By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Nine teams won their first MHSAA championships this spring. Birmingham Brother Rice's boys lacrosse team won its ninth in a row.
And those are only among the toppers of the long list that made memorable moments during this season's Finals, which finished up the school year two weekends ago.
Locking down the 10 most significant performances is impossible. But endeavoring to do so, here are one person's guess at those that will continue to be discussed most in the years to come.
Among those that just missed this list: Brother Rice boys lacrosse, St. Ignace's girls track and field team after winning its fourth straight team title, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett's baseball team after its extra-innings Final win over Beal City, Grandville Calvin Christian's girls soccer team after winning a rematch of last season's Division 4 Final and Port Huron Northern's girls tennis team after it emerged from a loaded field to win the Lower Peninsula Division 1 title.
Sami Michell Shines Once More
In her final high school meet, Reed City senior Sami Michell won four more MHSAA Finals individual titles to finish her career with 12 – two more than the previous Lower Peninsula record. A year after becoming the second female to win four events at one Finals meet, she did so again by finishing first in the 100 and 300-meter hurdles, the 200 dash and the long jump. She scored 40 points to claim the team runner-up trophy for her school. Click to read more.
Best Class of All-Time?
That could be the argument for this season’s girls track and field seniors, as twins Hannah and Haley Meier and Erin Finn joined Sami Michell, Detroit Country Day's Kendall Baisden and a host of others in finishing their careers. The Meiers already are members of a national record-holding relay (which set its milestone in 2012), and Hannah won two more Division 1 individual titles (setting all-Finals records) while Haley placed in the same two races and joined her sister on two winning relays. West Bloomfield’s Finn, considered as well one of the nation’s top high school distance runners, finished third to the Meiers in the Division 1 1,600 before cutting nine seconds off her 2012 time in setting an all-Finals record in the 3,200. Click to read more.
Warriors Earn First Title for Winning Coach
Bay City Western’s baseball team strung together two 1-0 shutouts by pitchers Brett Adcock and then Connor Foley to claim its first MHSAA baseball championship – and the first to go with coach Tim McDonald’s other 563 wins over the last 21 seasons. The 1-0 championship game victory over Brother Rice was Western's 35th straight of the season; Western finished 42-2. Click to read more.
Gull Lake Soccer Makes Mark
Richland Gull Lake hadn’t played in a girls soccer Final since 1999, but survived two overtimes against reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Marian to win the Division 2 championship game 1-0. The title was Gull Lake’s first since 1992 and came against a program that not only won in 2012, but three of the last five Division 2 championships. Click to read more.
Upper Peninsula Ace Shoots Record Round
Snow and rain put a damper on a good portion of the girls golf season in the Upper Peninsula this spring. But no U.P. female golfer has ever finished as strongly as Marquette’s Avery Rochester. She claimed her second straight individual Finals championship with a U.P. Finals-record 69, which was three under par at Portage Lake Golf Course in Houghton. Her score also was just one more stroke than the all-Finals record of 68 shot by Grandville’s Stacy Snider in 1998. Click to read more.
7 ... 2 ... 1 ... Champion Tecumseh
Tecumseh entered the MHSAA Tournament after finishing the regular season an honorable mention in the Division 2 softball coaches poll. But the Indians defeated No. 1 Stevensville Lakeshore in the Quarterfinal, reigning champion and No. 2 Livonia Ladywood in the Semifinal and No. 7 Saginaw Swan Valley in the Final to claim their first championship since 2008. Click to read more.
Bishop Foley Sets Baseball Bar
Madison Heights Bishop Foley claimed its third straight Division 3 baseball championship to become the first in MHSAA baseball history to win that many consecutive titles. Bishop Foley is 112-8-1 over the last three seasons and finished 35-2-1 this spring. The Ventures outscored their Bailey Park competition by a combined 18-5 over Finals weekend – getting junior Garrett Schilling to 15-0 for this season and 31-0 for his career with a 6-0 Semifinal win. Click to read more.
Done Deal for Dundee
The Dundee softball team eliminated two-time reigning champion Clinton on the way to Bailey Park this spring, and then beat three-time champion Unionville-Sebewaing in the Division 3 Final to claim its first MHSAA championship in the sport. In the process, Dundee finished 45-1 – setting an MHSAA record for wins in a softball season. Click to read more.
Troy Moves Up to No. 1
After two-straight Division 1 runner-up finishes, Troy earned its first girls soccer championship since 2003 with a 2-1 Final win over Grandville. The Colts had been outscored a combined 3-0 in the last two MHSAA Division 1 Finals, and began this season 3-6-2 before rattling off 15 wins and a tie on the way to claiming the championship. Click to read more.
