D3 Preview: Powers Converge Again

March 6, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three teams that have combined to win the last four Division 3 competitive cheer championships again will contend at Saturday’s MHSAA Final.

Pontiac Notre Dame, Richmond and Comstock Park annually help finish the weekend’s final session, starting at 6 p.m. But five others are seeking their first MHSAA cheer titles – including two that have posted scores among the top four in the division this winter.  

Following are glances at all eight Division 3 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. 5
League finish: Second in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Tammi St. Onge, fourth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 771.12 at the Regional.
Team composition: 26 total (two seniors, nine juniors, three sophomores, 12 freshmen).
Outlook: Armada will return to the Finals for the second straight season after finishing fifth in 2014 and emerging from a District and Regional over the last two weeks that both featured the top two-ranked teams in the division. The Tigers have posted their top two scores of the season the last two weeks and own the top Round 3 score (320.8) in Division 3 this winter – that score also ranks third for all divisions combined. Junior Natalie Groen and sophomore Aja Bagley made the all-region second team last season.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue.
Coach: Kathy Felty, 25th season.
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2011 and 2009, three runner-up finishes.
Top score: 769.48 at the Regional.
Team composition: 21 overall (11 seniors, three juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: After a fourth place in 2013, Comstock Park moved back up to second at last season’s Final for its sixth top-two finish in seven seasons. The Panthers won all but four of their competitions this season, finishing second the other times, and have scored 763 points three of their last four events including wins at the District and Regional. A number of veterans will lead the title surge this weekend; seniors Sabrina Arnone and Brianna Pincombe made the all-state first team last season, while senior Hayley Robinson and sophomore Alyssa Geraghty made the second and senior Alexis Donley earned an honorable mention.  

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Second in Lakes 8 Conference.
Coach: Jennifer Laskey, ninth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 732.72 at the Regional.
Team composition: 19 total (four seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Tri-County will make a second straight trip to the Finals after placing eighth last season. The Vikings also made their fifth straight Regional this winter and posted their top two scores the last two weekends. Senior Emily Rienks and junior Taylor Stressman earned all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Coach: Kim Martin, 21st season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 767.46.
Team composition: 21 total (10 seniors, six juniors, five sophomores).
Outlook: The Vikings are back in the Finals after missing last season and finishing eighth in 2013, and they’ve taken first or second in all of their events this season. Lakewood especially shines in Round 1, where its best score of 235.7 is the best in Division 3. The Vikings finished second in the Regional and earned a District title. Junior Samantha Morrison made the all-region second team in 2014.

Rank: No. 9.
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Sarah Spears, second season.
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1994.
Top score: 770.66 at the Regional.
Team composition: 22 total (seven seniors, two juniors, six sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook: Onsted opened this season with nine first places in its first 10 events and have returned to the MHSAA Finals for the first time since 2007, when Spears was a junior. She’s also led the Wildcats to league titles in both of her seasons and some impressive scores this winter – the top overall score is fourth-highest in Division 3, and their best Round 3 of 317.1 ranks second. Senior Lauren Richardson made the all-region second team last season.

Rank: No. 10.
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference.
Coach: Stefanie Miller, sixth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 746.68 at the District.
Team composition: 16 total (six seniors, seven juniors, three sophomores).
Outlook: Paw Paw has posted top-seven Finals finishes each of the last three seasons and will enter Saturday having posted two of its top three scores over the last two weekends. The Redskins opened this season by winning eight straight events and have broken 735 points three of the last four. Senior Chloe Bogema made the all-state first team last season, while senior Rylee Cunningham made the second and senior Maya Bishop earned an honorable mention.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: Second in the Detroit Catholic League.
Coach: Beth Campbell, third season.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2014, runner-up 2013.
Top score: 781.08 at the Regional.
Team composition: 29 total (seven seniors, six juniors, seven sophomores, nine freshmen).
Outlook: The reigning Division 3 champion has arguably been even better in 2014-15 with a top score entering the weekend 17 points higher than a year ago. Notre Dame Prep has the top Round 2 (231.18) and overall scores in Division 3 this winter and its average score (763.524) is nearly 12 points higher than the field. The Fighting Irish have broken 760 points in nine of 11 events. Seniors Alysa Gonzalez and Emily Schiavi made the all-state first team last season, while seniors Olivia Riley and Morgan Gales made the second team and juniors Paige Lombardo and Hannah Brzustewicz earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Kelli Matthes, seventh season.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2013 and 2012, runner-up 2011.
Top score: 772.4 at the Regional.
Team composition: 24 total (three seniors, two juniors, 12 sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook: The Blue Devils finished fourth last season but have posted the second-highest overall score in Division 3 and have the second-highest average score (751.875) despite a team mostly made up of underclassmen. Seniors Sarahanne Marshall and Angel Deal made the all-state second team last season, and junior Emily Fitzsimons and sophomore Kaleigh Taylor earned honorable mentions. 

PHOTO: Pontiac Notre Dame Prep claimed its first MHSAA title last season after finishing Division 3 runner-up in 2012-13. 

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