D4 Preview: New Contenders in Mix as Hudson Seeks to Reign Again

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 3, 2022

For five straight seasons, Hudson has finished first or second at the MHSAA Division 4 Competitive Cheer Finals – with the Tigers winning back-to-back championships the last two seasons.

They’re likely the team to chase again Friday at Grand Rapids’ Delta Plex. And an intriguing mix of contenders will attempt to do so.

Pewamo-Westphalia is the only other past champion among the eight finalists, and Montrose and Mason County Central are making the trip for the first time. Beal City is back for the first time in a long time and has posted the highest score not by Hudson in the division, while Addison, Adrian Madison and Lawton are returning finalists aspiring to continue to climb.

Division 4 competition begins at 2 p.m. Friday. Tickets cost $10 and may be bought at the Delta Plex, and all four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable with a subscription. More information, including the spectator seating chart, is posted at MHSAA.com.

Below is a look at all eight finalists:

League finish: Second in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Haley Miller, second season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 714.54 at Regional.
Team composition: Five total (four seniors, one sophomore).
Outlook: The Panthers finished fifth last season and third in 2020, and have built toward this weekend with three of their top four scores this season coming over their last four competitions. Senior Jenah Hamlin earned a Division 1 all-state honorable mention last season.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Sarah Kope, third season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 721.26 at Regional
Team composition: 14 total (five seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Madison is coming off its second-straight fourth-place Finals finish, and two of the team’s top three scores have come during the postseason. The Trojans have finished first or second in all of their competitions this winter. Junior Kaylee Paulette made the all-region first team last season and seniors Lillian Wager, Julia Mohr and Inessa Aranda are past all-state honorees.

League finish: First in Highland Conference
Coach: Bailie Erway, fourth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 756.59
Team composition: Nine total (four seniors, one sophomore, for freshmen).
Outlook: The Aggies won their District and finished runner-up at their Regional to reach the Finals for the first time since 2001. They’ve broken 700 points four times this winter. Seniors Kyleigh Konwinski and Zeta Zeneberg earned all-District recognition last season.

League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 25th season
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2021), six runner-up finishes.
Top score: 760.14.
Team composition: 21 total (two seniors, 10 juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Hudson won its second straight and third championship in four seasons a year ago, finishing seven points ahead of the field. The Tigers have scored 750 or more points in seven competitions including the District and Regional as they’ve won all of their events this winter. Senior Maize Sholl and juniors Logan Parks and Cheyenne Eichler made the all-state first team last season, while juniors Annalyse Ames, Isabella Moreno and Ellevera Bean made the second team and sophomore Rylie Bloomer earned an honorable mention.

League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Holly James, ninth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 708.62 at District.
Team composition: Nine total (four juniors, four sophomores, one freshmen).
Outlook: A Lawton team that also was young a year ago has continued to build, earning this second-straight trip to the Finals after finishing seventh in 2021. The team’s top score coming into the Finals is six points higher than a year ago, and Lawton has won all of its competitions while going over 700 points in four of its last six meets. Junior Mikayla Reynolds made the all-state second team last season, and junior Rylee Oxley earned an honorable mention.

League finish: Second in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Cheri Stibitz, 15th season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 720.6
Team composition: Nine total (one senior, six juniors, two sophomores).
Outlook: Stibitz started the Spartans’ program in 2009, and this will be their first trip to the Finals – after also making their first to Regionals. Mason County Central won five invitationals during the regular season and never placed lower than third until coming in fourth (but advancing) last weekend. Juniors Brooke Wood, Geralyn Soberalski and Sarah Houghton and sophomore Emily Adams earned all-Regional recognition in 2021.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Sabrina Urmetz, eighth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: N/A, but scored 724.26 at District.
Team composition: 13 total (six seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Montrose has advanced to the Finals for the first time, after finishing third at a Regional that had the top four scores in the division last weekend. The Rams had just missed the Finals with a fifth-place Regional finish a year ago. Senior Bree Owens and junior Felicity LaVigne earned all-Regional honorable mention in 2021.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Staci Myers, 15th season
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), 12 runner-up finishes.
Top score: 680.76.
Team composition: 14 total (two seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook: The Pirates are coming off their second-straight Finals runner-up finish after winning Division 4 in 2019. Half of this team is freshmen, but P-W is anchored by athletes who have made one or more runs at the championship. Senior Halie Myers and junior Emma Flanigan made the all-state second team last season – both also received all-state recognition in 2020 – and sophomore Marissa Harp earned an honorable mention.

PHOTO Hudson competes during Round 3 of last season's Division 4 Finals at Breslin Center. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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