th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2014).
Top score: 780.36 at the District.
Team composition: 28 total (two seniors, 13 juniors, six sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook: After four straight runner-up finishes in Division 2, Divine Child came in third last season but only 12 hundredths of a point from finishing second again. The Falcons have taken a jump over the last two postseason meets, with the overall scores at those events their best this winter. Divine Child’s top Round 2 score of 229.1 ranks second in Division 2, and its average overall score of 748.7 is a solid fourth. Junior Victoria Greco earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red. 
Coach: Candace Heskitt, eighth season.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2015 and 2007.
Top score: 775.80 at the District. 
Team composition: 25 total (six seniors, two juniors, six sophomores, 11 freshmen).
Outlook: This is another team that has a younger make-up for this trip to the DeltaPlex, but arrives after winning its District and coming in second at the Regional – and placing lower than second at events only twice this season. And there’s plenty of experience, with senior Elizabeth Zunker an all-state first-teamer last season, senior Grace Colarossi making the second team and senior Payton Daggy earning honorable mention. The Panthers are especially strong in Round 1, with a top score of 235.1 ranking third in Division 2 this season.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Downriver League. 
Coach: Ayrn Ziesmer, second season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), four runner-up finishes.
Top score: 786.40 at the District.
Team composition: 20 total (one senior, one junior, 11 sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook: The dynasty continued last season under a new coach as Carlson won its sixth championship in seven seasons and fifth straight. And the surge shows no signs of slowing as the Marauders bring one of the youngest teams to the DeltaPlex this weekend – but one that has an average overall score of 774.1 that tops Division 2 and ranks fourth regardless of division. Carlson’s top Round 2 score of 230.9 this season also ranks first in Division 2. Lone senior Mary Miller made the all-state first team last season, as did sophomore Hannah Pryba, while sophomores Samantha Zdankiewicz, Madison Holbrook and Derrian Forynski made the second team and sophomores Julia Nemeth, Gabby Genaw and Morgan Thomas earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black.
Coach: Chris Hudson, sixth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 772.78.
Team composition: 23 total (seven seniors, three juniors, seven sophomores, six freshmen). 
Outlook: After finishing second at its league and District in 2015, Kenowa Hills won both again this winter; in fact, the Knights won all but one of their events and have finished first at eight straight. Kenowa Hills finished sixth at last season’s Final, but enters this weekend with the top Round 3 score in Division 2, 320.0, and third-highest average overall score in the division of 756.0. Senior Jordan Stellini made the all-state first team last season, while senior Kayla Impellizzeri made the second team and senior Skyler Dochod earned an honorable mention.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: Second in O-K Black.
Coach: Amanda Heethuis, ninth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 769.48.
Team composition: 23 total (five seniors, seven juniors, seven sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: After a season away, Mona Shores is back at the Finals coming off a second-place finish at its District and third at its Regional. The Sailors have finished first or second nine times this season and lower than third only once. Mona Shores surges in Round 2 – its top score of 227.5 ranks seventh in Division 2 – and its average overall score of 740.3 ranks sixth in the division. Senior Kennedy Ryan earned an all-region honorable mention in 2015.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: First Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Julie Jones, 19th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 747.86.
Team composition: 18 total (11 seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, two freshmen).
Outlook: The senior-laden Blue Devils have surged in their first MHSAA Final since 2006 after a second straight league title and fourth straight Regional berth. Gull Lake won eight of its first 10 events this season and has posted four of its five top scores over the last five meets. Its top Round 2 and average overall scores both rank among the top 10 in Division 2 this season. Senior Montana Rehm earned an all-region honorable mention in 2015.

Rank: No. 10.
League finish: Fourth in Downriver League. 
Co-coaches: Michelle Maci and Kelly Leone, first seasons.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 774.68 at the Regional.
Team composition: 18 total (six seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Trenton gives the strong Downriver League its fourth MHSAA finalist and third in this division. The Trojans advanced from a Regional that included two teams from its league but would’ve won the other Regional in Division 2 with their overall score. Trenton’s top scores in all three rounds rank among the top 10 in the division this season. Maci and Leone combine to bring coaching experience from multiple schools, including Divine Child. Seniors Erika Brower and Kelsi Hackney made the all-district second team last season.

PHOTO: Gibraltar Carlson competes during Round 3 of last season’s MHSAA Division 2 championship meet.

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