Hudson Completes Championship Climb
March 3, 2018
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – The Hudson competitive cheer team has been a staple at the MHSAA Finals for nearly two decades with 19 appearances, including 18 straight.
But the Tigers had been unable to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
A long time in the making, Hudson’s perseverance finally paid off when it captured that seemingly elusive Division 4 title Saturday at the DeltaPlex.
The Tigers delivered three solid rounds en route to a season-high 769.26 total and the program’s first Finals victory.
Sanford Meridian (756.86) edged Adrian Madison (756.56) for runner-up honors by three tenths of a point.
“I knew it was going to be when the opportunity came,” Hudson coach Kelly Bailey said. “We’ve had great teams in the past, and I knew one time luck would meet with our opportunity, and we would do it. This was the year, and we had a great group of girls.”
The Tigers placed runner-up at the Finals five times, including three straight years from 2008-2010.
They finished a close second again last season to Breckenridge, which didn’t field a team this year after winning three consecutive Finals.
“I’m on cloud nine right now,” Hudson senior Payge Leathers said. “The feeling is unexplainable. This is my fourth year at the state finals, but finally breaking through and winning a state title has been the most overwhelming and exciting experience of my life.”
The Tigers, who won the Lenawee County Athletic Association crown, were ranked No. 5 entering the postseason.
“I knew it from the beginning this year,” Hudson senior Shiann Martinus said. “We clicked so well all year, and I’ve never had a team so bonded. We all wanted the same goal and we did anything to get it, and we got it.
“We were three points away last year so we definitely didn’t want to cut it close this year, and we practiced like crazy.”
Hudson held a slim two-point lead entering the final round, but pulled away from the field with an impressive Round 3.
It capped the meet with a high score of 316.60, eight points better than the next closest team.
“They did a fabulous job in Round 3, and you can’t ask for anything more,” Bailey said. “They were under the most pressure they could be going last and everybody had stuck their cheers. There was two points separating us, and they nailed it.”
Bailey took a different approach to this year’s Finals and didn’t put extra pressure on the team with high expectations.
“We tried to really focus on celebrating our year today, that it wasn’t a competition,” she said. “It was a celebration of our year from the start, and we really focused on having fun. All the work was over, and this is what the hard work was for. They just needed to have a blast today.”
The squad, which featured five seniors, didn’t concentrate on anything but its own effort.
“The whole time nobody focused on a state title,” Martinus said. “We focused on going out to do our best. This (title) comes with it when you do your best.”
Sanford Meridian also had a breakthrough performance in earning its first top-two finish at the Finals.
This was the Mustangs’ third appearance, and they didn’t qualify last year after placing sixth at Regionals.
“We knew we could either take it or be within the top three,” longtime Sanford Meridian coach Val MacKenzie said. “I think our goal was met, and it was a goal we constantly worked toward.”
The Mustangs, who had no seniors on the roster, jumped into contention with a stellar Round 2 that accumulated the highest score of the day, 224.16.
“The girls have worked really hard this year and we’ve really concentrated on our Round 2 with our tumbling and getting back tucks, because we knew that’s what it was going to take to get us where we needed to be,” MacKenzie said. “I’m very proud of how they bought into the program, and they are so dedicated. They are just a good bunch of girls.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson performs a routine on the way to winning the Division 4 title Saturday. (Middle) Sanford Meridian raises its runner-up trophy after its first top-two finish.
Bragging Rights for Both as Multi-Sport Sage Twins Shine at Ford Field
By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
That 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 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 email@example.com 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.)