D3 Preview: Numbers Tilt To Favorites

March 3, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Richmond and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep have combined to win the last five Division 3 competitive cheer championships.

With average overall scores this winter that best the rest of Saturday’s field by 25 points, it’s expected that trend will continue in this season’s final competition – but of course, six more contenders will have something to yell about that starting when Round 1 begins at 6 p.m. at Grand Rapids’ DeltaPlex.

Following are glances at all eight Division 3 teams competing. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

Rank: No. 8.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue.
Coach: Kathy Felty, 27th season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2011 and 2009, three runner-up finishes. 
Top score: 750.54.
Team composition: 21 overall (eight seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: After placing fifth last season without a senior on the team, Comstock Park returns with more experience and championships in the league, District and Regional. The Panthers average the fourth highest score in Division 3 and could return to the top four at the Final for the fourth time in five seasons. Senior Vivian Bjork made the all-state first team last season, while senior Alyssa Geraghty and junior Haleigh Brown made the second team and seniors Heather and Holly Damuth earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 10.
League finish: Second in Huron League.
Coach: Tanya Vaughn, third season.
Championship history: Class C-D champion 1998, two runner-up finishes.
Top score: 758.14 at the Regional.
Team composition: 20 total (nine seniors, two juniors, five sophomores, four freshmen). 
Outlook: After reaching the Regional all three seasons under Vaughn, Flat Rock took the next step this winter with a third-place finish to qualify for Saturday. It was one of only two third places all season; the Rams finished first or second at the rest of their events. Senior MaKenzie Ervin made the all-region second team last season and junior Maya Schroeder earned an honorable mention.

Rank: Honorable mention.
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association.
Coach: Jennifer Laskey, 11th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 744.08.
Team composition: 18 total (four seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: After a year away, Tri-County will compete in its third Final in four seasons and has made the Regionals every season beginning with 2011-12. The fourth place at the Regional this time was the team’s only finish lower than third this winter. Senior Mariah Duncan earned an all-region honorable mention last season.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Coach: Kim Martin, 26th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 755.12.
Team composition: 21 total (nine seniors, four juniors, six sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Lakewood improved to sixth last season from eighth in 2015 and won all of its events before notching third places at its District and Regional. Its top Round 1 (233.4) and Round 3 (310.5) scores both rank among the top five in Division 3 this season. Senior Kendall Rooks made the all-region second team in 2016, and senior Riley Eggers earned an honorable mention.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in Huron League.
Coach: Sara Griffin, ninth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 758.1 at the District. 
Team composition: 19 total (three seniors, seven juniors, three sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: After moving up to fourth at last season’s Division 3 Final, Jefferson returns with the third highest average overall score in the division and the third-highest Round 2 score (222.7) this winter. The Bears have cleared 740 points six times. Junior Kylie Foland made the all-state second team last season, and sophomore McKinley Gessner earned honorable mention.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference.
Coach: Stefanie Miller, eighth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 750.46 at the District. 
Team composition: 18 total (five seniors, eight juniors, one sophomore, four freshmen). 
Outlook: Paw Paw finished seventh last season, its fifth straight placing of seventh or higher, and comes back to the DeltaPlex with 13 upperclassmen. The Redskins won all of their events this season but two, and took first in the league and District before coming in second at the Regional.
Seniors Mary Schincariol and Brianna Eick earned all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Beth Campbell, fifth season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2016, 2015 and 2014, runner-up 2013.
Top score: 778.52.
Team composition: 22 total (seven seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: The Fighting Irish remain dominant despite second-place finishes to top-ranked Richmond at the District and Regional. They finished second or better in all but one competition, where they finished third, and have scored 760 points or more six times. Notre Dame Prep’s round and overall high scores all rank second to only Richmond’s this winter. Senior Sarah Nantel and juniors McKenna Dooley and Rachel Michel made the all-state second team last season, and seniors Jennifer Redoutey and Anne Seyferth earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Kelli Matthes, ninth season.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2013 and 2012, runner-up three times.
Top score: 784.56.
Team composition: 36 total (11 seniors, five juniors, nine sophomores, 11 freshmen).
Outlook: A large group of juniors that led the team to a runner-up finish last season are now seniors, and they have Richmond the clear favorite with its District and Regional wins just ahead of Notre Dame Prep. Richmond’s average score of 775.3 is more than 12 points higher than Notre Dame’s and nearly 39 higher than the rest of Division 3 – plus it owns the high scores in the division in all three rounds. Seniors Kari Olsen and Kaleigh Taylor made the all-state first team in 2016, and senior Lauren Duche made the second.

PHOTO: Richmond competes during Round 1 at the 2016 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
Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
Byron Center hockey - Report
Martin football - Report
Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report