By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
ROCKFORD – Chasing last season’s MHSAA gymnastics championship may have been a bit more exciting for Farmington United.
But repeating at Friday night’s Team Final put the finishing touch on a dominating run that left no doubt which was the state’s best again this winter.
Compared to 2018, when Farmington ended Rockford’s three-season hold on the title and the top three teams were separated by three tenths of a point, this finish was a bit more comfortable.
Farmington – which won all of its meets this season – clinched the title this time with a score of 145.550, 1.3 points better than the runner-up Rams.
“It was actually more fun this year because we didn’t feel (like) as much of an underdog,” Farmington senior Kacey Noseworthy said. “We were coming in here confident, and we could believe it. But there was more pressure knowing that we kinda were expected to win.”
Farmington United – made up of gymnasts from Farmington High, North Farmington and Farmington Hills Harrison – posted the Final’s highest scores in the vault (37.700), the second highest on floor exercise (37.575), tied for the second-highest on balance beam (35.500) and then third highest on uneven parallel bars (34.775). After Rockford/Sparta, the next closest team was more than three points off the lead.
The margin was slimmer after Farmington finished its second rotation of the afternoon. But vault provided an opportunity to make a move – and longtime coach Jeff Dwyer’s gymnasts let their best fly.
Junior Elena Vargo threw a vault with a max score of 10.0, and she scored 9.80. Sophomore Sydney Schultz went with a vault she learned just two weeks ago with a max of 9.80, and she posted a 9.50.
“Vault is kinda a wild card. It’s one you sometimes hit and sometimes don’t,” said senior Ava Farquhar, who posted a 9.050 on the apparatus. “It’s hard, depending on the situation, the gym and the equipment. Going in, we all just tried our best. Warm-ups turned out pretty well, so we got a little excited.”
Vargo, a favorite in Saturday’s Division 1 individual competition, finished with the Team Final’s highest all-around score, 37.825. Noseworthy, a likely contender in Division 2, posted an all-around 35.775. Farquhar, Schultz, senior Shelby Smith, sophomore Allison Schultz and freshman Kamini Playle also contributed at least one score. Four of those seven also contributed to the winning team score in 2018.
“You’ve gotta have a pretty unique group of girls who can do it two years in a row,” Dwyer said. “And you can sense that, how they compete and how they work out in the gym. So I knew we had a shot again this year. But these (Finals) are hard to win.”
Plymouth followed Rockford/Sparta in third place, an improvement of three places from a year ago. First-time Finals qualifier Fowlerville finished fourth, and Livonia Blue edged Northville to round out the top five.
Reigning Division 1 individual champion Cate Gagnier of Grosse Pointe United, a sophomore, scored an all-around 36.400, as did Rockford/Sparta senior Reagan Ammon. Rams junior Morgan Case scored a 36.350, and Livonia Blue sophomore Makenna Fedrigo posted a 36.300 all-around.
Rockford/Sparta did post then highest scores on bars (35.075), beam (36.025) and floor (37.600) but only the seventh-highest on vault (35.550), 2.15 off Farmington's score on that apparatus.
“Farmington’s been like steady beating us the whole year, so we kinda thought we would get second with maybe a tiny chance at first,” said Case, a contributor on the 2017 championship team and last year’s runner-up as well. “But we’re really happy with what we did.”
The Individual Finals in both divisions begin at noon Saturday, and in addition to the championship Farmington United also might have won Dwyer his first good night’s sleep in a few days.
He said he hadn’t slept for three nights heading into Friday’s competition. But his gymnasts stepped up to the pressure of being the favorites with a perfect season on the line, taking the pressure off with an opportunity to sweep the individual titles up next.
“I think it just shows a testament, one, to our coaches; and two, to the family that we’ve made,” Farquhar said. “This sport is about making friendship, and your team really is a big part of it because it’s so mental. And I think our team put together a great team this year.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Farmington United gymnasts celebrate repeating as MHSAA Finals champions Friday. (Middle) Farmington teammates watch as Elena Vargo performs her bars routine. (Below) Rockford's Reagan Ammon takes her turn on floor.
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.