Tie-Breaker After Heart-Breaker
The Battle Creek Lakeview boys golf team had finished one stroke behind Birmingham Brother Rice at the 2012 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final, and found itself tied with Plymouth this month after the final round was complete. But thanks to a fifth-player tie-breaker, Lakeview claimed its first MHSAA championship since 2008. Click to read more.
KALAMAZOO – There’s nothing quite like the roar of a crowd after your team has clinched an MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals title.
That’s true whether it’s for title No. 1, or, in the case of Casey Engle and his Lowell teammates Saturday, for their program’s 11th-straight Division 2 championship.
“It’s unreal,” Engle said. “It’s something I look forward to every year.”
Lowell extended its record run of wrestling team titles by defeating Freeland 49-21 in the Division 2 Final at Wings Events Center.
The Red Arrows joined the Grosse Pointe South (1976-86) and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (1980-90) girls tennis programs in winning 11 straight Finals titles. Only East Grand Rapids boys swimming & diving, winning 15 straight from 1948-62, and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice boys lacrosse – with 13 straight from 2005-17 – have longer Finals championship streaks in Lower Peninsula or statewide competition.
“I mean, it’s possible (to reach 15),” said sophomore Jarrett Smith, whose pin at 106 pounds clinched the title. “It’s hard to predict that far, four years into the future. We’re losing some key guys, but we graduated 14 last year, five this year, so we’re returning some firepower.”
Lowell is always returning firepower, and it’s consistently adding it, too, giving new waves of Red Arrows the chance to raise a wooden mitten.
That’s why for coach RJ Boudro, each title remains just as sweet as the last.
“Why would it get old?” said Boudro, who has been in charge for 10 of those titles. “Look at the crowd. When I first walked in here, I looked up, and you see that we have more fans here than anybody else, and that’s what it’s about. Next year will be fun, too. When you can still bring crowds in and you can do it 11 years in a row, there’s more to that than just winning. If it was just about winning, why else would they come? They would probably think it was a foregone conclusion. They love the kids; they love the community.”
One could forgive an outsider for believing it’s a foregone conclusion when Lowell takes the mat for the Division 2 postseason, as it’s won the Final by more than 20 points in each of the past five seasons and in seven of its 11 straight championship victories.
So to avoid that feeling creeping into his wrestling room, Boudro makes it clear the Red Arrows’ responsibility isn’t just to win on the mat, but to strive for something bigger.
“We’re not doing it to just win state championships,” Boudro said. “We’re trying to find out who we are, we’re trying to be better men, better women, better coaches. So, it’s not just about winning, it’s about being a better person. Whether I’m a coach or a kid, just trying to find a way to be better. When you’re doing that all the time, you get better, but you feel like you have a purpose. Every single guy on the team feels like they have a purpose, and that’s really important.”
Just 14 wrestlers can step onto the mat in a single dual, and the same number is the max a team can enter into the individual postseason, so accomplishing that can sometimes be as tough as anything else for Lowell wrestlers, and certainly helps motivate them throughout the season – foregone conclusions or not.
“One of our signs up there I saw, it says, ‘Tradition never graduates,’ and it’s true,” Smith said. “We just keep the kids coming. Even our B Team, C Team are competing at the highest level. At the beginning of Districts, we had 17 ranked guys, and you can only send 14. So we have just great partners all around.”
Freeland, meanwhile, was making its first appearance in a Final, after getting to the Quarterfinals for the third time in program history.
“Outstanding. Outstanding. They’ve been giving their all every match,” Freeland coach Scott VanLuven said. “They’ve been doing it all year. We beat Brighton, we weren’t supposed to. We beat (Bay City) John Glenn in our conference, then we had to beat them again in our District Final when we weren’t supposed to. No one gave us really a chance down here, I think. But they believed, and they did well.”
The Falcons (25-3) still had a shot with three matches to go, trailing 31-21. But Smith put a quick end to that with his pin at 106, and that was followed by a pair of pins from Cole and Carter Cichocki at 113 and 120, respectively.
Of the Arrows’ nine wins in the dual, eight came by either pin or technical fall, as Jackson Blum (138), Jared Boone (165) and Engle (190) also won by pinfall. Logan Dawson (132) and Owen Segorski (144) each won by tech. Cody Foss (126) opened the dual with a win by decision for Lowell (22-3).
Fabian Facundo (150) and Bringham Smith (285) each won by pin for Freeland, while Noah Graham (157), Gibson Shepard (175) and Elijah Murphy (215) all won by decision.
PHOTOS (Top) Lowell’s Cole Cichocki, left, lines up against Freeland’s Michael Wilson at 113 pounds Saturday. (Middle) The Falcons’ Elijah Murphy, left, locks up Lowell’s Ari McFarland at 215. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)