Richmond Adds Repeat to Seniors' Legacy
March 7, 2020
By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – For years, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep had Richmond’s number.
Richmond finished runners-up in Division 3 to the Fighting Irish for four straight seasons from 2015 to 2018, before finally breaking through with the school’s third competitive cheer Finals championship last year.
“We were fighting every year to get over that hump, and then we got over it and then the fear set in: Can we do it again?” said Kelly Matthes, who is in her 30th year of coaching cheerleading and 12th as head coach at Richmond.
The Blue Devils answered their coach’s question with a resounding “yes” on Saturday evening, leading from start to finish and capturing their second-consecutive Division 3 title at the Delta Plex with 784.28 points.
Notre Dame Prep (779.18) took runner-up for the second consecutive year, followed by Paw Paw (777.08) and Croswell-Lexington (774.46).
Richmond came out laser-focused, dominating the first two rounds and building a 3.2-point lead heading into Round 3.
Then things got interesting, at least for a moment. Richmond, which went second in the final round, was not nearly as sharp as in the first two rounds. The Blue Devils had a couple of wobbles, but held it together and finished their challenging open round routine in style.
“We had a small little issue in that final round, but we practice in case of that,” explained Matthes, who is assisted by Melana Szczesniak and Lauren Riggs. “Don’t expect it to be perfect, and prepare for something to go wrong. They didn’t stop or give up; they just kept going.”
Croswell-Lexington actually had the best score in Round 3, but Richmond’s fast start was far too much to overcome.
“We know we need to build a big lead at the beginning, just in case something goes wrong later on,” said senior Madison Daniel, whose team was champion of the Blue Water Area Conference and won 10 of its 11 competitions. “That was our mindset.”
Daniel was one of three returning senior all-staters for the Blue Devils, along with Emily Mikolasik and Jordan Valentine. Sophomore Makenna Parker was also first team all-state last year, and senior Nicole Logghe was second team.
The other seniors for Richmond were Julia Akerley, Jillian Maksymiuk, Anna Marshall, Madison McEwen, Olivia Poelker and Noelle Riggs.
Those seniors finished among the top two at the Finals all four years of their high school careers – runners-up as freshmen and sophomores and champions as juniors and seniors. Marshall said the turning point came when they stopped being obsessed with Notre Dame Prep, and instead concentrated on their own improvement.
“After 2017, we really focused on ourselves and had tunnel vision,” said Marshall. “That’s how we kept getting better, and today was our best.”
Next year could be a rebuilding year or a reloading year for Richmond, depending on your point of view. On one hand, the team is losing 10 seniors and has only two juniors in Samantha Bryant and Jenna Jaissle. On the other hand, the team also has 28 athletes on its roster.
“The way I look at it, I still have 18 kids returning,” said Matthes, who noted that most of the 10 seniors have been cheering together since they were children at the Richmond youth cheer camp. “These seniors wanted to leave a legacy, and they sure did that.”
Comstock Park place fifth, ahead of Onsted, Berrien Springs and Escanaba.
PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond hoists the Division 3 championship trophy for the second-straight season Saturday at the Delta Plex. (Middle) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep performs its routine on the way to a repeat runner-up 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.)