Finals Preview: Champions Seek 3-Peats
Finals Preview: Champions Seek 3-Peats
Cheer
Posted Friday, February 28, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

All four 2013 MHSAA competitive cheer champions also won their respective divisions in 2012. All four of those champions are back for the Finals this weekend at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex.

But all four likely will face their toughest competition of the last three seasons as they look to extend their respective title streaks.

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. Can’t attend? Watch all four on a subscription basis live on MHSAA.TV.

Division 1

EAST KENTWOOD

Rank: No. 10

League finish: First in O-K Red

Coach: Stacy Sheler, 13th season

Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).

Top score: 789.34 at the District. 

Team composition: 22 total (nine seniors, eight juniors, two sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook:
 The Falcons fell from sixth to eighth over the last two Finals but have posted the top Round 1, Round 3, and overall scores in Division 1 this season – making them the favorite to end Southgate Anderson’s run. Senior Audrianna Rodriguez earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

GRANDVILLE

Rank: No. 3

League finish: Second in the O-K Red

Coach: Julie Smith-Boyd, 33rd season

Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), seven runner-up finishes.

Top score: 783.8. 

Team composition: 32 total (six seniors, 14 juniors, six sophomores, six freshmen). 
Outlook:
Grandville has improved from eighth to fourth over the last two Finals, and its top score also is the second-highest in Division 1 this season. The Bulldogs have three top finishes at events this season but surely would have more if not for the presence of East Kentwood just down the road. Senior Kennedy Westcott made the all-state first team last season, while junior Jasmine Martinez and sophomore Abby Warsen earned honorable mentions.

HARTLAND

Rank: Unranked

League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West

Coach: Amanda Adkins, third season

Championship history: MHSAA runner-up 2013.

Top score: 770.84 at the Regional.

Team composition: 21 total (five seniors, nine juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 The Eagles finished fourth at their Regional, but that top score was 12 points better than their previous best. That should be a strong sign for the team that finished second at last season’s Finals by only 1.9 points after finishing fourth in 2012. Experienced leaders return to the DeltaPlex; seniors Kristina Hollis and Adrian Martino made the all-state first team last season, while juniors Jenna Seychel and Shelby Snider made the second team.

LAKE ORION

Rank: No. 2

League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red

Coach: Niki Hills, first season

Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.

Top score: 781.78

Team composition: 29 total (11 seniors, 12 juniors, three sophomores, three freshmen)
Outlook:
 Hills took over the program this season after formerly cheering for the Dragons and then serving as an assistant coach for 11 seasons. Lake Orion missed last season’s Finals but did finish fifth in 2012. The Dragons get stronger by the round, with the third-highest Round 2 score and second highest Round 3 score in Division 1 this season. Seniors Samantha Wolff, Nicole Murt, Elizabeth Hosang and Elizabeth Francis and sophomore Morgan Duerden earned all-District recognition in 2013.

MACOMB DAKOTA

Rank: No. 6

League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red

Coach: Michela Worthy, eighth season

Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.

Top score: 778.74 at the Regional.

Team composition: 29 total (14 seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen). 
Outlook:
 Worthy had led Dakota to three league titles in four seasons and District championships at the end of the last two, and has plenty of experience at this level – she coached Center Line St. Clement to state-level championships prior to MHSAA sponsorship of the sport in 1978 and 1979. Dakota has seven first-place finishes this season, including at the District. Seniors Reily Malczewski and Heather Colby earned all-Region recognition last season.

ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK

Rank: No. 4

League finish: Third in OAA Red

Coach: Tricia Williams, 11th season

Championship history: MHSAA champion in 2010. 

Top score: 781.94 at the Regional.

Team composition: 25 total (six seniors, nine juniors, seven sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 Stoney Creek has finished third at the last two Division 1 Finals and cut the deficit to only 3.3 points last season. The Cougars have improved their score in each of their last five events and won their Regional and finished second at the previous three meets and six times overall this season. Seniors Kiersten Nielsen and Rachel Hathaway earned all-state honorable mentions last season.

