By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
ROCKFORD – One by one, teammates hugged Rachel Hogan, while her coach Duane Haring placed medals around the necks of the other placers and worked to keep himself together.
Before this weekend, nine Grand Ledge gymnasts had combined to win 13 all-around MHSAA Finals championships. A few won multiple titles, and one finished first in both Division 2 and Division 1.
Hogan's path was different and all her own, a mix of just-misses and domination leading to her becoming the Comets' next winner.
She finished 10th in Division 1 as a freshman, a point off the lead, then improved to second as a sophomore, finishing only a tenth of a point behind the champion. Hogan fell back to third last season, but just 0.375 points back.
Saturday’s performance included a fall on balance beam and a ninth place on floor exercise. But it also included first places on vault and uneven bars – Hogan’s sixth and seventh Finals event championships over her four seasons – and this time she rose to the top of the podium at the end of the day as well, with an all-round score of 38.000 to win Division 1 by five hundredths of a point.
“For my senior year, I really just wanted to do the best I could,” Hogan said. “It’s my last year, and I know that, so I want to just put it all out there and give it all I’ve got. So I guess there was a little more of a drive, a little more of a want to get it.
“I really hope every girl here leaves feeling that they did their best. I feel that way too; that’s a great feeling.”
Hogan’s individual titles over the last four seasons included three on vault and two each on floor and bars. She tied the Division 1 Finals record with a 9.800 floor exercise as a freshman in 2013, but needed one more record performance to claim her all-around championship.
The growing cheers with every attempt told the entire Rockford gym that Hogan was shining on vault Saturday. And her final attempt earned a score of 9.875, five hundredths of a point better than Grand Ledge’s Alexis Byington scored to set the previous record in 2010.
Hogan earlier had won bars with a 9.700.
“She’s just a class act all the way around,” Grand Ledge coach Duane Haring said. “She’s always been determined, but she’s so nice (that) when she first started, she didn’t want to beat anybody else. Because she felt bad. Over the years I said, ‘It’s OK. They’re trying to beat you. You’re still friends. It’s called sports. It’s competition. You need to try to beat them.’
“So then, she started to get a little more aggressive, and said, ‘Yeah, maybe I do want to see if I can be on top.’”
Grosse Pointe United junior Isabelle Nguyen seems to be following a similar path as this year's champion.
Nguyen was runner-up to Rockford/Sparta’s Morgan Korf last season, finishing only 0.075 of a point behind. Her second-place score of 37.950 on Saturday was only 0.050 off the lead.
Nguyen also had the second-highest all-around of Friday’s Team Final, behind only Hogan, and Saturday finished second on bars and beam and fifth on floor.
“I’m pumped. I want to get new skills and work harder this summer,” Nguyen said. “I’m still happy I stayed second the whole time. (On) bars, even though she beat me by 0.025, I was still happy with my score (9.675). And beam, yesterday at Team (Finals) I fell, and I wanted to stay on beam today, and I had a good save today.”
Hogan and Nguyen’s respective finishes were especially impressive given the loaded field in Division 1. Korf finished fifth this time after helping the Rams to the team title Friday, and junior teammate Nicole Coughlin – the leading all-around scorer for Rockford/Sparta on Friday – improved three spots from last season’s Individual Finals to tie for third with Brighton senior Margo Mekjian. Coughlin won beam with a 9.650, and Mekjian won floor with a 9.600.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills senior Cassidy Terhorst, the Division 2 champion the last two seasons, came in seventh in Division 1 this time, one spot behind junior teammate Christine Byam.
Livonia Blue senior Brianna Rhoad also ended her career on top at these Finals, winning Division 2 after finishing sixth as a junior, 15th as a sophomore and seventh as a freshman.
Rhoad’s all-around score of 36.525 placed her three tenths of a point ahead of Farmington sophomore Elisa Bills. Rhoad didn’t finish first on any apparatus, but was at least eighth on all four.
“I was nervous, but after I had a pretty good beam and floor I thought I could finish it off well,” Rhoad said. “I think last year I just had a rough meet, so I think I had a better meet this year.”
Howell claimed two event championships in Division 2 – junior Alyssa Walker won beam with a 9.475 and junior Kacy Wolfram won vault with a 9.700. Rhoads’ teammate junior Jessica Weak won bars with a 9.025, and Haslett/Williamston/Bath senior Brooke Allen won floor with a 9.375.
PHOTOS: (Top) Rachel Hogan, center, stands atop the podium Saturday as the Division 1 all-around placers are honored. (Middle) Grosse Pointe United’s Isabelle Nguyen performs her beam routine. (Below) Livonia Blue’s Brianna Rhoad hugs coach Lisa Broomfield. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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:
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25
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
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3
Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11
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.