By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
CANTON – Second place. Second place. Second place.
For three seasons, Canton fell just short of ending Grand Ledge’s hold on the MHSAA gymnastics championship.
On Friday, Canton finished a quest coach John Cunningham started 35 years ago – and claimed its first MHSAA title. The Chiefs scored 146.650 points, 2.4 more of Grand Ledge, to break the Comets’ six-season championship streak.
“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that it’s true,” said senior Melissa Green, who with Erica Lucas were part of all three runner-up teams as well. “I really felt like we had a chance every year I’ve been on the team. … We just wanted to get better. We knew if we got better, we would score better, just do better.”
Cunningham has coached girls gymnastics longer than Canton has had a team – and longer than the MHSAA has sponsored the sport.
He began in 1968, and took over the Chiefs in 1979. They finished runner-up one other time, in 1996. And they got really close in 2012, falling just .825 points back of the Comets.
Cunningham knew by comparing scores during the regular season that his team would have another shot Friday. After having to count three falls on beam, the Chiefs came back with a 37.900 on floor and a 37.300 on vault to take a five-point lead heading into their and Grand Ledge’s final rotations.
The Comets finished on vault and put together a 37.300, coming together after every successful landing to celebrate as they cut the deficit in half. Sophomore Rachel Hogan landed a vault she’s been inconsistent with for a 9.8, and sophomore Lexi Payne scored a 9.025 on a vault coach Duane Haring said she’s been landing “two percent” of the time.
But Canton held on with a 35.250 on bars to finish up and keep the edge in the final standings.
“The real quality of my team is depth. The hardest thing I had to do this week was take two girls out,” Cunningham said. "We sat girls who were getting 9s. … I had three all-arounders, and then I set the lineup with what was strongest.”
Junior Jocelyn Moraw scored an all-around 37.325 for Canton, followed by sophomore Maddie Toal at 36.725 and Green with a 36.225. Lucas and three more sophomores filled out the lineup, with Lucas contributing a 9.325 on vault. “We’ve been working hard the entire season, getting skills we never thought we’d be able to get before," Green said.
Grand Ledge has a pair of contenders for Saturday’s Division 1 individual championship, and both shined in the Team Final. Hogan scored an all-around 38.600, while senior Presley Allison – last season’s Division 2 individual champ – added a 37.650.
Farmington, the 2010 runner-up, just missed returning to the top two by finishing five hundredths of a point behind the Comets to take third. Sophomore Carina Wright scored an all-around 36.275 and senior Meredith Jonik added a 36.125.
The second-place finish ends another incredible run for Grand Ledge. Before Friday, the Comets had won 106 straight competitions – dual meets and invitationals combined – dating to the 2007 MHSAA Team Final, where they finished runner-up to Holt.
“You add up all the teams, and that’s hundreds. We’re not ashamed of anything,” Haring said. “Nothing lasts forever. Second place after we were in fifth place after three events? There’s nothing to be ashamed of at all on this team.
“They knew what they needed to try to tighten the gap for second place. They never gave up. … They were going to fight to the end.”
Grosse Pointe United finished fourth, led by Isabelle Nguyen’s all-around 37.725. Grand Rapids Forest Hills was fifth, with Cassidy Terhorst scoring a 36.825.
PHOTOS: (Top) Canton's Melissa Green finishes her routine on floor during Friday's MHSAA Team Final. (Middle) Grand Ledge finished second Friday, ending a six-season championship streak but continuing an eight-season streak of top-two finishes. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
Tracey finished her senior gymnastics season this past winter with one of the most successful Finals weekends possible. On Friday, she helped Rockford to its first team championship since 2017. At Saturday’s Individual Finals, Tracey earned the Division 2 title with an all-around score of 36.325.
The Rockford standout previously had helped the Rams to runner-up team gymnastics finishes in 2019 and 2021, and had placed second individually in Division 2 as a junior as well. She also ran cross country and track during her high school career, including at MHSAA Cross Country Finals as both a sophomore and senior. She’s continuing at Michigan State University, where she’s studying human biology with a minor in Spanish.
"I'm really thankful we live in a time where women have the same opportunities to compete in athletics, because sports has shaped me into the person I am today – a competitive, driven and disciplined person. The lessons I've learned from competing are irreplaceable, and I just couldn't imagine who I'd be without sports present in my life. The lessons I've learned and the characteristics I've developed played a huge role in my daily life and will continue to play a role in the future with whatever obstacles come my way.
"And I think the opportunity to compete as a female athletes is more than just winning medals and trophies. To me it's more the opportunity to learn valuable lessons and shape yourself into the person you want to be."
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights
Sept. 13: Lola Korpi's Story - Read
Sept. 6: Meah Bajt's Story - Read
Aug. 30: Morgan Brunner's Story - Read
Aug. 23: Ava Brizard's Story - Read
Aug. 16: Paige Miller's Story - Read
Aug. 9: Gracie Olsen's Story - Read
Aug. 2: Maddy Stern's Story - Read
July 26: Reese Miller's Story - Read
July 19: Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12: Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5: Ella Boose's Story - Read
June 28: Kaila Jackson's Story - Read
June 23: We Celebrate Our Past, We Look Forward to Our Future - Read
June 21: Assistant Directors Have Been Difference Makers - Read
June 14: Girls Lacrosse Finals Officials Set Empowering Example - Read
June 7: From Gymnastics to Wrestling, Girls Opportunities Continue to Grow - Read
May 31: Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read
May 24: Scane, Whiteside Alone on 400-Goal, 500-Point Girls Lacrosse Lists - Read
May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
May 10: Portage Central's Tarpley Scores as State's Superstar, U.S. Soccer Hero - Read
May 3: Prychitko 'Legend In Her Own Time,' Legend for All Time - Read
April 26: Braddock vs. Verdun Still Striding Among All-Time Sprint Matchups - Read
April 19: Holmes' Strikeout Record Rarely Approached, May Be Unbreakable - Read
April 12: Anticipation High as 45,000 Girls Return to Spring Sports - Read
April 5: Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: Edison's Whitehorn named 2022 Miss Basketball - Read
March 22: Carney-Nadeau Sets Girls Hoops Standard with 78-Win Streak - Read
March 15: Binder Among Voices Telling Our Story on MHSAA Network - Read
March 8: 28 Years, Thousands of Cheers - Read
March 1: Kearsley Rolls On Among Girls Bowling's Early Successes - Read
Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read