SOUTHGATE ANDERSON

Rank: No. 5

League finish: Second in Downriver League

Coach: Colette Norscia, 15th season

Championship history: MHSAA champion in 2012.

Top score: 781.28 at the Regional.

Team composition: 29 total (seven seniors, six juniors, nine sophomores, seven freshmen). 
Outlook:
Anderson has been building to this weekend with its top two scores coming in a District championship and third place last week at the Regional. The Titans won five other events this season and finished second twice, and own the best score in Round 2 in Division 1 this season. As was the case last season as well, plenty of championship experience returns to Grand Rapids; seniors Marisa Laginess, Madison Small and Holly Zmijewski made the all-state first team in 2013, while seniors Jacklyn Carrico and Haley Evans made the second and seniors Aleta Madera and Brittany Walton and sophomore Amber Droste earned honorable mentions. 

TROY ATHENS

Rank: Unranked

League finish: Fourth in OAA Red.

Co-coaches: Stephanie Brosky, 14th season; Kaja Clark, sixth season

Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.

Top score: 781.46 at the Regional.

Team composition: 23 total (10 seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, one freshmen). 
Outlook:
 Athens may have finished fourth in its league, but the OAA Red is one of the toughest in the state. The Red Hawks have won three events this season, including their District, and are back at the Finals for the first time since 2008 and fourth time under Brosky. Seniors Ty Steele and LeeAnn Lutz and juniors Erica Chow and Holly Bazarewski all earned some level of all-District honors in 2013.

Division 2

ALLEN PARK
Rank: No. 3
League finish: Third in Downriver League
Coach: Laura Hickman, third season
Championship history: MHSAA champion in 2010, one runner-up finish.
Top score: 771.14 at the District. 
Team composition: 22 total (six seniors, 10 juniors, four sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Allen Park finished fourth in 2013 for the second straight season and enters with a season-high score 13 points better than this time a year ago. The Panthers haven’t finished lower than third at a competition this season. Senior Brianna Lipa made the all-state second team last season and the first as a sophomore, and both senior Nicol Francis and junior Courtney Felt earned honorable mentions in 2013.

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Rank: No. 4
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League
Coach: Amber Genevich, ninth season
Championship history: Finished runner-up in 2013, 2012 and 2011.
Top score: 774.96 
Team composition: 24 total (eight seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook:
 Divine Child will try for the fourth straight year to break past Gibraltar Carlson after finishing second to the Marauders the last three seasons, last year by just fewer than 10 points. The Falcons haven’t scored fewer than 736 points since their first event of the season, and their average score of 749-plus ranks fourth in Division 2 this season. Senior Rachael Joseph earned all-state second team honors last week, and seniors Emily Penny and Kelsie Hoffman earned honorable mentions.

DEWITT
Rank: No. 2
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red 
Coach: Candace Heskitt, sixth season
Championship history: MHSAA runner-up in 2007.
Top score: 789.20
Team composition: 28 total (seven seniors, five juniors, 13 sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 DeWitt is poised to win its first championship, entering the weekend with the top scores in all three rounds in Division 2 this season, plus the top scoring average of 789.2 points. The Panthers opened this season scoring 746.18 points in their first event and that ended up being a season low – they also haven’t finished lower than first in any of their 12 competitions, including the District and Regional. Senior Brittney Gordon and sophomore Ashley Wilkinson both earned all-state honorable mentions last season, when DeWitt finished fifth.

GIBRALTAR CARLSON
Rank: No. 1
League finish: First in Downriver League
Coach: Danielle Jokela, eighth season
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), four runner-up finishes
Top score: 783.84
Team composition: 23 total (eight seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores, four freshmen). 
Outlook:
 Carlson continues to stand as the dynasty in MHSAA cheer, with three straight championships and five in six seasons. Carlson has won all of its events so far and finished first in a league that also includes four Finals qualifiers. Senior Maylyn Russo repeated as a first-team all-stater last season, joined by junior Dana Hammill. Senior Kourtney Tyra made the second team, with seniors Sarah Tritt, Kiah Manthei and junior Chalayna Shulaw earning honorable mentions.

