D3 Preview: New Contenders Aim to Rise

March 1, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

For five straight seasons, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep has finished first and Richmond second at the Division 3 Competitive Cheer Finals at Grand Rapids Delta Plex.

Over the past two weekends, they’ve faced off twice again – the Fighting Irish winning the District by eight hundredths of a point, before Richmond won their Regional matchup a week later by just more than four points.

But there are others who would love to break up that dominance at the top. Below are glances at all eight teams competing Saturday. Division 3 begins at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis. Click here for the Finals draws and other important information.

League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West and overall
Coach: Laura Capen, eighth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 749.8 at the District.
Team composition: 14 total (four seniors, two juniors, six sophomores, two freshmen)
Outlook: Capen, who started the school’s competitive cheer program in 2010-11, will bring the Panthers to the Finals for the first time. Alma finished first or second in all of its events but the Regional, although its score last weekend was its third highest this winter. Seniors Cornelia Gotaas and Karen Nguyen made the all-District first team last season.

League finish: Tied for first in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Co-coaches: Yvonne Ridge, 16th season; Liz Hoogstra, third season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 777.10.
Team composition: 20 total (six seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, six freshmen)
Outlook: Charlotte has posted sixth-place Finals finishes the last two seasons (in Division 2 in 2017). The Orioles are set to make a jump with the third-highest average total score (777.1) in the division and top-three best scores in all three rounds. Senior Lauren Wietzke made the all-state first team last season, while senior Madyson Conklin made the second and senior Mackenzie Bleisch earned honorable mention.

League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Hayley Robinson, first season
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2011 and 2009, three runner-up finishes.
Top score: 739.4 at the Regional.
Team composition: 22 total (four seniors, three juniors, eight sophomores, seven freshmen)
Outlook: Robinson, a 2015 graduate, has taken over the program this season after the retirement of longtime coach Kathy Felty – and the success has continued. Comstock Park added another league title and won its District, and will look to improve on last season’s eighth-place Finals finish. Senior Shaelyn Scott earned all-state honorable mention a year ago.

League finish: First in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Jennifer Laskey, 12th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 748.26 at the Regional.
Team composition: 21 total (11 seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: Tri-County won its fourth straight league title and first Regional championship under Laskey to return to the Finals for the fifth time in seven seasons. The Vikings upped their best total scores from the regular season by 20 points at the District and Regional. Senior Cylee Weining made the all-Regional second team last season.

League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Sara Griffin, 11th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 773.12
Team composition: 21 total (seven seniors, three juniors, 11 freshmen)
Outlook: Jefferson has finished third the last two seasons as it’s continued to push the annual favorites, and should do so again. The Bears’ average total score of 762.4 ranks third in Division 3, and they’ve totaled more than 770 three times this winter. Junior Jaiden St. Andre made the all-state first team last season, while junior Amara Gould made the second team and senior Sarah Johnson earned honorable mention.

League finish: First in Wolverine Conference
Coach: Stefanie Miller, 10th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.

Top score: 776.02.
Team composition: 22 total (seven juniors, six sophomores, nine freshmen)
Outlook: Paw Paw missed the Finals last season for the first time since 2010, but came back to win 10 of 13 events this winter including its District. The top score noted above was the fourth-highest in the division, and the team’s best Round 3 (318.9) ranks third. Junior Joscelin Stewart earned all-Regional honorable mention last season.

League finish: Does not participate in a league.
Coach: Beth Campbell, seventh season
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2014-18, runner-up 2013.

Top score: 787.28
Team composition: 29 total (five seniors, five juniors, nine sophomores, 10 freshmen)
Outlook: Notre Dame Prep has broken 785 points its last two events and at least 771 over its last five. It trails only Richmond with an average score of 771.5, and the Fighting Irish have posted the division’s high Round 1 (238.2). A large group of standouts will return to Grand Rapids: senior Katie Lee made the all-state first team last season, while senior Natalie Johnson and juniors Megan Sollmer and Katie Topoleski made the second team and seniors Mae Ida Bryan and Paige Gollinger earned honorable mentions.

