Downriver Dominates Again as Allen Park Leads League's top 3 in 3-Peat

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 5, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS – Allen Park senior captain Adri Carone answered the question before it was even asked.

“It never, ever, ever gets old,” said Carone with a big smile, after helping her team secure its third-consecutive Division 2 championship Saturday morning at the Delta Plex.

“I can honestly say it feels just as amazing every time.”

The Jaguars had their huge throng of fans sweating it out, but another powerhouse Round 3 performance was the difference as Allen Park (791.60) edged upset-minded Downriver League rival Gibralter Carlson (788.02).

Southgate Anderson placed third with 773.54 points, giving the nine-school Downriver League the top three spots in the state in Division 2 – and the same order of finish as the league tournament and last week’s Regional.

Carlson made things interesting by taking the lead by one tenth of a point after Round 1, then still hung within a razor-thin, 0.38 of a point after Round 2.

Gibraltar CarlsonIt came down to a test of physical and mental discipline in the final round, and that’s when Allen Park’s tradition and experience showed through.

“Round 3 has been our strength all year, and that was the case again today,” said veteran Allen Park coach Julie Goodwin, now in her 16th year. “We have amazing stunters who rise to the challenge.”

Carlson went last in the final round and delivered a fantastic performance of its own. The Marauders’ third-round score of 317.30 was more than five points better than six other teams – all but Allen Park.

The Jaguars, going sixth out of the eight teams in the last round, scored a 320.60 – pushing them over 790 points for the sixth time in their last seven competitions.

“I am so proud of this team because we worked so hard this season – day after day after day,” said Cassidy Kuhn, one of two returning senior all-staters for Allen Park, along with Carone. “Today just feels like a dream.”

Kuhn and Carone are two of nine seniors for the Jaguars, who will leave with a runner-up finish as freshmen and championships the past three years. Other seniors were Kirstyn Ferguson, Sharlotte Kehr, Cassidy Reardon, Emily Unger, Makenzy Varner, Mackenzie Waddell and Cara Wischow.

Dearborn Divine Child placed fourth, followed by last year’s runner-up, DeWitt.

First-year Carlson coach Alyssa Tocco knows all about the Allen Park cheer program. Tocco was a standout and 2016 graduate of Allen Park, who coached the past five years at Plymouth before taking over a Gibralter Carlson program which has won 11 Finals titles (the last in 2019) and now has seven runner-up finishes.

“I am so proud of this team because 18 of the 23 girls we brought here are at the state finals for the very first time,” said Tocco, who had just three seniors on the roster. “They truly are the hardest-working team I’ve ever met.”

Goodwin gave a special shoutout to the Allen Park community, which seemingly abandoned town Saturday morning and packed the Delta Plex, shaking the building’s rafters in all three rounds – particularly the pivotal Round 3 as the Jaguars nailed stunt after stunt and landing after landing.

“Our crowd makes us who we are,” said Goodwin, who is assisted by Meaghan Terry, Tina Johnson, Jessica Tremonti, Theresa Couturier and Tera Waddell. “We feed off of them. It takes all of us.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS Allen Park (top) and Gibraltar Carlson (middle) compete during Saturday’s Division 2 Final at Grand Rapids’ Delta Plex. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photo.)

Team of the Month: Croswell-Lexington Competitive Cheer

By Geoff Kimmerly 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