DeTour's Wilkie, Cedarville Rise to Top

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

June 2, 2016

ESCANABA — The third try was the charm for DeTour junior Madison Wilkie on Thursday as she earned the Upper Peninsula Division 3 girls golf championship for the first time.

Wilkie, who was runner-up the past two years, fired an 85 at the Escanaba Country Club on this sunny and mild day.

“I think today I was a lot less nervous,” she said. “I’ve been here before and played quite a few rounds on this course. Being familiar with the course helps a lot.”

Wilkie became the first DeTour golfer to be crowned U.P. champion since 2007, when Erin Worden captured the Division 3 title.

Cedarville claimed the team championship for the first time in four years with 402 strokes, followed by DeTour with 434, Munising 460 and two-time reigning champion Bark River-Harris 465.

Wilkie started with a 45 on the front nine, then lowered her score to 40 on the back.

‘I could have done better on the front nine,” she added. “Before we got on the back nine, I told myself I could play a lot better. I started hitting my shots more solid. I was getting better contact with my irons, especially on my approach shots. My tee shots were pretty consistent.”

Cedarville senior Annie Eberts was runner-up at 89. DeTour junior Kaalin Crawford placed third with a 94.

“This is the third time I played here for the Finals,” said Eberts, who shot 97 the past two years. “In the past when a hole didn’t go my way, I would get mad and that’s the worst thing you can do. I stayed calm this time. When a hole didn’t go my way, I just focused on the next hole. I practiced a lot this year. I wanted to end on a good note and help our team. We all worked hard, did our responsibilities and pulled our weight. Madison is a very good player and deserves to be champion. She works hard at her game, too.”

The golfers were greeted by temperatures in the mid 60s and a gentle breeze from the south.

“It was a beautiful day to play,” said Crawford. “You just had to pay attention to the wind. I thought the greens were in perfect shape, and my short game was working pretty good. Taking second as a team will definitely motivate us for next year.”

All four DeTour golfers are juniors.

“The girls played well all year,” said DeTour coach Keli Kelly. “Madison had been close the past couple years and finally sealed the deal today. Us and Cedarville had been the main competition in our area all season. This is a tribute to the girls and all the hard work they do.”

Cedarville has three juniors and an eighth-grader, with Eberts its lone graduate.

“The biggest key is all the girls performed better than in previous meets,” said Cedarville coach Dewey Lopes. “Annie plays real well. She was in a slump earlier, but came through big-time. Our eighth-grader (Lily Freel) also did well under pressure. We’ll graduate Annie. Everybody else will be back, but she’ll be hard to replace.”

Chassell freshman Marli Hietala took fourth at 97, followed by Freel at 98 and Cedarville junior Elissa Griffin at 100.

Junior Bailey Downs was Munising’s leader in seventh (101) and BR-H senior Hannah Starnes was eighth (103).

“I’m very proud of our girls,” said Bark River-Harris coach Scott Farnsworth. “They’ve worked very hard all year. Golf is one of those sports in which every day is different and each year the competition changes. Cedarville and DeTour are very strong teams. There’s pretty good competition all the way around in D-3.”

Painesdale-Jeffers junior Julia Nordstrom in ninth (106) and Big Bay de Noc junior Ariel Cousineau (108) rounded out the top 10 individual placers.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) DeTour's Madison Wilkie tees off on No. 10 at Escanaba Country Club during Thursday's Final. Wilkie, a junior, was the tournament's medalist with an 85. (Middle) Cedarville's Lily Freel watches her putt catch the lip of the hole on No. 6. Freel, an eighth grader, took fifth overall with a 98. (Photos by Amanda Chaperon.)

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

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

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 DougDonnelly@hotmail.com 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.)