Escanaba Ends Houghton's Title Streak

June 2, 2016

By Keith Shelton
Special for Second Half

CHAMPION – For a full calendar year, the Escanaba girls golf team had a singular goal, and some lofty expectations. 

Houghton's Division 1 title streak had reached five years running, and the Gremlins were again led by sophomore Kaaren Liston, a formidable golfer who was medalist at last year's MHSAA U.P. Final at Pine Grove. Houghton shot a 416 that day, far higher than what the talented Gremlins had been averaging during the season, but still 22 strokes better than third place Escanaba. 

That was the mountain the Eskymos faced as they went into last summer's offseason. But from that point on, it was all business. 

Escanaba improved by leaps and bounds across the board through hard work and focus this season. On Thursday it all paid off, as the Eskymos were crowned U.P. Division 1 champions at Wawonowin Golf Club, breaking up the Gremlins’ long run. 

Escanaba shot 366 as a team, among the best team scores of the last decade by a girls team in the Upper Peninsula, and third at the Finals only to Houghton's 347 in 2013 and 365 in 2012.   

"I would like to know how many U.P.'s that (score) would have won in the last decade," remarked Eskymos coach Brian Robinette. “Probably all of them."

Escanaba was strong in returning talent at the beginning of the season, but it was the addition of freshman Paxton Johnson that put the Eskymos over the top. A quietly confident, focused and mentally strong golfer, Johnson's scores drew eyebrows from day one. She was medalist at her first meet of the season and continually improved as the short golf season went on. 

On Thursday, Johnson turned in a balanced effort, free of double bogeys, and was medalist with an 86. She improved by three strokes from a multi-team meet at Wawonowin earlier this season. Yet, being the competitor she is, Johnson expressed her commitment to keep working. 

"I improved by three strokes from the first time I played here, which I was pretty happy about," Johnson said. "I didn't have any doubles, but I still could have definitely played better. I still shot well enough though."

Playing in a foursome with Houghton's Liston, Menominee's Emma Hofer and Gladstone's Ashley Edwardsen, Johnson embraced the competition level. Her and Liston were all even through 17 holes, until the 18th when Liston triple bogeyed. Johnson escaped with a bogey and the title. Liston finished as runner-up with an 88, along with Ellie Hicks of Marquette. 

"It definitely helps to be neck and neck with someone," said Johnson. 

But the main philosophy the Escanaba girls subscribed to was not focusing on competition against other teams and players, but internal competition within each of them. 

"I think they were all looking at this as, not playing against Houghton or Gladstone, but playing against the shot that golf is asking me to hit," said Robinette. "They really have embraced that concept, and that's what an intelligent golfer will do. When you take all that other fluff away, and all you can control is the shot in front of you. I'd say they effectively accomplished that today."

Houghton's runner-up team score of 389 would have been good for first on a lot of days. While Gremlins coach Corey Markham was pleased with his team's play, he could only tip his hat to the play of Escanaba. 

"Our girls played very well today, like we expected. But they ran into a great Escanaba team," Markham said. "A 366 score is phenomenal. They just had a great day. You're not going to beat that score too often."

Escanaba's Megan Dagenais placed fourth with a 91, and teammate Kaitlin Cole tied for fifth with a 93 with Sydney Higgins of Marquette. Emily Hossele rounded out the Eskymos' top four with a 96, good for eighth overall. 

After Escanaba and Houghton, there was a drop-off of 22 strokes to third place Marquette with 411. Calumet was fourth with 450 and Gladstone fifth with 454. 

With Escanaba's mission accomplished and a job well done, Johnson has personal aims to continue to improve.

"It's going to be golf, all summer long," Johnson vowed.

And if the rest of the team improves, the Eskymos could be favored to repeat next season. Emily Hossele is the only top-five senior on the team. 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba’s Paxton Johnson watches her shot on the No. 2 fairway at Wawonowin Country Club. (Middle) Houghton's Kaaren Liston hits out of a tough lie on No. 2. (Photos by Keith Shelton.)

