D4 Preview: Huskies Hunt for 3-Peat

March 3, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s tough to overstate how dominant Breckenridge’s cheer program has been since returning to the mat at the start of the 2014-15 season.

But neither of those first two Division 4 championship seasons was accompanied by as much success as this winter’s Huskies have enjoyed.

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

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Emily Gafford, eighth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 758.16 at District.
Team composition: 17 total (four seniors, three juniors, six sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Madison is making its first trip to the Finals since 2011 after also winning its first District title since that season. The Trojans are surging with their top two scores coming in the District and Regional, even as that Regional score placed the team fourth, its only finish below third and one of only two lower than second this winter. Madison’s best Round 3 of 314.2 leads Division 3. Seniors Bre Anna Collins and Emily Hindes earned all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Co-coaches: Deb Gaines, 32nd season; Jenna Graham, ninth season.
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 774.32.
Team composition: Nine total (three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores). 
Outlook: It’s been an incredible run for Breckenridge, which has won the last two Division 4 titles and finished first in all of its events this season despite having half as many athletes as a year ago. The Huskies’ high score also is higher than at this time last year and would rank among the top five in Divisions 2 or 3; their average overall score of 749.4 is 26 points higher than second-place Madison’s. Senior Harley Conklin, junior Kasey Conn and sophomore Olivia Mayle made the all-state first team in 2016, and senior Madison Smith made the second team.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Taylor Bryant, fifth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 751.86.
Team composition: 13 total (seven juniors, five sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Farwell doesn’t have a senior this season, but its top overall score is nearly 50 points higher than at this time a year ago and it’s moved up from second to first in the Jack Pine Conference. The Eagles will next try to improve on their eighth place at last season’s Finals; they’ve finished lower than second only once this season. Junior Morgan Nestor earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: Second in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Celeste Kubiak, 12th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 752.52.
Team composition: 18 total (nine seniors, seven juniors, two sophomores). 
Outlook: Houghton Lake finished fifth last season for the second straight but enters Saturday with a much more experienced lineup that hasn’t finished lower than second this season and has a high overall score 12 points better than when it entered the Finals a year ago. After finishing second to Farwell in the league, the Bobcats finished first ahead of their rival at both the District and Regional. Junior Jessica Whelpley earned all-state honorable mention in 2016.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 20th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2010). 
Top score: 751.30 at Regional.
Team composition: 19 total (nine seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, two freshmen). 
Outlook: After four finishes of fourth or higher over the previous four seasons, Hudson fell back to sixth in 2016 but also returns with a high overall score this season nearly 20 points better than at this time a year ago. Hudson’s average overall score of 720.8 ranks third in Division 4, and it won its first league title since 2011. Senior Bobbi Selix made the all-state second team last season, and junior Shiann Martinus earned an honorable mention.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 16th season.
Championship history: Five Division 4 titles (most recent 2014), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 758.68 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 20 total (four seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Michigan Center improved from third in 2015 to second last winter, and that Regional score is the second-highest overall score in the division this season; the Cardinals’ round high scores all rank among the top four as well. They’ve cleared 740 points in three of their last four competitions. Sophomore Ayana Santana made the all-state first team last season, while senior Kamryn Barrett made the second team and senior Bethany Thrall and sophomore Carlee Lally earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Staci Myers, 10th season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), 10 runner-up finishes.
Top score: 744.92.
Team composition: 12 total (three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: The Pirates remain one of the most accomplished cheer programs in MHSAA history and bounced back this winter after missing the Finals by two places at their Regional in 2016. Their average total score of 718.5 ranks fourth in the division, and P-W has broken 720 points in five straight events. Senior Nicole Schafer made the all-region second team in 2016, and senior Bailey Fandel earned an honorable mention.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference. 
Coach: Penny Grinage-Guy, 19th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 733.44 at Regional.
Team composition: 18 total (four seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, six freshmen). 
Outlook: Shelby jumped a spot from eighth in 2015 to seventh last season and has improved significantly over their last five competitions, breaking 679 four times after topping out at 661 prior. Shelby shines in Round 3, where its top score this season (304.2) ranks seventh in the division. Senior Calee Monroe made the all-region second team last winter, and junior Makenzie Allen earned honorable mention.

PHOTO: Farwell is one of six teams returning from last season’s Division 4 Finals.

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