Fast Start Leads to Familiar Allen Park Finals Finish

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 27, 2021

EAST LANSING – Allen Park proved Saturday the importance of a fast start in competitive cheerleading.

The Jaguars built a big lead, then held on despite not having their best stuff in Round 3 to capture their second consecutive Division 2 championship at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University.

“We didn’t have our best Round 3, but we definitely had our best Rounds 1 and 2,” said Allen Park senior Kylee Dietz, a returning all-stater from last year. “That just proves it takes three rounds to win a state championship.”

Allen Park posted the best scores in the eight-team field in the first two rounds and did enough in the final round to win with a 782.34 score.

DeWitt (778.90) moved up one after a third-place finish last year to place second. Muskegon Mona Shores (776.48) moved up to third with the best Round 3 score in the field.

Allen Park has now won three of the last five Division 2 titles, while placing second the other two years.

Julie Goodwin, in her 16th year as the Jaguars’ coach, said the key to this year’s victory occurred long before Saturday’s first two rounds – and far away from the bright lights of the Breslin Center.

“For two months we had practice on the computer four days a week and we had 100 percent attendance,” said Goodwin, who is assisted by Meghan Terry, Tina Johnson and Jessica Tremonti. “These girls worked hard in their basements.”

It looked for most of Saturday morning that Allen Park was going to run away from the rest of the field, in similar fashion as Rochester Adams did in the Division 1 Final on Friday.

But the Jaguars had an uncharacteristic drop on a stunt and several bobbles in Round 3, opening the door, albeit slightly, for its competitors. Goodwin said her team showed its grit by finishing the round strong.

“Endurance and perseverance were the key to today’s win,” Goodwin said. “I have been saying all year that we are grateful, thankful and blessed –  and I truly mean that.”

Leading the Jaguars through this challenging season were six seniors, including returning all-staters Skyler Longton and Dietz. Other seniors were Cailey Tuttle, Haylee Jent and returning all-state honorable mention choices Rayden Guthrie and Monica Karagozian.

Those six seniors pointed to the depth of the program, with 27 girls on the roster, as the key to this year’s championship. That depth allowed the Jaguars to overcome teammates that were sidelined by COVID testing and injuries.

2021 D2 Competitive Cheer Runner-Up DeWitt

“Everyone here is always prepared to step in and get the job done,” said Guthrie.

Allen Park will likely be in the hunt for a “three-peat” next winter, with a strong group of 10 juniors (including all-staters Adrianna Carone and Cassidy Kuhn) and nine sophomores returning.

DeWitt, which has never won a cheer Finals championship, finished runner-up for the third time, after also taking second in 2007 and 2015.

Candace Heskitt, in her 13th year as DeWitt’s coach, featured a veteran team with nine juniors and eight seniors – notably returning first-team all-staters Gabrielle Cooney and Aubrey McKinley.

“We had a feeling we were going to have a breakthrough, and it finally came today,” McKinley said. “It’s sad that it’s over, but it’s great to leave with this big trophy.”

Click for full team standings.

PHOTOS: (Top) Allen Park celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday at Breslin Center. (Middle) DeWitt competes on the way to its third runner-up Finals finish. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Bragging Rights for Both as Multi-Sport Sage Twins Shine at Ford Field

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 10, 2023

SOUTHGATE – The question of “Which child is your favorite?” is impossible for any parent to answer, but Shawn Sage has an additional question that’s impossible to answer regarding his son Jackson and daughter Brooklyn.

Greater DetroitThat question is, “Who would win a wrestling match between the two?”

“They are both raising their hands right now smiling about it,” Shawn Sage said with a laugh during a phone conversation.

It’s a good-natured question anybody can pose to Shawn Sage, given his son and daughter are not only twins by birth, but in wrestling achievements as sophomores at Southgate Anderson.

Last weekend at Ford Field, Jackson Sage competed in his second Individual Finals, where he finished fourth in Division 2 in the 157-pound weight class.

It was an improvement from last year’s event, when he qualified as a freshman but didn’t place.

“I was more used to it,” Jackson Sage said. “Last year was a different experience being at Ford Field the first time.”

Brooklyn Sage qualified for the Individual Finals this season as well, where she finished sixth in the Girls Division 155-pound weight class.

The winter was busy for both, but especially for Brooklyn. In addition to competing in wrestling, she was also a member of the school’s competitive cheer team.

“I knew that it would be a commitment,” she said. “But I was up for it. I was at the school for about 14 hours a day, but it was worth it at the end.”

Jackson and Brooklyn are each three-sport athletes. Jackson is the quarterback on the football team in the fall and a member of the track team (he competes in 300 hurdles and two relays) in the spring, while Brooklyn plays softball.

But it’s wrestling where the two share their greatest bond athletically.

Jackson started getting involved in the sport when was around elementary school age, and Brooklyn would tag along to practices.

Along the way, she became intrigued enough to try wrestling herself.

“I liked being able to know that I could defend myself and take care of myself in different ways,” she said. “To be able to stand up for myself.”

Brooklyn said she stopped wrestling competitively around sixth grade because there weren’t opportunities for girls to compete only against each other, but that changed when a girls-only division was added to the MHSAA Tournament with the 2021-22 season.

With both able to compete in high school, at-home workouts intensified. The two regularly train against each other on a mat in their basement, where technique is honed and toughness is sharpened.

“She pushes me a lot,” Jackson said.

Both also learn from each other’s experiences.

“I feel like watching him made me more motivated to do it,” Brooklyn said. “He’s taught me a lot of technique that I wouldn’t have known from his past experiences and coach.”

Added Jackson: “I’ve learned from her matches.”

This week has actually presented a rarity for both in that they’ve had time off.

With wrestling ending and spring sports not officially opening practice until Monday, the two haven’t had practices and competitions.

That’ll change next week when they go their separate ways with Jackson to track practice and Brooklyn joining the softball squad, and they’ll focus on those sports for the rest of the school year.

But with two more years of eligibility left and all-state finishes in wrestling already, the sky is the limit for the next two years in that sport for both.

With that in mind, the questions to Dad about who would win a match are likely only getting started.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTO Southgate Anderson twins Brooklyn, left, and Jackson Sage both placed at this season’s Wrestling Individual Finals. (Photo courtesy of the Sage family.)