MIDDLEVILLE THORNAPPLE KELLOGG
Rank:
 No. 7
League finish:
 First in O-K Gold
Coach: Abby Kanitz, seventh season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 760.48 at the District.
Team composition: 18 total (three seniors, four juniors, five sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook:
 Only once this season did Thornapple Kellogg not finish first or second at a competition, and its top two scores have come during the District and Regional. The Trojans missed last season’s Finals but finished seventh in 2012. Juniors Katie Bowling and Taylor Tyndall, senior Michela Curtis and sophomore Lauren Hager all earned all-District recognition last season.

MUSKEGON MONA SHORES
Rank: No. 9
League finish: Tied for first in O-K Black
Coach: Amanda Heethuis, seventh season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 750.14 in the Regional.
Team composition: 22 total (five seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores, four freshmen). 
Outlook:
 Mona Shores won a share of its first league title under Heethuis, a former Mona Shores cheer athlete. The team has set multiple scoring records this season, including for top overall score while finishing fourth at its Regional. Mona Shores competed in Division 1 in 2013. 

ST. JOSEPH
Rank: No. 5
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Jenna Ruddell, third season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 776.40
Team composition: 21 total (eight seniors, six juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen). 
Outlook:
 Ruddell has led St. Joseph to two straight MHSAA Finals, and the Bears finished seventh in Division 2 last season. They’ve scored at least 750 points four times, including in winning the District, and their top score this season came in the SMAC championship meet. Senior Elizabeth Reimers made the all-state second team in 2013. 

TRENTON
Rank: Unranked
League finish: Seventh in Downriver League 
Coach: Melissa Cabauatan, sixth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 742.78 at the Regional.
Team composition: 16 total (five seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook:
 Cabauatan, a former Trenton cheerleader, has led the Trojans as they have improved their overall score nearly 100 points since their first meet this season. Their top three scores this season have come in their last three events, including fourth-place finishes at the District and Regional. Juniors Brittany Vinca, Mackenzie Mrla, Jordan Price, Loriana Del Pizzo and sophomore Erika Brower earned all-District recognition in 2013.

Division 3

ARMADA
Rank:
 Unranked
League finish:
 Second in Blue Water Area Conference
Coach:
 Tammi St. Onge, third season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 747.88 at the District.
Team composition: 
22 total (five seniors, one junior, 11 sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook:
 More than half of Armada’s roster is underclassmen, but it ranks among the top 10 in Division 3 both for overall top score and average score this season. The Tigers just missed the Finals last season, finishing fifth at their Regional. Armada finished third at both its District and Regional this season.

COMSTOCK PARK
Rank:
 No. 1
League finish:
 First in O-K Blue
Coach: 
Kathy Felty, 21st season
Championship history:
 Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), three runner-up finishes.
Top score:
 773.40
Team composition: 
20 total (five seniors, nine juniors, one sophomore, four freshmen).
Outlook:
 Comstock Park moved down from second in 2012 to fourth at last season’s Final but is a regular contender and enters this weekend with the top overall score in Division 3 this season and the top average score of nearly 753 points per competition. The Panthers won all but one of their events this winter, finishing runner-up once. Junior Brianna Pincombe made the all-state first team last season for the second straight, while junior Hayley Robinson made the second team and senior Sabrina Pincombe and junior Sabrina Arnone earned honorable mentions.

GROSSE ILE
Rank:
 No. 4
League finish:
 First in Huron League
Coach: 
Lauren Majewski, first season
Championship history:
 Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), one runner-up finish.
Top score:
 748.64
Team composition: 
17 total (six seniors, five juniors, two sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook:
 Grosse Ile finished third at last season’s Final for the second straight. The Red Devils should make a run at the same with their top scores for each round ranking among the top 10 in Division 3 this season. Senior Ciara Nellenbach made the all-state first team last season, with seniors Olivia Koklanaris and Sydney Sexton making the second and junior Annie Rodgers earning an honorable mention.

