Notre Dame Prep Repeats D3 Dominance
March 7, 2015
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – As the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep competitive cheer team exited the mat after their final round, several of the girls raised two fingers up and pointed toward their cheering section.
The Fighting Irish refused to be coined one-hit wonders.
A year after capturing the program’s first MHSAA title, Notre Dame Prep repeated in Saturday’s Division 3 Competitive Cheer Final at The DeltaPlex.
“Our theme this year was ‘more than one’,” Fighting Irish coach Beth Campbell said. “It’s been a steady climb for us the last few years and we’re so proud of our kids.”
Notre Dame Prep led from start to finish, cementing back-to-back championships with the Final’s high scores in all three rounds and a 773.68 total.
The Fighting Irish held off a challenge from Richmond, which tallied a score of 767.70 and placed among the top two for the fourth time in five years.
Armada (761.90) was third, while perennial contender Comstock Park (759) suffered a fall in Round 3 and slipped to fourth.
“We knew Richmond and Comstock Park wanted to win and bring it back to their schools, but we knew we had the talent and we stayed focused on us,” said Campbell, whose team went undefeated throughout the season in Division 3.
“Anytime you are the defending state champions there’s a target on your back, and the year before we were underdogs. I feel like defending a state championship was 25 times harder. Keeping it was a real challenge, but I think my girls decided a long time ago that they were going to defend it.”
It’s believed that the Fighting Irish achieved a school milestone as well with their second straight title.
“I’m pretty sure we’re the first sport in school history to win state titles back-to-back, so that’s an honor right there,” senior Alysa Gonzalez said. “And we also have 16 team tucks in Round 3 and only one other school has that and they are not in our division. It’s just remarkable.”
Senior Olivia Riley never imagined ending her competitive cheer career with a pair of MHSAA Finals crowns.
“I never dreamed coming into high school that I would be winning two state championships, but here I am,” she said. “There was definitely a lot of pressure on us, but we worked hard all year and we knew it would work out in the end.”
Notre Dame Prep was fueled all season by an inner drive to succeed, but also stayed focused on the task at hand.
“This team has been consistent all year long,” Campbell said. “We don’t always have our perfect rounds, but we deliver in every single round. We stayed the course, and it was closer than we would’ve liked, but our team was so focused on what their goal was. They kept taking it one round at a time and didn’t get ahead of themselves.”
The Fighting Irish scored 233.50 in Round 1 to gain the early momentum. They carried it over into the final two rounds with scores of 226.48 and 313.70, respectively.
“We know every year if you win Round 1, you win a state championship, and so we knew we had to get our lead in Round 1,” Riley said.
Richmond was within two points of Notre Dame Prep in each round, but was unable to gain any ground.
Still, Blue Devils coach Kelli Matthes was thrilled with the effort by her team.
“We’re happy,” she said. “We wanted to come in today and have our best three rounds of the year. The kids have worked hard to clean up all the bits and pieces the last two weeks in Districts and Regionals.
“Are some of the kids disappointed? Well sure, everybody wants to win, but they’re going home with a trophy and a medal around their neck.”
Richmond finished outside of the top two a year ago with an inexperienced team, and this year’s squad also was youthful with only three seniors.
Its roster consisted of 12 sophomores and seven freshmen.
“Last year our team was extremely young and new, and this year we still had 19 of our 24 kids who were underclassmen,” Matthes said. “Our senior leadership has been fabulous, and our goal all year was to keep on plugging and that’s what we did.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Notre Dame Prep finishes a routine en route to repeating as Division 3 champion. (Middle) Runner-up Richmond competes Saturday at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)