Shores Core 4 wins Fourth MHSAA Title

October 20, 2012

By Greg Chrapek
Special to Second Half

ALLENDALE – Repeating was the theme of the weekend at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Golf Final.

Not only was Muskegon Mona Shores looking for a fourth straight team championship, but Okemos junior Elle Nichols had her sights set on repeating as the individual medalist at The Meadows Golf Course on the campus of Grand Valley State University.

In the end, both the Sailors and Nichols accomplished their goals, but not without plenty of thrills along the way. On the team front, Mona Shores became the first girls golf team to win four straight Lower Peninsula championships. The Sailors also came full circle as their two-day total of 666 matched the score they shot in winning the 2009 title with four of the same players.

Mona Shores led the tournament at the end of the first day with a 341 and came back on Saturday to shoot a 325. Battle Creek Lakeview finished second with a score of 707 while Okemos took third with a 711.

“We talked about the butterflies after the first day,” Mona Shores coach John Brainard said. “We talked Saturday morning about getting rid of the butterflies. About getting a fire in our bellies instead and going out after it.”

That was exactly what the Sailors did, as seniors Hailey Hrynewich and Morgan Smith led the way with scores of 79 while fellow seniors Britni Gielow and Kelsey McKinley shot rounds of 83 and 84, respectively. All four have been among the team’s top five for all four championships.

“It feels so great to win it again,” Hrynewich said. “That was our goal from day one this season, to win a fourth state title. There was a lot more pressure on us this year. Everyone knew we were going for our fourth in a row, but we knew we had to do it."

The title was bittersweet for Brainard, who will say goodbye to his special senior class.

“I’m so proud of these girls,” Brainard said. “These four seniors are very special. They set the state record that no other team has done before.”

With a fourth title heading to the trophy case, Brainard is already looking ahead to a possible fifth next year.

“That’s my job,” Brainard said. “I’ve already started looking ahead. I started last summer getting some girls out for the junior varsity team, and we’re going to work on getting some more golfers out.”

While the Sailors won by 14 strokes, Nichols had a much closer margin of victory as she had to go to a three-person playoff to repeat as champion by one stroke.

Nichols was in third place, three strokes out of first as she carded an 81 on Friday. She came back Saturday and fired a 77 to finish with a 36-hole total of 158. Hrynewich came in with scores of 79 on both days to also finish with a 158, while East Lansing senior Kristyn Crippen, who was the Division 2 runner-up last fall, shot a 76 on Saturday to go with Friday’s round of 82.

The three golfers then played the treacherous 18th hole. Nichols’ second shot landed short of the green in the tall grass that was even more of a hazard due to the heavy rain from the previous two days. However, she was up to the challenge as she blasted a shot out of the tall grass and mud and onto the green some 40 feet beyond the hole. From there, it was a 40-foot, downhill put for par. Nichols sent the ball on a smooth line to the hole, but once it arrived at its destination the ball jumped just over the lip.

After her opponents missed their bogey putts, Nichols sank her next to edge Hrynewich and Crippen by a stroke and win the playoff.

“I knew somehow I had to get out of the gunk,” Nichols said. “I knew if I could get out of that I had a chance. My first putt lipped out, but then I got my second putt to go in.”

Nichols saved her best putts until the end, according to her coach Dan Stolz.

“Elle didn’t play her best,” Stolz said. “She struggled with her putting some, but then she almost holed that 40-footer that went around the lip. She had eight or nine three-putts, and if she made some of those it wouldn’t have been as close.”

Or as dramatic.

“It was really exciting,” Nichols said. “I was not sure it was going to happen, but I had been there before so I had confidence that I could do it again. I won state last year and knew that I could get it done.”

For Hrynewich, who was on the green in two, the sting of losing the playoff was soothed by the thought of being a four-time team champion with her classmates.

“I thought I had it, but then I missed that putt,” Hrynewich said. “It was disappointing to lose in the playoff, but we won the team championship, and that was the big thing. Winning our fourth team title was what we I really wanted more then anything.”              

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PHOTO: (Top) Muskegon Mona Shores' Hailey Hrynewich, East Lansing's Kristyn Crippen and Okemos' Elle Nichols shake hands after their playoff hole ended with Nichols winning her second MHSAA championship. (Middle) Mona Shores receives the Division 2 team trophy for the fourth straight season. (Click to see more from

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.)