League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Coach: Kelli Matthes, 11th season
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2013 and 2012, runner-up five times.

Top score: 789.08 at the Regional.
Team composition: 29 total (seven seniors, 11 juniors, three sophomores, eight freshmen)
Outlook: As noted, Richmond bounced back from the close District runner-up finish to win the Regional by four points, and the Blue Devils have gone over 783 seven times including in their last four events. They own the top Round 2 (232.6), Round 3 (320.5), total and average total (779.8) scores in the division. Nearly all of the team’s best from 2018 are back for another run – seniors Kendal Valentine and Hannah Lopiccolo and junior Nicole Logghe made the all-state first team last season, while seniors Jordan Anthony and Megan McCallister and junior Madison Danielle made the second and junior Jordan Valentine earned honorable mention.

PHOTO: Alma will be making its first MHSAA Finals appearance; here, the Panthers compete at the Alma College Cheer Fest. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Bragging Rights for Both as Multi-Sport Sage Twins Shine at Ford Field

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

March 10, 2023

SOUTHGATE – The question of “Which child is your favorite?” is impossible for any parent to answer, but Shawn Sage has an additional question that’s impossible to answer regarding his son Jackson and daughter Brooklyn.

Greater DetroitThat question is, “Who would win a wrestling match between the two?”

“They are both raising their hands right now smiling about it,” Shawn Sage said with a laugh during a phone conversation.

It’s a good-natured question anybody can pose to Shawn Sage, given his son and daughter are not only twins by birth, but in wrestling achievements as sophomores at Southgate Anderson.

Last weekend at Ford Field, Jackson Sage competed in his second Individual Finals, where he finished fourth in Division 2 in the 157-pound weight class.

It was an improvement from last year’s event, when he qualified as a freshman but didn’t place.

“I was more used to it,” Jackson Sage said. “Last year was a different experience being at Ford Field the first time.”

Brooklyn Sage qualified for the Individual Finals this season as well, where she finished sixth in the Girls Division 155-pound weight class.

The winter was busy for both, but especially for Brooklyn. In addition to competing in wrestling, she was also a member of the school’s competitive cheer team.

“I knew that it would be a commitment,” she said. “But I was up for it. I was at the school for about 14 hours a day, but it was worth it at the end.”

Jackson and Brooklyn are each three-sport athletes. Jackson is the quarterback on the football team in the fall and a member of the track team (he competes in 300 hurdles and two relays) in the spring, while Brooklyn plays softball.

But it’s wrestling where the two share their greatest bond athletically.

Jackson started getting involved in the sport when was around elementary school age, and Brooklyn would tag along to practices.

Along the way, she became intrigued enough to try wrestling herself.

“I liked being able to know that I could defend myself and take care of myself in different ways,” she said. “To be able to stand up for myself.”

Brooklyn said she stopped wrestling competitively around sixth grade because there weren’t opportunities for girls to compete only against each other, but that changed when a girls-only division was added to the MHSAA Tournament with the 2021-22 season.

With both able to compete in high school, at-home workouts intensified. The two regularly train against each other on a mat in their basement, where technique is honed and toughness is sharpened.

“She pushes me a lot,” Jackson said.

Both also learn from each other’s experiences.

“I feel like watching him made me more motivated to do it,” Brooklyn said. “He’s taught me a lot of technique that I wouldn’t have known from his past experiences and coach.”

Added Jackson: “I’ve learned from her matches.”

This week has actually presented a rarity for both in that they’ve had time off.

With wrestling ending and spring sports not officially opening practice until Monday, the two haven’t had practices and competitions.

That’ll change next week when they go their separate ways with Jackson to track practice and Brooklyn joining the softball squad, and they’ll focus on those sports for the rest of the school year.

But with two more years of eligibility left and all-state finishes in wrestling already, the sky is the limit for the next two years in that sport for both.

With that in mind, the questions to Dad about who would win a match are likely only getting started.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at keithdunlap78@gmail.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTO Southgate Anderson twins Brooklyn, left, and Jackson Sage both placed at this season’s Wrestling Individual Finals. (Photo courtesy of the Sage family.)