Seaholm Succeeds by a Stroke

October 19, 2013

By Mark Meyer
Special to Second Half

EAST LANSING – Birmingham Seaholm found itself in an unenviable position Saturday morning, 17 shots off the Division 2 Girls Golf Final lead at Forest Akers East and facing an uphill climb against an Okemos team brimming with confidence.

Throw in some swirling rain, a brisk wind and temperatures in the 40s, and the Maples certainly had plenty of ground to cover if they had hoped for a repeat of their 2008 title.

Based on the way they kept their composure throughout the weekend – and with three of their five starters coming back next season – the Maples have plenty to look forward to in the coming years.

Senior Megan Lam keyed the second-day surge with a medalist round of 78 as Seaholm surged to a 1-stroke victory over Okemos, 663-664. The Maples outshot the Chieftains 320-338 Saturday thanks in large part to the play of sophomore Allegra Cunningham (79), junior Jamie Greene (81) and sophomore Jordan Michalak (82).

And, even though her score didn’t count toward the team total, senior Rylie Miller (84) closed out her high school career by chipping in for birdie on the 18th green – over the sand and into a hole that she could not see.

“I can’t tell you how amazing (of a comeback) this was,” Miller said. “After yesterday we were so upset. We went home afterwards and went to the football game against Groves (a 28-22 league title-clinching win for Seaholm) and that really pumped us up. We came out ready to win.

“To go home (Friday night) and watch our classmates celebrate that victory helped us so much. It was amazing.”

Seaholm assistant coach Cathie Fritz said the object was to have fun and block out the negative thoughts, no matter the conditions.

“Muddle through the weather,” Fritz said, “find some fun out there and hit shots, despite the pouring rain and the freezing cold. We had to find the fun in being on the golf course.”

Lam, one of two co-captains along with Miller, credited her father for an overnight tip that made a difference in her game.

“He told me my first putts had to be better,” Lam said. “I had to lag the ball closer to the hole and make as many two-putt greens as possible.”

Lam, a four-year starter for the Maples, said the weather was not a huge factor for her.

“Having played at states for four years, you kind of expect it and prepare mentally so that it doesn’t mess up your game,” Lam said. “It was really a pretty normal day for me.”

As it was for Okemos senior Elle Nichols, who became only the second player in Lower Peninsula history to win three individual MHSAA titles.

Nichols overcame a poor start – two double bogeys in the first three holes that put her 7 over par through six holes – to shoot 79 for a two-day total of 155, three shots ahead of Lam.

“I knew I had to go low on the back nine,” said Nichols, who closed with a 35, “and the birdie at 10 (capped by a 60-foot putt) helped get me started.”

The third individual trophy, however, couldn’t make up for the disappointment of a runner-up team finish.

“This team worked very hard to get to this position,” Nichols said, “and we wanted to finish it with a title.”

Sophomore Jessica Kim (81-83), junior Sydney Williams (82-89) and senior Carly Bullock (87-87) completed the scoring for the Chieftains, who finished third as a team in 2012.

“We had a terrific season,” said Okemos coach Dan Stolz. “We won our conference for the third year in a row, won a Regional and had a great day (Friday) to start the two-day tournament.

“But we started (Saturday) playing pretty crummy, Seaholm made up a lot of shots early and maybe we got a little tight. But then we came back and played much better on the back nine. We didn’t shoot a terrible score for the way the course was playing; they (Seaholm) just played better and deserved to win.”

Sisters Stephanie Carras (freshman) and Kharissa Carras (senior) both finished among the top 10 individuals to lead Midland Dow to a third-place finish with a team total of 695. Stephanie carded rounds of 79-80 while Kharissa, playing in the lead group with Nichols and Lam, shot 86-82.

Prior to the beginning of the awards ceremony, Fenton sophomore Madi Shegos received special mention for her hole-in-one Friday on the par-3 18th hole.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Birmingham Seaholm’s Jordan Michalak celebrates after chipping in for a birdie. (Middle) Okemos’ Elle Nichols finished first individually for the third straight season, tying at MHSAA record. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

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 [email protected] 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.)