D3 Preview: Familiar Favorites Lead the Way

March 4, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three of the last five seasons, Richmond and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep have finished first and second in some order atop the MHSAA Division 3 Finals standings. The same was true again at this winter’s District and Regional competitions.

So it wouldn’t stun many to see those teams compete for the top prize again this weekend – although six more teams would love to provide a surprise or two along the way.

Following are glances at all eight Division 3 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue.
Coach: Kathy Felty, 26
th season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2011 and 2009, three runner-up finishes. 
Top score: 762.56 at the Regional.
Team composition: 19 overall (seven juniors, seven sophomores, five freshmen). 
Outlook: After graduating 11 seniors from last season’s team, Comstock Park has none but an exciting future after winning 10 of 14 events this season including the District with its highest score of the winter. The Panthers have finished fourth, second and fourth, respectively, at the last three Division 3 Finals, and this season surges during Round 3 with its top score of 762.6 ranking seventh in the division and its average total score of 733.1 listing sixth. Juniors Alyssa Geraghty, Heather Damuth and Haleigh Brown and sophomore Jakela Davis earned all-region honors last season.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: First in Great Northern Conference.
Coach: Kristopher Langlois, second season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 752.66 at the District.
Team composition: 22 total (nine seniors, four juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Escanaba blasted onto the downstate scene by winning a Regional last week that included No. 7 Comstock, No. 5 Lakewood, No. 10 Paw Paw and No. 8 Freeland, and advanced to the MHSAA Finals for the first time. Round 3 is where the Eskymos shine most, with their top score of 315.3 ranking third in Division 3 this season. Escanaba won nine of its 10 events, finishing second just once. Junior Samantha Flinn made the all-region second team last season as the Eskymos competed in Division 2.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Coach: Kim Martin, 22nd season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 750.40.
Team composition: 19 total (seven seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Lakewood is back at the Finals for the second straight season after finishing eighth in 2015. The Vikings’ third place at the Regional was its only place lower than second this season. Similar to last winter, they’re especially strong in Round 1, with a top score this season of 233.7 that ranks third in Division 3, and their average overall score of 728.6 ranks seventh in the division. Senior Samantha Morrison made the all-state first team last season, while senior Carley Bennett made the second team and senior Haley VanValkenburg earned honorable mention.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in Huron League.
Coach: Sara Griffin, eighth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 766.68 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 18 total (six seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Griffin, who formerly led Flat Rock to the Finals in 2006, brings a team that won five events this season and never finished lower than third. The Bears’ top Round 1 and 2 scores rank among the top five in Division 3 this season – with the Round 2 score of 228.2 second and their average overall score of 737.6 ranking fifth. The Regional score was 24 points better than their previous best this season. Seniors Kayleigh Adams, Chrissy Boitnott and Ashleigh Carroll and junior Haylie Jewell all earned all-district honors last season.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Central and overall. 
Coach: Katie Calverley, fourth season. 
Championship history: Class C champion 2005 and 2004.
Top score: 765.26 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 19 total (nine seniors, one junior, five sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Ovid-Elsie will return to the Finals for the first time since finishing fifth in 2013 and after reaching the Regionals both of the last two seasons; Calverley was a member of the teams that won back-to-back Class B titles. A fourth-place at the Regional was the Marauders’ lowest this season; they won 10 events and finished second once. Round 2 is a strength, as the team’s top score of 228.5 is tops in Division 3 and would rank fourth in Division 2. Seniors Courtney Loynes, Leah Batora and BreAnna Deming and junior Riley Caswell earned all-region honors in 2015.

Rank: No. 10.
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference.
Coach: Stefanie Miller, seventh season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 748.56 at the District. 
Team composition: 18 total (six seniors, three juniors, nine sophomores). 
Outlook: Paw Paw finished sixth a year ago, its fourth straight finish of seventh or higher. The Redskins won seven events this season including their District, and also broke 740 points to win their league meet. The team’s best Round 3 score of 313.4 ranks fifth in Division 3, and its best Round 2 score is ninth. Seniors Hannah Diaz and Georgia Waldron and juniors Brianne Korteway and Mary Schincariol earned all-region honors last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in the Detroit Catholic League.
Coach: Beth Campbell, fourth season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2015 and 2014, runner-up 2013.
Top score: 778.58 at the Regional.
Team composition: 26 total (six seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: Notre Dame Prep has continued its string of success and is a favorite again after winning Division 3 the last two seasons. The Fighting Irish have finished first or second in every event this season and posted scores of 770 or higher four times and dating to their third meet of the season. Notre Dame Prep has the highest Round 1 (235.3), Round 3 (318.5) and overall scores (778.6) in Division 3 this winter. Seniors Paige Lombardo and Lauren Kavanagh made the all-state second team last season, and senior Allison Kot and junior Grace Mackey earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Kelli Matthes, eighth season.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2013 and 2012, runner-up 2015 and 2011.
Top score: 778.2 at the Regional.
Team composition: 28 total (two seniors, 11 juniors, five sophomores, 10 freshmen).
Outlook: Back and forth Richmond has gone with Notre Dame Prep most of the last five seasons, and was the favorite heading into the postseason after finishing second to the Fighting Irish a year ago – but before finishing second to the Irish at the District and Regional last month. Still, Richmond has the highest average overall score in Division 3 – 765.1 – and the second-highest top scores in Rounds 1 and 3. Seniors Emily Fitzsimons and Jessica Hatcher made the all-state first team last season, while juniors Kaleigh Taylor and Kari Olsen made the second team and juniors Haley Saikowski and Lauren Duche earned honorable mentions.  

PHOTO: Reigning champion Pontiac Notre Dame Prep performs its Round 1 routine during last season's Division 3 Final.

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
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Martin football - Report
Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report