DeTour Girls Deliver 1st Title since 1999

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 1, 2017

GLADSTONE — Most, if not all DeTour High School girls weren’t around the last time a team from their school was crowned Upper Peninsula golf champion.

It was 1999, and the Raiders were competing in Class D at the time. Ontonagon was runner-up that year.

On Thursday, the Raiders ended their title drought by taking the Division 3 crown for the first time with 403 strokes. They were followed by reigning champion Cedarville with 406 and Ontonagon at 433.

“I had a feeling it would be between us and Cedarville,” said DeTour coach Ken Wilkie. “I think our depth was a factor, plus we have four seniors. It’s very important to have that senior leadership and experience. The girls knew what to expect. Hopefully, this will draw some interest from our younger girls.”

Cedarville freshman Lily Freel earned the medalist honor with an 82 at Irish Oaks Golf Course. She was followed by DeTour seniors Madison Wilkie and Kaalin Crawford at 85 and 86, respectively.

“In the beginning, it was definitely a struggle,” said Freel, who shot 98 in last year’s Finals at Escanaba Country Club. “It took me a couple holes to settle down. I wasn’t too nervous, but I could still feel the pressure. I could tell I was a little tense, then I was able to convince myself to relax. I had some bad shots, but was able to recover from them. Last year was good for me because I learned from playing with the other girls. I put a lot of time into my game last summer and had a better idea what to expect.”

Freel, who works at the Les Cheneaux Club in Cedarville, is no stranger to golf.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I’m around it all the time. I live within a block of the club. I ride my golf cart there all the time.”

Wilkie, consistently in the title hunt throughout her high school career, came in as reigning champion. She tied for first as a freshman in 2014, then was runner-up as a sophomore.

“Everything started good,” said Wilkie, who will continue her golf career at Lake Superior State University. “My play on the front nine was as solid as I’ve had, then things kind of fell apart on the back nine. I couldn’t read the greens for some reason. If you missed the hole, the ball rolled a little further. I had a hard time adjusting. I had three bad holes in a role at one time. My putting was better on the front nine. The first hole is always hard. Everybody tends to be a little nervous. Lily played awesome. I’m proud of her.”

Crawford’s putting, however, improved on the back nine.

“I became a little more comfortable on the course,” said Crawford, who will play basketball at Alpena Community College in 2017-18. “This is the best I’ve done in competition. Everything just came together. It was a real nice day for golf. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. There also wasn’t much wind.”

Cedarville coach Rob Freel said he was pleased with the Trojans’ performance.

“I was hoping our girls would come out on top, but they played real well today,” he added. “We’re excited about Lily’s potential. She has worked hard on her game.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) DeTour’s Kaalin Crawford gets ready to hit a tee shot during Thursday’s U.P. Division 3 Golf Finals at Gladstone’s Irish Oaks Golf Course. Watching Crawford hit are Ontonagon’s Samantha Lutz, left, and Engadine’s Lauren Dennis. (Middle) Cedarville’s Lily Freel hits a tee shot Thursday; she shot 82 to win the medalist honor. (Photos by Mike Mattson.)

3-Sport Standout Sluss Gives Lenawee Christian All-State Boost for Every Season

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

January 11, 2023

ADRIAN – Avery Sluss picked up a golf club for the first time her freshmen year at Adrian Lenawee Christian. Now she’s an all-state golfer.

Southeast & BorderSluss started playing basketball because it was a way for her and her older brother, Gavin, to connect. She’s now the leading scorer on the Cougars basketball team a year after receiving all-state recognition.

Everything she touches seems to turn to gold. She will return to the soccer field in the spring already with her college plans in place. She signed recently to play goalkeeper at Indiana Wesleyan University.

“I’ve learned so much from sports,” Avery said. “It teaches me a lot about life.”

Her coaches call her a self-motivated athlete, quiet leader and someone dedicated to her faith, her teammates, and academics. She is a 4.0 student and has played four years of varsity golf, basketball, and soccer. She’s earned all-state recognition in all three sports.

“She is very self-motivated,” said first-year Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Emilie Beach. “She doesn’t miss workouts or practices. She pushes herself hard. She forces others to rise (around her).”

Sluss is in her fourth season on the Lenawee Christian varsity basketball team. This year her role changed from mostly a defensive specialist to scorer.

Sluss puts up a shot during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal at Breslin Center.Beach said Avery hasn’t changed her positive attitude with the changes in her role on the team. She has a high basketball IQ, Beach said, which helps her on the court.

“It can be tough and frustrating, but she comes in with a great attitude each day and leads her teammates,” Beach said. “She is a quiet leader who leads by example. She is hardest on herself, and that’s where a lot of her motivation comes from.”

The Cougars have had great success on the basketball floor the last several years, and Sluss has been part of it. She’s played alongside all-staters and played at the Breslin Center. She started and played 20 minutes in last year’s Semifinal loss to Plymouth Christian Academy.

This season she’s averaging 14.5 points a game, with 16 3-pointers, and has scored at least 17 points four times.

“It’s very different, but I like the role I’m in now,” she said. “Now, it’s like you have to score. I’ve accepted it. I’m just trying my best to fulfill that role for my teammates.”

Sluss sat out the fall travel soccer season while she was recovering from a slight back injury. But she was able to hit the golf course. She shot a two-day total of 186 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final, helping the Cougars finish second as a team. A year earlier Sluss shot an 89 and 87 and helped the Cougars finish fourth overall.

Not bad for someone who didn’t pick up a golf club until just a few years ago.

“Golf was new to me my freshman year,” she said. “Some of my friends said I should try it, so I did. I went to the range maybe one or two times before I started to play. I’ve loved it.”

As far as sports goes, soccer was her first love. She started playing at the age of 4 when a neighborhood dad gathered a few girls together and formed a team.

“We started playing in the back yard,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer ever since. My first travel team was when I was 7.”

Sluss first started thinking about playing college soccer when she was in kindergarten.

“I’ve always wanted to play soccer in college,” she said. “I’ve dreamed about that. I’ve spent so much time on the sport that it would be silly not to. I want it to pay off with college.”

Sluss plants a chip on the green. She used to play multiple positions but turned to goalkeeper at the age of 12.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “There are a lot of little things. The mental part of being a goalkeeper is important.”

After being named to the coaches association all-state third team last year, Sluss is primed for a big season this spring, especially with her college choice behind her.

“It is a strong Christian college, which was important to me,” she said. “It’s a lot like Lenawee Christian. Everyone on the soccer team was great when I met them, and the girls are so nice.”

Sluss has become adept at mixing sports with academics and life.

“Balance is a big issue,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, especially doing two at a time.

“My whole family, my parents (David and Kristen), they always push me to be the best I can be. I owe them a lot. Even my little sister (Addie) pushes me to do my best.”

Avery’s family moved from Toledo to the Adrian area several years ago, and the two perfectly complement to each other.

“Lenawee Christian has been a great fit for me,” she said. “All of the people are awesome, and I have grown in my faith here.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Avery Sluss gathers up the ball while playing keeper for Lenawee Christian’s soccer team. (Middle) Sluss puts up a shot during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal at Breslin Center. (Below) Sluss plants a chip on the green. (Photos courtesy of the Lenawee Christian athletic department.)