Finals Preview: Familiar Competition for No. 1
Finals Preview: Familiar Competition for No. 1
Cheer
Posted Thursday, February 28, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A year ago, Southgate Anderson capped the MHSAA Division 1 Competitive Cheer Final with its first championship. 

This weekend, 22 of the 32 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex also made the Finals last year. But 20 are aspiring to become first-time champions as well. 

The Division 1 Final begins at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by Division 2 at 10 a.m., Division 4 at 2 p.m. and Division 3 at 6 p.m. Saturday. Check back with Second Half throughout the weekend for coverage from all four. 

Headed to the Individual Wrestling or Bowling Finals instead this weekend? No problem. Watch all four Cheer Finals live on MHSAA.tv

Division 1

EAST KENTWOOD
Rank: No. 5
League finish: Second in O-K Red
Coach: Stacy Sheler, 12th season
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recently 2010).
Top score: 777.80 at the District. 
Team composition: 23 total (five seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook:
 The Falcons are coming off a sixth-place finish at last season’s Final. Six of East Kentwood’s last eight scores this winter have been 772 or higher, and the Falcons finished first at five of 12 regular-season events this season. That top score above placed them third at their District.

GRANDVILLE
Rank: No. 7
League finish: Third in the O-K Red
Coach: Julie Smith-Boyd, 32nd season
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recently 2011), seven runner-up finishes.
Top score: 779.70 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 31 total (nine seniors, six juniors, 12 sophomores, four freshmen). 
Outlook:
Grandville returns after finishing eighth at last season’s Final. The Bulldogs won their Regional last week, which was their first first-place finish of this season and came after placing second at their District. The Regional championship was the team’s second during the last five seasons.

HARTLAND
Rank: No. 1
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Kensington Conference
Coach: Amanda Adkins, second season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 785. 02 at the District. 
Team composition: 22 total (three seniors, nine juniors, eight sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook:
 The Eagles soared into this season with five first places in their first six events, and they've never finished lower than third this winter. Two of their top three scores have come over the last two weekends at the District and Regional, and they are poised to move up after finishing fourth at last season’s Final. Senior Carolyn Ventura made the all-state second team in 2012, and seniors Nicole Oliverio and Katie Manley earned honorable mentions.  

HUDSONVILLE
Rank: No. 8
League finish: First in O-K Red
Coach: Amanda Cooper, eighth season
Championship history: Finished runner-up in 2012.
Top score: 792.06 at the District.  
Team composition: 29 total (nine seniors, 17 juniors, three sophomores)
Outlook:
 Hudsonville’s runner-up finish at the 2012 Final was its best ever, and the Eagles kept the momentum by winning all three O-K meets this winter – finishing ahead of two others that are also in Friday night’s field. Hudsonville has broken 783 four times. Seniors Jenna White, Kaitlin Hamacher and Megan Pipe and junior Jazmine Moore made the all-state first team last winter, with junior Casey Raborn making the second team and seniors Nicole Sadler and McKenna Smith earning honorable mentions.

ROCHESTER
Rank: No. 6
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association (Red and overall)
Coach: Susan Wood, 32nd season
Championship history: 12 MHSAA titles (most recently 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Top score: 780.88
Team composition: 29 total (12 seniors, seven juniors, 10 sophomores). 
Outlook:
 Rochester has six first places to its credit this season, including at three in its last four events. This will be the Falcons’ fourth trip to the Finals over the last five seasons, and after finishing seventh a year ago. The DeltaPlex has been good lately to Rochester, which won the 21-team PR Cheer DeltaPlex Meet at the end of the regular season.

ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK
Rank: No. 4
League finish: Third in OAA Red
Coach: Tricia Williams, 10th season
Championship history: Won MHSAA title in 2010. 
Top score: 780.82 
Team composition: 23 total (eight seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores).
Outlook:
 Stoney Creek finished third at last season’s Final, five points off the lead, and bumped its score up 24 points from the District to win its Regional last weekend. That Regional title was the team’s third in four seasons. Junior Kacey Joseph earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

SOUTHGATE ANDERSON
Rank: No. 3
League finish: First in Downriver League
Coach: Colette Norscia, 14th season
Championship history: MHSAA champion in 2012.
Top score: 781.58
Team composition: 25 total (three seniors, 11 juniors, three sophomores, eight freshmen). 
Outlook:
Anderson graduated nine from its first MHSAA champion team, but a large group of juniors bring title-winning experience this weekend. Junior Holly Zmijewski and senior Morgan Farrah made the all-state first team in 2012, while junior Marisa Laginess made the second team and senior Kayla Miletti and junior Brittany Walton earned honorable mentions. Their third place at the Regional was the Titans’ only finish lower than second this winter.

