Champion Chiefs Runners-up No More

March 7, 2014

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.

Click for full results.

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.)

MHSAA Winter Sports Start with Extended Basketball Schedules, New Wrestling Weights

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 13, 2022

The addition of two games to basketball regular-season schedules and a new series of wrestling weight classes are likely the most noticeable Winter 2022-23 changes as an estimated 65,000 athletes statewide take part in 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.

Girls gymnastics and boys ice hockey teams were able to begin practice Oct. 31, with the rest of those sports beginning in November – including also girls and boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls and boys skiing, Upper Peninsula girls and boys and Lower Peninsula boys swimming & diving, and girls and boys wrestling.

A variety of changes are in effect for winter sports this season, including a several that will be noteworthy and noticeable to teams and spectators alike.

Basketball remains the most-participated winter sport for MHSAA member schools with 33,000 athletes taking part last season, and for the first time, basketball teams may play up to 22 regular-season games. This increase from the previous 20-game schedule allows more games for teams at every high school level – varsity, junior varsity and freshman.

Another significant change has been made in wrestling, as the majority of boys wrestling weight classes have been adjusted for this season in anticipation of a national change coming in 2023-24. The updated boys weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. Only 215 and 285 remain from the previous lineup. There is also one change to girls weight classes, with the 255 class replaced by 235 to also align with national high school standards.

A series of notable changes will affect how competition takes place at the MHSAA Tournament levels. In hockey, in addition to a new classification process that spread cooperative and single-school programs evenly throughout the three playoff divisions, the MHSAA Tournament will employ two changes. The Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) will be used to seed the entire Regional round, not just the top two teams, and prior to the start of Semifinals, a seeding committee will reseed the remaining four teams in each division with the top seed in each then facing the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed facing No. 3.

Bowling also will see an MHSAA Tournament change, as the Team Regional format will mirror the long-standing Team Final with teams playing eight Baker games and two regular games at both levels.  And as also applied during the fall girls season, there is a new qualification process for divers seeking to advance to Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals. In each of the three divisions, each Regional will be guaranteed 10 qualifiers for the Finals, with six more “floating” qualifier entries to be distributed to the Regionals that have one of the previous year’s top six returning Finals divers in their fields. If a team changes division from the previous season, any floating top-six spots are added to the six already allowed in the school’s new division.

A gymnastics rules change provides an opportunity for additional scoring during the floor exercise. A dance passage requirement was added in place of the former dance series requirement to encourage creativity and a more artistic use of dance. The dance passage requires gymnasts to include two Group 1 elements – one a leap with legs in cross or side split position, the other a superior element.

In competitive cheer, the penalty for going over the time limit in each round was adjusted to one penalty point for every second over the time limit, not to exceed 15 points. The new time limit rule is more lenient than the past penalty, which subtracted points based on ranges of time over the limit.

The 2022-23 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18 and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Boys Basketball
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25

Girls Basketball
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1, 3
Regionals – March 7, 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18

Regionals – Feb. 24-25
Finals – March 3-4

Competitive Cheer
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3

Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11

Ice Hockey
Regionals – Feb. 20-March 1
Quarterfinals – March 4
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11

Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27

Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 18
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 10-11

Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 15
Finals – Feb. 24-25

Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 11
Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 3-4

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.