HOWARD CITY TRI-COUNTY
Rank:
 Unranked
League finish:
 First in Lakes 8 Conference
Coach: 
Jennifer Laskey, eighth season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 724.76 in the Regional.
Team composition: 
19 total (eight seniors, four juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook:
 Laskey helped create the Tri-County program and has served as coach throughout its history, having been named Lakes 8 Conference Coach of the Year three times. This season’s team has improved its overall score in each of its most recent five events. A number of veterans have been building toward this next step; seniors Alex Hershberger, Michaela Lytle, Jordin Rubingh, Opal Tae and Baylee Zemla, juniors Morgan DeVault and Emily Rienks and sophomore Jamie VanSetters all earned all-District recognition in 2013.

OTSEGO
Rank:
 No. 10
League finish:
 First in Wolverine Conference
Coach: 
Nicole Durr, 10th season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 730.64
Team composition: 
20 total (10 seniors, two juniors, seven sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 Otsego finished seventh last season in its first Finals appearance since 2010, and could be poised to move up the standings led by a sizable group of seniors. Otsego ranks 10th in Division 3 in average score at nearly 712 points per meet, but has scored at least 718 in eight straight events. Senior Taylor Owczarczak earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

PAW PAW
Rank:
 Unranked
League finish:
 Second in Wolverine Conference
Coach: 
Stefanie Miller, fifth season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 736.2 at the Regional.
Team composition: 
24 total (six seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 Paw Paw has finished sixth at the last two MHSAA Finals and put up the sixth-highest Round 2 score in Division 3 this season. Paw Paw finished first or second in all but two events this winter, and improved from third at its District to second at its Regional. Senior Dani Elmore, juniors Chloe Bogema and Emily Mortimer and sophomores Shauntel Krum and Elena Schafer all earned all-Region recognition last season.

PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP
Rank:
 No. 2
League finish:
 Second in Detroit Catholic High School League
Co-coaches: 
Beth Campbell, second season
Championship history:
 MHSAA runner-up 2013.
Top score:
 764.42
Team composition: 
26 total (six seniors, seven juniors, seven sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook:
 Campbell has led Notre Dame to fourth and then second-place finishes the last two seasons, and could have the team that can break Richmond’s two-year hold on the title. The Fighting Irish have won District and Regionals the last two weeks over the reigning Finals champ. Notre Dame is loaded with experience, led by reigning all-state first-team senior Maggie Crowe, second-team seniors Lauren Sadowski and Alyssa Chojnacki and junior Alysa Gonzalez, and junior honorable mentions Olivia Riley and Morgan Gales.

RICHMOND
Rank:
 No. 7
League finish:
 First in Blue Water Area Conference
Co-coaches: 
Kelli Matthes, sixth season; Melana Fenwick, first season
Championship history:
 MHSAA champion 2013 and 2012, runner-up 2011.
Top score:
 749.42
Team composition: 
16 total (three seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, eight freshmen).
Outlook:
 This team is much different in make-up than Richmond’s back-to-back champions; whereas last year’s had 14 upperclassmen, this team has six but eight freshmen. They have strong leaders, however; senior Tiannah Banks made the all-state first team last season for the second straight, and juniors Sarahanne Marshall and Angel Deal made the second team. The Blue Devils have posted Round 1 and 2 scores among the top six in Division 3 this season and scored at least 702 points in all but one event.  

Division 4

BRECKENRIDGE
Rank: 
No. 6
League finish:
 Second in Tri-Valley Conference West
Co-coaches: 
Deb Gaines, 15th season; Jenna Graham, sixth season
Championship history:
 Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2007), one runner-up finish.
Top score:
 730.28
Team composition:
12 total (eight sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook:
 Breckenridge is one of the most successful cheer programs in MHSAA history, but didn’t have a competitive team the last six seasons – until returning this winter and advancing to the Final with all underclassmen. The Huskies have posted scores in all three rounds that rank among the top nine in Division 4 this season.

HOUGHTON LAKE
Rank:
 No. 9
League finish:
 First in Jack Pine Conference
Coach: 
Celeste Kubiak, eighth season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 715.68
Team composition: 
11 total (one senior, six juniors, four sophomores).
Outlook:
 Houghton Lake has won league titles all eight seasons under Kubiak and three straight District championships before advancing to this Final with a third-place Regional finish. The Bulldogs finished first or second in all of their other competitions this season. The team competed in Division 3 in 2012-13, when juniors Lauren Hooper, Vanessa Wallace, Brooklyn Cryderman, Julia Hallauer and Amanda Garcia and sophomore Ashley Leahy all earned all-District recognition.