STERLING HEIGHTS STEVENSON
Rank: No. 9
League finish: Second in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Brianna Verdoodt, ninth season
Championship history: MHSAA runner-up in 2011.
Top score: 774.56 
Team composition: 31 total (six seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores, 10 freshmen). 
Outlook:
 After missing last season’s Finals, Stevenson is back to try and improve on its 2011 second-place finish. The Titans won three of their first four events this season, including setting that high score in claiming its division at the Richmond Invitational. 

Division 2

ALLEN PARK
Rank: No. 2
League finish: Third in Downriver League
Coach: Laura Hickman, second season
Championship history: Won MHSAA title in 2010, one runner-up finish.
Top score: 757.56 
Team composition: 22 total (seven seniors, seven juniors, seven sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: A significant number of standouts will lead Allen Park into Saturday after helping the Jaguars to fourth place in 2012. Juniors Nichol Francis and Brianna Lipa made the all-state first team last season, senior Madison Horvath and junior Jamie Furgerson made the second team and senior Adrianna McJunkin and sophomore Shelby Pauley earned honorable mentions. Allen Park opened this season with five straight first-place finishes and hasn't placed lower than third.

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Rank: No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League
Coach: Amber Genevich, eighth season
Championship history: Finished runner-up in 2012 and 2011.
Top score: 776.85 
Team composition: 22 total (six seniors, nine juniors, seven sophomores).
Outlook:
 After finishing second the last two seasons and missing the title last winter by three points, is this the weekend Divine Child wins its first championship? The Falcons broke 770 points in just their third event and have scored 760 or higher over their last four. Seniors Alexandria Greco and Kristen Saunders return after making the all-state first team last season, while seniors Melanie Pierce, Jennifer Cimino and Brianne Pangrazzi made the second and junior Emily Penny earned an honorable mention.

DEWITT
Rank: No. 7
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference (Red and overall)
Coach: Candace Heskitt, fifth season
Championship history: Finished runner-up in 2007.
Top score: 775.44
Team composition: 28 total (seven seniors, seven juniors, five sophomores, nine freshmen).
Outlook:
 The Panthers can boast nine first-place finishes in 12 events this season, and raise their game when it counts most – their current win streak includes their CAAC division and overall titles and wins at their District and Regional. DeWitt finished sixth at last season’s Division 2 Final.

GIBRALTAR CARLSON
Rank: No. 4
League finish: Second in Downriver League
Coach: Danielle Jokela, seventh season
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recently 2012), four runner-up finishes
Top score: 787.98
Team composition: 20 total (five seniors, seven juniors, five sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 Carlson hopes to win its third straight title and fifth in six seasons. The Marauders have won all of their competitions this season except two – they were runners-up in the league and Regional meets – and have scored at least 783 four times. Senior Annie Hajec and junior Maelyn Russo made the all-state first team last season, while junior Chelsea Robb made the second and senior Miranda Colmer earned an honorable mention.

GRAND RAPIDS CHRISTIAN
Rank: Unranked
League finish: First in O-K Bronze/White
Coach:  Jacquie DeJonge, 20th season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 746.66
Team composition: 26 total (eight seniors, nine juniors, seven sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook:
 The Eagles earned this berth by soundly finishing fourth at their Regional ahead of, among others, No. 4 Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills and No. 8 Middleville Thornapple Kellogg. That top score came at the Regional and was only four points out of putting Grand Rapids Christian in second place.

MOUNT PLEASANT
Rank: No. 9
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association
Coach: Alicia Rudoni, second season
Championship history: MHSAA runner-up in 2009.
Top score: 748.56
Team composition: 22 total (seven seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook:
 The Oilers are back at the Finals after falling short at last season’s Regional. Mount Pleasant has only one finish below third place this season, and broke 748 both at the Regional and in winning the Breckenridge Invitational earlier this season.

ST. JOSEPH
Rank: Unranked
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Jenna Ruddell, second season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 765.82
Team composition: 22 total (four seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook:
 Ruddell brings a variety of experiences to the Bears – she’s coached at five high schools and also Central Michigan University and Ferris State – and her knowledge is paying off quickly. She took St. Joseph to the Regional last season, and the Bears raised their performance another level this winter despite a relatively young team. St. Joseph has broken 750 points four times.

