By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
As one might imagine, six straight weekends of MHSAA Finals produce enough highlights to distract us from our seemingly endless Michigan winters.
As explained to preface “10 to Remember” many times before, all championships are lifetime memories for those who achieved them. Those listed below are just one person’s thoughts on which moments from this season will continue to be discussed most in the seasons to come.
Birmingham Brother Rice repeated as Lower Peninsula Division 1 swimming and diving champion, and did so by winning by more than 100 points for the second consecutive season. But what made this Warriors finish so impressive was that it didn’t include a single individual championship – they won the opening and closing relays of the meet and took seven second-place individual finishes along the way.
Flint Kearsley varsity bowlers are guaranteed one other title this season – MHSAA champions. Both the girls and boys teams won team titles in Division 2, just as they had in 2014. The Kearsley girls again defeated Bay City Western in the championship match, this time by a mere 30 pins, 1,242-1,212. The Kearsley boys also earned their title by defeating Bay City Western, and by only seven pins – 1,351-1,344.
Rockford hosted the MHSAA Gymnastics Finals, making the cliché “bringing home the title” a short trip – twice. The Rams, a co-op with Sparta, won the team competition by 1.750 points over reigning champion Canton; Rockford’s only other MHSAA gymnastics championship also was the first in any sport in school history, in the Lower Peninsula in 1989. Juniors Madi Myers and Morgan Korf led the effort with the third and fourth-highest all-around scores of the Team Final – and Korf came back the next day with a stunning move to take the Division 1 individual championship. She had finished 18th in Division 1 as a sophomore.
In its second season back as a competitive program, Breckenridge added to its stature as one of the most powerful competitive cheer programs in MHSAA history by claiming the Division 4 championship by nearly 24 points over runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia. Breckenridge has won eight MHSAA titles in cheer, but didn’t have a team for six seasons because of low participation until bringing back the program for 2013-14.
First Detroit Western International won its first Detroit Public School League championship since 1922. Then it made its first MHSAA Semifinals since 1974. The Cowboys capped this season with its first MHSAA Final victory, a nail-biter 62-59 over Saginaw Arthur Hill in Class A. Western also defeated Detroit Catholic League A-B champion Detroit U-D Jesuit in the Semifinal, and finished the season 26-0.
No team traveled farther to the MHSAA Basketball Finals than the Calumet girls – and it can be argued that no team came from farther away in expectation to become an MHSAA champion. The unranked Copper Kings traveled more than 500 miles to arrive at the Breslin Center, then defeated top-ranked Laingsburg in a Class C Semifinal and perennial power Flint Hamady in the championship game to claim its first MHSAA title in the sport.
Richmond’s Devin Skatzka and Davison’s Lincoln Olson pushed the list of MHSAA four-time individual champions to 21 by finishing their careers with big victories. Olson actually was the 20th, winning his match at 135 pounds by technical fall in Division 1. Skatzka then became No. 21 with four MHSAA titles, with a technical fall in the 160-pound match in Division 3.
Few Finals in any sport this winter carried the drama of Brighton’s 31-25 win over Hartland in Division 1 wrestling. Bulldogs 112-pounder Lee Grabowski entered the final match carrying his team’s three-point lead but facing the scenario that if he lost even by decision, and the team score went to 28-28, Brighton would lose the tie-breaker. Oh, and Grabowski was facing an opponent he’d lost to twice in league competition earlier in the winter. Grabowski won a 4-2 decision this time, and Brighton won its first team title.
Wyoming Godwin Heights and Powers North Central made the MHSAA record book by adding to a pair of the most successful three-season runs in boys basketball history – and capping them with championships. Godwin Heights won its first MHSAA title, downing Detroit Henry Ford 85-68 in the Class B Final, to finish the last three seasons a combined 74-5. North Central, meanwhile, downed Morenci 67-47 in Class D to win its first title since 1984 and cap a three-season 75-5 run.
St. Ignace trailed undefeated Pittsford by 20 points two minutes into the Class D Final when it launched a comeback equaled by only one other team in MHSAA girls basketball history. The Saints tied the score with 35 seconds to play in regulation and continued the rally in the extra period to claim a 64-60 title-clinching victory. Detroit Cass Tech, in the 1987 Class A Final, also had come back from 20 down in the third quarter to win. The championship was St. Ignace’s fifth in girls basketball.
PHOTO: St. Ignace basketball players celebrate after the Saints tied the largest comeback in MHSAA Finals history on the way to claiming the Class D title. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Sophia Wagner ♦ Escanaba
Senior ♦ Gymnastics
In just her team’s second competition this season, Wagner set program records with a 9.8 on floor exercise and 37.380 all-around to finish first in both at the Escanaba Elks Invitational. The floor exercise record topped the previous Escanaba-best 9.7 scored by current senior teammate Sophie Lehto last season.
Escanaba’s gymnastics program has made major statewide strides over the last half-decade, and Wagner reached the Finals podium last season tying for fifth on Division 2 balance beam with a score of 9.025 while also tying for 22nd on vault. The week before, Wagner helped lead Escanaba to a sixth-place Regional finish against a field that included the last two Finals team champions. She also played tennis and was part of the No. 3 doubles runner-up as Escanaba shared the Upper Peninsula Division 1 team title this fall, and she finished second in pole vault and ran on the seventh-place 400-meter relay in the spring as Escanaba finished third at the UPD1 Girls Track & Field Finals.
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Past 2023-24 Honorees
Dec. 1: Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24: Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17: Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10: Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27: Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20: Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13: Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5: Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29: MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22: Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15: Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8: Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1: Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report
(Photos courtesy of Victory Video and Photography.)