D4 Preview: Breckenridge Ready to Repeat
D4 Preview: Breckenridge Ready to Repeat
Cheer
Posted Friday, March 4, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Breckenridge returned to the elite of MHSAA competitive cheer last season and remains the team to beat at this weekend’s Division 4 Final.

But although the Huskies ended Michigan Center’s four-season hold on the championship in 2015, they must again hold off the Cardinals and six more contenders seeking their first Finals title.

Following are glances at all eight Division 4 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis

BRECKENRIDGE
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Co-coaches: Deb Gaines, 31st season; Jenna Graham, eighth season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 767.34.
Team composition: 18 total (seven seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Breckenridge completed its program comeback by winning Division 4 last year, and a repeat this weekend might signal a start of another run like the four straight titles won during the mid-2000s. The Huskies won all of their events this season except the Ovid-Elsie Invitational, where they finished second, and have scored 760 or more points four times – they’ve posted the high score in Division 4 in every round, and their average overall score of 739.90 is 21.2 points ahead of the next highest. Two-thirds of the current roster received all-state honors last season: senior Lindsey Reichard, juniors Madison Smith, Alexandria Gillis and Harley Conklin and sophomores Kasey Conn and Anyssa Betancourt made the first team; seniors Katie Mortensen and Dakota Colthorp and junior Lena Crowell made the second team; and seniors Kaitlyn Corson, Paige Guthrie and Alicia Gutierrez earned honorable mention.

FARWELL
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Second in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Taylor Bryant, fourth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 704.36.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Farwell has posted its top three overall scores over its last three events and emerged from the strong Jack Pine Conference to reach the Finals for the first time under Bryant. The Eagles emerged from a Regional that included No. 11 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian and haven’t finished lower than fourth at an event this season. Seniors Michelle Boyd, Reagan Douglas and Halaina Laverty earned all-district recognition last season.

HOUGHTON LAKE
Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Celeste Kubiak, 11th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 741.48.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Houghton Lake is looking to take the next step after improving from sixth to fifth over the last two Finals and has won 10 of 13 events this winter, never finishing lower than fourth. The Bobcats’ top round scores this season all rank among the top five in Division 4, and the Round 1 best of 231 points is second only to Breckenridge’s top score, and by less than a point. Seniors Ali Juillerat, Ashley Leahy, Miki Maze and Sarah McNeill and sophomore Jessica Whelpley earned all-district recognition last season.

HUDSON
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 19th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2010). 
Top score: 733.18.
Team composition: 21 total (nine seniors, six juniors, five sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Hudson has finished third, third, third and fourth in Division 4 the last four seasons and has scored more than 700 points 11 times this winter to build the third-highest average total score in the division of 712.8. All three top round scores rank among the top eight in the division, and the Tigers could make their biggest push in Round 2. Senior Takota Voelzke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Alex Smith made the second team with junior Bobbi Selix receiving honorable mention.

MERRILL
Rank: No. 4.
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Coach: Courtney Schiller, 11th season.
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2014.
Top score: 737.98.
Team composition: 10 total (four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: After a year away, the 2014 runner-up will return to the Finals, and has shined on the way while sharing a league with favorite Breckenridge. All three of the Vandals’ top round scores rank among the top five in Division 4, and their average overall score of 718.7 is second in the division. While Merrill finished first at only one event, it placed lower than second just three times and never lower than fourth.

MICHIGAN CENTER
Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 15th season.
Championship history: Five Division 4 titles (most recent 2014). 
Top score: 750.10. 
Team composition: 16 total (six seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Michigan Center followed up its string of four straight Division 4 championships with a third-place finish a year ago, and has finished lower than second in an event only once this season. The Cardinals’ nine events won included the District, and they finished second at their Regional only to top-ranked Breckenridge. Their best round scores for all three rank among the top four in the division. Seniors Victoria Corwin and Olivia Manke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Allison Hatt made the second team.

SANFORD MERIDIAN EARLY COLLEGE
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Third in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Val MacKenzie, 22nd season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 721.92 at the Regional.
Team composition: 10 total (three seniors, seven freshmen). 
Outlook: Meridian gives the Jack Pine Conference its third team at the Finals and in this division. The Mustangs won four events this winter including the Regional ahead of league opponents No. 5 Houghton Lake and Farwell. The team owns the ninth-best Round 2 score in the division this season, and that Regional score was more than 18 points better than what the team posted in finishing second at the District. Senior Courtney Wasalaski earned all-district honorable mention in 2015.

SHELBY
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Tied for first in West Michigan Conference. 
Coach: Penny Grinage-Guy, 18th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 711.98.
Team composition: 20 total (eight seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Shelby is back at the Finals for the second straight season and looking to improve on its eighth-place finish in 2015 after winning a District title and finishing third at its Regional. The Tigers ran off a string of eight first or second-place finishes over their first 10 events and have posted their top three scores of the season over their last three meets. Sophomore Sophie Clark is a returning all-state first-teamer, while senior Elizabeth Kelly made the second team last season and senior Brittany Shellhouse earned honorable mention.

PHOTO: Breckenridge begins its Round 3 routine on the way to winning last season’s Division 4 championship.


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