WYANDOTTE ROOSEVELT
Rank: No. 6
League finish: Fourth in Downriver League
Coach: Elissa Cumiskey, ninth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 751.72
Team composition: 16 total (two seniors, seven juniors, two sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook:
Roosevelt is making its first Finals appearance since 2008 and has the eighth-highest score in Division 2 this winter. The Bears already have had success in Grand Rapids this season, winning their division of the DeltaPlex Invitational. 

Division 3

COMSTOCK PARK
Rank: No. 6
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Kathy Felty, 20 season
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recently 2011), three runner-up finishes.
Top score: 763.44 
Team composition: 20 total (six seniors, five juniors, seven sophomores, two freshmen). 
Outlook: Comstock Park finished runner-up last season for the second time in three after also winning Division 3 in 2012. Only once this season have the Panthers finished lower than second at a competition, and that was a third against mostly Division 2 competition at the LMCCOA Scholarship Invitational. A number of veterans will try to claim another title, led by returning first-team all-state seniors Emily Geraghty and Christina Arnone and sophomore Brianna Pincombe. Juniors Lisa Egner and Kelsie Barnhart made the all-state second team last season, and sophomores Sabrina Arnone and Hayley Robinson earned honorable mentions.

GROSSE ILE
Rank: No. 5
League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Jayme Judd, third season
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recently 2010), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 736.34
Team composition: 21 total (four seniors, five juniors, seven sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook:
 Grosse Ile finished third at last season’s Final and only two points out of second place. The Red Devils opened this season with six straight victories and have won eight events total so far. A number of standouts could make this another big finish – junior Ciara Nellenbach made the all-state first team last season, with senior Brittany Evans and junior Sydney Sexton made the second and seniors Olivia Koklanaris and Sabhin Butto earned honorable mentions.

LAKE ODESSA LAKEWOOD
Rank: Unranked
League finish: First in CAAC White
Coach: Kim Martin, 18th season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 742.6
Team composition: 18 total (eight seniors, four juniors, two sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook:
 Lakewood frequently is one of the top teams in the mid-Michigan area and has won four straight league titles; the Vikings finished second to only Division 2 qualifier DeWitt at the all-CAAC meet this season. Lakewood upped its score 37 points from the District to place fourth at the Regional ahead of No. 9 Holland Christian and No. 10 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, among others.

OTSEGO
Rank: No. 7
League finish: Second in Wolverine Conference
Coach: Nicole Durr, ninth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 726.82
Team composition: 20 total (six seniors, six juniors, three sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook:
 Otsego is back at the Finals for the first time since 2010 and in part on the strength of a District championship. The Bulldogs shine brightest in Round 3, and their 307.8 this season is the sixth-highest score for that round in Division 3.

OVID-ELSIE
Rank: No. 4
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference
Coach: Katie Calverley, first season
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recently 2005).
Top score: 756.66
Team composition: 14 total (three seniors, four juniors, two sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook:
 Calverley, a member of the 2005 and 2004 Ovid-Elsie MHSAA champion teams, has the Marauders back after they missed the Finals last season. Ovid-Elsie had finished first or second at all of its events this season before taking third at the Regional, but its high score this season also is the fourth-highest in all of Division 3.

PAW PAW
Rank: No. 8
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference
Coach: Stefanie Miller, fourth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 737.08  
Team composition: 21 total (three seniors, six juniors, seven sophomores, five freshmen).  
Outlook:
 Paw Paw will look to build on last season’s sixth-place finish at the Final, and returns all-state second-team senior Tracy Simpkins and honorable mention Kaleigh Davies. Paw Paw finished first or second in all but one event so far this season, and just ahead of Finals qualifier Otsego to win the Wolverine Conference.

PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP
Rank: No. 1
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League
Co-coaches: Beth Campbell and Samantha Mularski, first seasons
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 767.08
Team composition: 26 total (seven seniors, six juniors, seven sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook:
 Campbell – formerly coach at Troy – and Mularski took over a program this winter that finished fourth at last season’s Final and looks like a strong possibility to achieve its first top-two finish. Notre Dame has finished among the top two at all of its events this season and has traded top spots the last two weekends with reigning champion Richmond – Notre Dame won the District and finished second at the Regional. Senior Hannah Genord made the all-state second team last season, and senior Emily Rodriguez and junior Lauren Sadowski earned honorable mentions.