HUDSON
Rank:
 No. 10
League finish:
 Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: 
Kelly Bailey, 17th season
Championship history:
 Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).
Top score:
 759.76
Team composition: 
19 total (four seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook:
 Hudson is coming off back-to-back third-place Finals finishes and enters this weekend with a top score 20 points better than at this point a year ago. The Tigers have scored at least 706 points in their last five competitions and their best is the second-best in all of Division 4. Junior Paige Darr and sophomore Sabrina Turner made the all-state second team last season, and junior Cassee Milligan and sophomore Takota Voetzke earned honorable mentions.

MANISTIQUE
Rank:
 No. 5
League finish:
 Does not compete in a league.
Coach:
 Kim Hayward, 14th season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 713.66
Team composition: 
12 total (two seniors, six juniors, two sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook:
 Manistique is back at the Finals for the fifth time in six seasons and has posted two of its top three scores this season in the District and Regional. Also, the Emeralds improved from third at their District to second and their Regional. Junior Becca Bowers made the all-state second team last season.

MERRILL
Rank:
 No. 1
League finish:
 First in Tri-Valley Conference West
Coach: 
Courtney Schiller, 10th season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 748.2 in the District.
Team composition: 
Nine total (three seniors, one junior, four sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook:
 Merrill finished fourth last season and could make a run at a first-ever top-two finish. The Vandals' average score of nearly 733 points is five more than any other team in Division 4. More than half the team earned all-state recognition in 2013; seniors Alexis Coppens and Alanna Peake made the first team, senior Paige Glazier and sophomore Samantha Brandi made the second and junior Vyky Lambin and sophomore Ashley Rich earned honorable mentions.

MICHIGAN CENTER
Rank:
 No. 2
League finish:
 First in Cascades Conference
Coach: 
Jessica Trefry, 13th season
Championship history:
 Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2013).
Top score:
 771.16
Team composition: 
19 total (six seniors, eight juniors, five sophomores).
Outlook:
 Michigan Center has won three straight MHSAA titles and has to be the favorite to make it four with the top Round 1, 2 and overall scores in Division 4. The Cardinals have broken 740 points five times and have won eight straight competitions. Michigan Center is loaded with veterans; seniors Paula Stone, Paige Rochefort, Sierra Sharrer, and Jorddin Landenberger and junior Michele Martin all made the all-state first team last season, with sophomores Victoria Corwin and Olivia Manke making the second and senior Alyson Sprang and junior Ashley Sierminski earning honorable mentions.

MUNISING
Rank:
 No. 7
League finish:
 Does not compete in a league.
Coach: 
Nicole Lasak, first season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score:
 723.88 in the District.
Team composition: 
10 total (two seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook:
 Munising has three fewer athletes this season than last and a new coach, but enters with a higher top score than at this time a year ago. Lasak coached as a varsity assistant and the lower levels under former coach Cathy Mutter for nine years. The Mustangs finished fifth at last season’s Final, with senior Brianna Weaver making the all-state second team.

VANDERCOOK LAKE
Rank:
 No. 4
League finish:
 Second in Cascades Conference
Coach: Sarah DuBois, eighth season
Championship history:
 Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish
Top score:
 751.81
Team composition:
23 total (10 seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook:
 Vandercook Lake emerged from one of the toughest Regionals in the state – finishing second to Michigan Center – and has scored at least 735 points four times this season. The Jayhawks rank among the top four in Division 4 in top scores for all three rounds, overall and average score. Seniors Mackenzie Hunt, Brooke Sparks, Kassandra Ryan, Brittney Ostrowski and Amber Globensky all earned all-Region recognition in 2013.

PHOTO: Troy Athens, competing earlier this season, is back at the MHSAA Finals for the first time since 2008. (Photo courtesy of Troy Athens cheer.)


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