D2 Preview: Hopefuls Chase Carlson

March 6, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

No MHSAA Final in any sport has produced as consistent a series of finishes as the Division 2 Competitive Cheer Final over the last four seasons.

Gibraltar Carlson on Saturday is chasing a fifth straight title. Dearborn Divine Child has finished runner-up the last four seasons and will pursue a first championship – as will five others – when competition begins at 10 a.m.

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


Rank: No. 3.
League finish: Third in Downriver League.
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 10th season.
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2010, runner-up 2008.
Top score: 771.5.
Team composition: 25 total (11 seniors, five juniors, four sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: Allen Park moved up to third last season after two straight fourth places and could be poised to take another step. The Jaguars finished third at both their District and Regional but first or second at all but one event during the regular season – and that event was the championship meet for one of the strongest cheer leagues in the state. Senior Courtney Felt made the all-state first team last season and seniors Alicia Buhnerkemper and Katelyn Szwed earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League.
Coach: Amber Genevich, 10th season.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Top score: 771.9 at the District.
Team composition: 20 total (six seniors, three juniors, nine sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Divine Child continued to push Gibraltar Carlson for the championship last season, falling fewer than eight points from a first title. The Falcons came within six of Carlson in finishing second at both the District and Regional, and their best scores for each round all rank among the top five posted in Division 2 this winter. Seniors Kaelah O’Brien, Laura Kastler and Hanna Korpics made the all-state second team last season, and senior Maggie Marion earned an honorable mention.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red.
Coach: Candace Heskitt, seventh season.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2007.
Top score: 781.30 at the District.
Team composition: 23 total (four seniors, 12 juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: The Panthers have won four straight Regional championships and finished fifth at the last two Division 2 Finals – but look like a strong possibility to move up. DeWitt also won 10 of 13 events this season, with two seconds and a third place as well, and its top overall score is the best in Division 2. Senior Katlyn Sweeney and junior Abigail Wassom both made the all-state second team last season.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Downriver League.
Coach: Ayrn Ziesmer, first season.
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), four runner-up finishes.
Top score: 779.04.
Team composition: 19 total (two seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, 11 freshmen).
Outlook: New coach and more than half the team new to high school – same results so far. Carlson is seeking its fifth straight title and sixth in seven seasons now under Ziesmer, a former assistant for reigning Division 1 champion Southgate Anderson. Carlson has posted the top Round 2 (229.22) and Round 3 (318.6) scores in Division 2 this season and the top average overall score (768.164) by more than six points. Junior Tahlia Hamilton made the all-state second team last season and junior Angelique Voden earned honorable mention.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black.
Coach: Chris Hudson, fifth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 760.68.
Team composition: 19 total (two seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Kenowa Hills is back at the Finals after missing the last two seasons and despite seeing league and District title streaks end – the Knights still finished a strong second at both. Kenowa Hills has posted scores that rank among the top 10 in the division this season for every round and has been especially strong in Round 2, where its best of 316.6 ranks fourth. Junior Bri Hardy made the all-region second team last season.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in O-K Gold.
Coach: Abby Kanitz, eighth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 775.42.
Team composition: 22 total (three seniors, four juniors, nine sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Thornapple Kellogg is back for its second straight Final and after winning its fifth straight league title. The Trojans finished sixth in Division 2 last year and are coming off their second-highest score of the season, 762.32, to finish second at their Regional. Thornapple Kellogg’s best Round 2 (228.62) and Round 3 (318.1) and overall scores all rank third in Division 2 this winter. Senior Katie Bowling made the all-state second team and senior Taylor Tyndall earned an honorable mention in 2014.

Rank: No. 8.
League finish: First in Flint Metro League.
Coach: Brooke Sharrard, second season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 767.42.
Team composition: 19 total (four seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: The Blackhawks also are back at the Finals for the first time since 2012, when they finished third in Division 2, and after finishing fourth at a Regional behind the top-three ranked teams overall. They’ve won league and District titles both seasons under Sharrard. Brandon’s best Round 1 score of 233.4 ranks sixth in Division 2 this season, and it has posted its top two overall scores over its last five competitions. Junior Sierra Coughlin made the all-region first team last season.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Jenna Ruddell, fourth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 763.68 at the District.
Team composition: 24 total (six seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, eight freshmen).
Outlook: The Bears continue to rise under Ruddell, making their third Finals in a row after moving up three spots to finish fourth in 2014. The team finished first at seven events this season and posted its top two scores over the last two events – its best Round 3 score, 314.2, ranks seventh in Division 2 this season. Senior Bailey Hedman made the all-state first team last season, and senior Toria Beckum earned an honorable mention.

PHOTO: Dearborn Divine Child finished second in Division 2 last winter for the fourth straight, but will pursue its first title Saturday. 

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