Richmond Remains No. 1 in D3

March 2, 2013

By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Every time the Richmond competitive cheer team exited the mat after each round of the MHSAA Division 3 Final, its faithful supporters in the stands at the DeltaPlex showered down a rousing chant: “Back-to-Back”

The Blue Devils were more than willing to fulfill their fans' desire.

Richmond became the first Division 3 team to repeat after edging Pontiac Notre Dame Prep on Saturday for the title.

The Blue Devils, who won the program's first Division 3 crown last season following a runner-up finish in 2011, posted a three-round score of 768.64, while the Fighting Irish finished fewer than three points back at 765.84.

“Last year was special because it was the first one. But to do it back-to-back is really hard, and it has never been done in our division,” Richmond coach Kelli Matthes said. “And that's been our goal all year, and their theme has been to do what has never been done before. They came in today, and they just owned it from beginning to end.

“Sure we had some bumps and bruises along the way, and things weren't completely perfect today. But they did what they needed to do and they came out on top.”

Richmond's Joanna Fenwick, one of seven seniors on the team, said the Blue Devils had doubts after placing runners-up in Districts.

“It was a really rough year because we were District runner-up, and we lost faith, and then we went to Regionals and nailed it,” she said. “I love my team so much, and I couldn't ask for a better coach. This is the best feeling in the world, especially as a senior.”

The Blue Devils, who won the Blue Water Area Conference, set the tone early with a strong Round 1 and scored a 232.2 to grab the lead.

They extended their advantage to seven points after an impressive Round 2.

“I thought the first round was absolutely amazing and breathtaking, and the second round was really strong for us,” Matthes said. “Our signature move, the heel stretch, was a little shaky, but they bounced back from that and nailed their back tuck.

“The third round they needed to go out and do what they needed to do because it was up to everybody else to catch us.”

Notre Dame Prep made a late charge with a phenomenal Round 3 performance that resulted in a Finals-high score of 316.1.

The Fighting Irish's creative and energetic round helped them leapfrog Grosse Ile and secure their first MHSAA runner-up finish.

“Our third round cheer is the one we are most proud of,” Notre Dame Prep co-coach Beth Campbell said. “The team loves to perform it, and it is a crowd pleaser. Every time we do that cheer, the girls light up, and the best thing we have going for us is that round. It's a wonderful feeling.”

Notre Dame Prep entered the Finals as the top-ranked team in Division 3, while Richmond was No. 2.

“We beat them a couple times this year, and it was a neck-and-neck battle all season long,” Campbell said. “Tonight, it was their day, but we're going to come back fighting just as hard next year.”

Ironically, Matthes was Campbell's high school cheer coach at Lake Orion.

“I couldn't be prouder of her being one of my old kids, and it is really neat for the two of us to be standing here with trophies in our hands,” Matthes said. “It's cool to see what she is doing right now.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond cheers during its Round 3 at Saturday's Division 3 Final in Grand Rapids. (Middle) Runner-up Pontiac Notre Dame cheers during its Round 1. (Bottom) Richmond poses with the championship trophy for the second-straight season. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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