By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
ROCKFORD – As one champion capped a weekend Saturday that couldn’t have gotten much better, another potentially got started on what could turn into one of the most impressive runs in MHSAA history.
Yes, that’s a pretty strong statement. But Grosse Pointe United’s Cate Gagnier is only a freshman – and one who already owns a Division 1 gymnastics championship.
Gagnier posted an all-around 37.225 at Rockford High School to claim it, also finishing first on balance beam and vault with matching 9.525 scores.
A Level 8 club gymnast before joining the high school team this winter, Gagnier cleared the field by nearly three quarters of a point, making a nice jump after finishing runner-up at her Regional a week ago to Port Huron United senior Hallie Roman.
The two switched spots this time, Roman finishing runner-up, as they shared a rotation and drove each other to high marks all afternoon.
“I knew I was kind’ve good, but I didn’t know I was the best,” said Gagnier, a student at Grosse Pointe North. “I stuck all my skills. I didn’t fall on anything. I smiled on floor (exercise), with helps a lot, actually.
“(Roman’s) really nice. We were cheering each other on. It was really fun. She’s really good, so I felt like, ‘Oh my, I’ve got to do good.’”
Roman scored a 36.550, moving up from 12th in 2017 to second. Livonia Blue senior Aniessa Conway (36.450) and Northville senior Erin McCallum (36.150) finished third and fourth, respectively, and another freshman – Grand Ledge’s Elizabeth Maurer – came in fifth (35.975) in Division 1.
Gagnier, who also won vault and beam at her Regional, said the big difference between club and her first high school season was the amount of jumps she had to master. The smiling was something her coaches have been reminding her to do as well.
She helped the team to a league championship in mid-February, but GPU fell just short of making Friday’s Team Final by finishing fourth at its Regional. Coach Kristin Remillet could tell Gagnier was disappointed she couldn’t will her entire team to the final weekend of the season, but she made the most of her individual opportunity.
“She has won some of the really big invitationals so far this school year and this season, and so I was very hopeful for her,” Remillet said. “But it’s her first year. I was not going in thinking that it would be quite the performance that she got today. She was shining the entire day.”
So too was Farmington United senior Elisa Bills, who provided an encore to her Division 2 championship a year ago and after helping her team Friday to its first MHSAA title since 2006.
Bills had injured a ligament in her right knee midway through the regular season and missed a month before competing again all-around for the first time at her Regional.
But she posted the highest all-around score at the Team Final, and followed that up with a 37.175 on Saturday to edge runner-up Morgan Case of Rockford (36.825).
Bills placed among the top seven on all four apparatus, finishing first in Division 2 on beam (9.575) – not bad for admitting after that there was a time she wasn’t sure she’d make it back to full speed before the season was done.
“Winning as a team was the one thing I wanted this year. This adding on top of it really made the weekend so special and an amazing way to end the season and my career in gymnastics,” said Bills, a student at North Farmington.
“I went into today as my last time competing having fun. I was kinda like, ‘It would be nice again’ – but just trying to enjoy the day, and I did. I had a blast my last time, and it really showed off.”
Conway won the Division 1 title on uneven parallel bars with a score of 9.400, and Salem senior Jordyn Williams won the floor exercise with a 9.800 – which tied two others for the MHSAA Division 1 Finals record in that event.
Case, a junior, won the Division 2 floor with a 9.600, which tied for third highest in meet history. Bills’ beam score tied for fourth-best ever at a Division 2 Final. Howell sophomore Taylor Gillespie won vault at 9.450, and Rockford junior Ashley Faulkner won bars at 9.050.
Linden/Fenton/Lake Fenton senior Blake Hutchins and Farmington United junior Kacey Noseworthy tied for fourth in the Division 2 all-around at 36.575, and Rockford junior Reagan Ammon was fifth at 36.325.
PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Pointe United’s Cate Gagnier begins her floor exercise routine during Saturday’s Finals. (Middle) Port Huron United’s Hallie Roman goes aerial during her floor routine. (Below) Farmington United Elisa Bills performs on balance beam. (Click for more from 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.