D4 Preview: Breckenridge Ready to Repeat

March 4, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Breckenridge returned to the elite of MHSAA competitive cheer last season and remains the team to beat at this weekend’s Division 4 Final.

But although the Huskies ended Michigan Center’s four-season hold on the championship in 2015, they must again hold off the Cardinals and six more contenders seeking their first Finals title.

Following are glances at all eight Division 4 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Co-coaches: Deb Gaines, 31st season; Jenna Graham, eighth season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 767.34.
Team composition: 18 total (seven seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Breckenridge completed its program comeback by winning Division 4 last year, and a repeat this weekend might signal a start of another run like the four straight titles won during the mid-2000s. The Huskies won all of their events this season except the Ovid-Elsie Invitational, where they finished second, and have scored 760 or more points four times – they’ve posted the high score in Division 4 in every round, and their average overall score of 739.90 is 21.2 points ahead of the next highest. Two-thirds of the current roster received all-state honors last season: senior Lindsey Reichard, juniors Madison Smith, Alexandria Gillis and Harley Conklin and sophomores Kasey Conn and Anyssa Betancourt made the first team; seniors Katie Mortensen and Dakota Colthorp and junior Lena Crowell made the second team; and seniors Kaitlyn Corson, Paige Guthrie and Alicia Gutierrez earned honorable mention.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Second in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Taylor Bryant, fourth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 704.36.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Farwell has posted its top three overall scores over its last three events and emerged from the strong Jack Pine Conference to reach the Finals for the first time under Bryant. The Eagles emerged from a Regional that included No. 11 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian and haven’t finished lower than fourth at an event this season. Seniors Michelle Boyd, Reagan Douglas and Halaina Laverty earned all-district recognition last season.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Celeste Kubiak, 11th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 741.48.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Houghton Lake is looking to take the next step after improving from sixth to fifth over the last two Finals and has won 10 of 13 events this winter, never finishing lower than fourth. The Bobcats’ top round scores this season all rank among the top five in Division 4, and the Round 1 best of 231 points is second only to Breckenridge’s top score, and by less than a point. Seniors Ali Juillerat, Ashley Leahy, Miki Maze and Sarah McNeill and sophomore Jessica Whelpley earned all-district recognition last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 19th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2010). 
Top score: 733.18.
Team composition: 21 total (nine seniors, six juniors, five sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Hudson has finished third, third, third and fourth in Division 4 the last four seasons and has scored more than 700 points 11 times this winter to build the third-highest average total score in the division of 712.8. All three top round scores rank among the top eight in the division, and the Tigers could make their biggest push in Round 2. Senior Takota Voelzke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Alex Smith made the second team with junior Bobbi Selix receiving honorable mention.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Coach: Courtney Schiller, 11th season.
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2014.
Top score: 737.98.
Team composition: 10 total (four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: After a year away, the 2014 runner-up will return to the Finals, and has shined on the way while sharing a league with favorite Breckenridge. All three of the Vandals’ top round scores rank among the top five in Division 4, and their average overall score of 718.7 is second in the division. While Merrill finished first at only one event, it placed lower than second just three times and never lower than fourth.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 15th season.
Championship history: Five Division 4 titles (most recent 2014). 
Top score: 750.10. 
Team composition: 16 total (six seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Michigan Center followed up its string of four straight Division 4 championships with a third-place finish a year ago, and has finished lower than second in an event only once this season. The Cardinals’ nine events won included the District, and they finished second at their Regional only to top-ranked Breckenridge. Their best round scores for all three rank among the top four in the division. Seniors Victoria Corwin and Olivia Manke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Allison Hatt made the second team.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Third in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Val MacKenzie, 22nd season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 721.92 at the Regional.
Team composition: 10 total (three seniors, seven freshmen). 
Outlook: Meridian gives the Jack Pine Conference its third team at the Finals and in this division. The Mustangs won four events this winter including the Regional ahead of league opponents No. 5 Houghton Lake and Farwell. The team owns the ninth-best Round 2 score in the division this season, and that Regional score was more than 18 points better than what the team posted in finishing second at the District. Senior Courtney Wasalaski earned all-district honorable mention in 2015.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Tied for first in West Michigan Conference. 
Coach: Penny Grinage-Guy, 18th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 711.98.
Team composition: 20 total (eight seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Shelby is back at the Finals for the second straight season and looking to improve on its eighth-place finish in 2015 after winning a District title and finishing third at its Regional. The Tigers ran off a string of eight first or second-place finishes over their first 10 events and have posted their top three scores of the season over their last three meets. Sophomore Sophie Clark is a returning all-state first-teamer, while senior Elizabeth Kelly made the second team last season and senior Brittany Shellhouse earned honorable mention.

PHOTO: Breckenridge begins its Round 3 routine on the way to winning last season’s Division 4 championship.

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