Lacrosse Finals Move to U-M Among Headlines as Spring Sports Ramp Up

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 9, 2024

The Girls & Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played at University of Michigan Lacrosse Stadium for the first time, one of the most notable changes for this season as sports ramp up for more than 100,000 athletes anticipated to participate this spring for Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools.

The MHSAA sponsors postseason competition each spring in baseball, girls and boys lacrosse, girls soccer, softball, girls and boys track & field, boys golf (Lower and Upper Peninsula) and girls golf (UP), and girls (LP) and boys (UP) tennis.

The U-M Lacrosse Stadium opened for competition in 2018 and seats 2,000 spectators. The Girls Lacrosse Finals will be played Friday, June 7, with Division 1 at 4 p.m. and Division 2 at 7 p.m. The Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played the following day, June 8, with Division 2 at 11 a.m. and Division 1 at 2 p.m.

Girls lacrosse also has a significant format adjustment this season, as games will be played with four 12-minutes quarters instead of the previous two halves, in part to allow coaches more opportunities to provide direct instruction during a game. Two more rules changes are expected to improve flow of play – players awarded a free position outside of the critical scoring area no longer must come to a stop and settled stance before self-starting, and false start penalties outside the critical scoring area have been eliminated.

Several more rules changes will be noticeable this spring:

In boys lacrosse, a change was made to enhance player safety. Play will stop immediately any time a player’s helmet comes off, and that player may not return until the next dead ball after play continues.

Fair and legal starts are a continued emphasis for track & field, and a rule change will allow for movement before the start of the race as long as a competitor does not leave their mark with a hand or a foot after the “set” command, or make forward motion before the starting device is activated.

A significant rule change in softball alters pitch delivery mechanics. The pitcher may now have both feet off the ground at the same time when releasing the ball as long as both feet remain within the 24-inch width of a pitching plate and the pitcher does not replant the pivot foot before delivering the pitch.

Another change in softball requires that a playbook/playcard be worn on the wrist or kept in a back pocket to reduce distractions. If worn by the pitcher, the equipment must be worn on the non-pitching arm. Similarly in baseball, a wristband with plays or instructions will be permitted but must be a single, solid color, and for pitchers may not contain the colors white or gray or be otherwise distracting. Baseball players must wear this wristband on the wrist or forearm, and pitchers may wear one only on their non-pitching arm.

Also in baseball, a rule change allows for one-way communication devices worn by the catcher to receive instructions from the dugout while on defense, for the purpose of calling pitches. The coach must be inside the dugout/bench area to use the communication device.

Golfers now are required to participate in at least four competitions for the high school team prior to representing that school team in an MHSAA Regional or Final. Those four regular-season competitions may be 9 or 18-hole events.

In tennis, for the first time in Lower Peninsula play, a No. 1 doubles flight from a non-qualifying team will be able to advance from its Regional to Finals competition. To do so, that No. 1 doubles flight must finish first or second at its Regional, and the No. 1 singles player from that team also must have qualified for the Finals individually by finishing first or second in Regional play.

On the soccer pitch, two officiating-related changes will be especially noticeable. Officials now may stop the clock to check on an injured player without that player being required to leave the match – previously that player would have to sub out. Also, categories for fouls have been redefined: careless (which is a foul but does not receive a card), reckless (a foul with a yellow card) and excessive force (foul with red card). 

The 2023-24 Spring campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Golf and Boys Tennis Finals during the week of May 27 and wraps up with Girls Soccer, Baseball and Softball Finals on June 15. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regional Semifinals – June 5
Regional Finals, Quarterfinals – June 8
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Boys Regionals – May 28-June 1
UP Girls & Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Boys Finals – June 7-8

Boys Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 10-15
Regionals – May 16-29
Quarterfinals – May 31 or June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 8

Girls Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 16-18, or May 20
Regionals – May 22-June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 7

Girls Soccer
Districts – May 22-June 1
Regionals – June 4-8
Semifinals – June 11-12
Finals – June 14-15

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regionals – June 8
Quarterfinals – June 11
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Girls Regionals – May 15-18
UP Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Girls Finals – May 31-June 1

Track & Field
Regionals – May 16-18
Finals – June 1