RICHMOND
Rank: No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Coach: Kelli Matthes, fifth season
Championship history: MHSAA champion 2012, runner-up 2011.
Top score: 780.14
Team composition: 19 total (seven seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores, one freshmen).
Outlook:
 Last season’s first-ever championship firmly established Richmond as the Division 3 team to beat – the Blue Devils have won five league, four District and four Regional titles during Matthes’ five seasons. Richmond has scored at least 771 points in each of its last five events. Seniors Ashley Barrett and Joanna Fenwick and junior Tiannah Banks made the all-state first team last season, seniors Alyssa Brickel and Courtney Russell made the second and senior Caity Wright and junior Jessica Bishop earned honorable mentions. 

Division 4

HART
Rank: No. 3
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Jennifer Hlady , sixth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 738.34
Team composition: Six total (three seniors, one junior, one sophomore, one freshman). 
Outlook: Hart is small in number but remains powerful in spirit, and could make a run at a top finish after placing fifth in 2012. The team has finished first or second at all of its events this season, and that high score came in earning the District title. Seniors Alex DuPont and Ariana Ferwerda made the all-state second team last season, and senior Kelsey Mead and junior Stacie Shellhouse earned honorable mentions.

HUDSON
Rank: No. 5
League finish: Fourth in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 21st season
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recently 2010).
Top score: 737.22
Team composition: 16 total (three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook:
 Hudson is back coming off a third-place finish at last season’s Final, and also is coming off its best score this season in finishing second at its Regional. Seniors Payton Darr and Katie Mattison made the all-state first team last season, and senior Amanda Rodriguez made the second.

IRON MOUNTAIN
Rank: No. 7
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Jennifer Nagy-Schneider, fourth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 720.74
Team composition: 11 total (five seniors, three juniors, three sophomores).
Outlook:
 Iron Mountain is one of a strong group of Upper Peninsula teams that qualified in Division 4 and last season finished sixth in Grand Rapids. Iron Mountain’s top Round 1 and 2 scores both rank sixth for the entire division this season. Senior Kassidy Schaut made the all-state second team last season, and senior Cassy Secinaro earned an honorable mention.

MANISTIQUE
Rank: No. 9
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Kim Hayward, 13th season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 708.52
Team composition: 15 total (two seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 Manistique is back at the Finals for the fourth time in five seasons after missing last year. The Emeralds have broken 701 points in three of their last six events, and the high score came in a top finish at the Gaylord Invitational.

MERRILL
Rank: No. 2
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference
Coach: Courtney Schiller, ninth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 745.14 
Team composition: Eight total (three juniors, one sophomore, four freshmen).
Outlook:
 Merrill looks like a strong possibility to make a run at its first MHSAA title with a roster featuring more than 50 percent underclassmen and no seniors. The Vandals have posted the top Round 3 score in Division 4 this season and carriy the highest average team score after cracking 700 points in all of their events. Junior Alanna Peake made the all-state first team last season, junior Alexis Coppins made the second, and junior Paige Glazier earned an honorable mention.

MICHIGAN CENTER
Rank: No. 1
League finish: First in Cascades Conference
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 12th season
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2012).
Top score: 745.62
Team composition: 17 total (one senior, seven juniors, seven sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook:
 Michigan Center is competing for its third straight championship and fourth in five seasons thanks in part to a strong group of leaders – despite only one senior. That senior, Megan Shown, and junior Paula Stone made the all-state first team last season, while junior Paige Rochefort made the second and junior Sierra Sharrer earned an honorable mention. Michigan Center has broken 743 points three times, including in the District and Regional the last two weekends. The Cardinals have won 12 events, and finished runner-up in their other two.

MUNISING
Rank: No. 4
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Cathy Mutter, 21st season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 717.48
Team composition: 13 total (three seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook:
 Munising is returning to the Finals for the first time since 2007 and after winning both its District and Regional. The Mustangs opened this season with six straight first places, and their best scores in each of the three rounds all rank among the top eight in Division 4 this season.

PEWAMO-WESTPHALIA
Rank: No. 8
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Staci Myers, sixth season
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recently 2010), eight runner-up finishes.
Top score: 736.70 
Team composition: Nine total (one senior, seven sophomores, one freshmen).
Outlook:
 The Pirates are regulars at the DeltaPlex – they are tied with two teams for the most Finals appearances, 19 – and finished runners-up last season. And it appears they’re set for at least a few more return trips, with just one senior yet the third-highest average score in Division 4. A number of athletes were big parts of last season’s success. Senior Brianne Schafer and sophomore Jillian Jegla made the all-state first team, sophomores Kim English, Hannah Trierweiler and Marylou Hengesbach made the second, and sophomore Kelseah Trimmer earned an honorable mention. 

PHOTO: Hartland, here competing at last season's Division 1 Final at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex, will attempt to win its first MHSAA championship this weekend. 


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