D2 Preview: Contenders Chasing Carlson
D2 Preview: Contenders Chasing Carlson
Cheer
Posted Friday, March 3, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Saturday’s Division 2 Competitive Cheer Final will have a nice mix of familiar and new – even as the favorite is one of the most dominant powerhouses in the history of the sport.

Gibraltar Carlson has won six straight championships, and Allen Park is expected to make the greatest push after also finishing second last winter. But three more of eight teams at Saturday morning’s 10 a.m. competition will be taking the mat at the Finals for the first time.

Following are glances at all eight Division 2 teams competing. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

ALLEN PARK
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in Downriver League.
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 12th season. 
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2010, runner-up 2016 and 2008. 
Top score: 789.12.
Team composition: 25 total (six seniors, eight juniors, eight sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Allen Park improved from fourth in 2015 to second last winter, and its top score heading into this weekend is seven points higher than at this time a year ago. The Jaguars have finished first or second in every competition this season except when they took third at their District; their top round scores are all among the top three in Division 2, and their average overall score of 777.7 is the highest in the state regardless of division. Seniors Olivia Grab and Delaney Millner and junior Carolyn Morris made the all-state first team last season, while junior Faith Ridolfi made the second and junior Hailey Woodworth earned honorable mention.

CHARLOTTE
Rank: Honorable mention.
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White. 
Coach: Yvonne Ridge, 14th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 756.82 at the District. 
Team composition: 20 total (seven seniors, seven sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: The Orioles are making their first trip to the MHSAA Finals in this sport after maintaining a spot among mid-Michigan’s top teams throughout this decade. They won their sixth straight league title and first District championship under Ridge this winter and have posted their three highest scores over their most recent six competitions. Sophomore Madyson Conklin earned an all-region honorable mention last season, and the future looks bright as well with 13 underclassmen making up more than half of the roster.

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League. 
Coach: Amber Genevich, 12th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2014).
Top score: 789.2 at the District.
Team composition: 27 total (11 seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Divine Child has finished among the top four, including fourth last season, at six straight Division 2 Finals and could be poised to climb again led by a large senior class. The score posted at the District is the second-highest in the division this season, and its top round scores all are among the top three in the division as well. Seniors Hannah Cifaldi and Paige Frye made the all-state first team last season, while junior Kristina Waldenmeyer made the second and senior Rylee Cronin and junior Megan O’Leary earned honorable mentions.

FLINT KEARSLEY
Rank: No. 6.
League finish: First in Flint Metro League.
Coach: Carrie Seymour, 13th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 763.74.
Team composition: 19 total (six seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Kearsley is having a banner season with its first league and District titles and first trip to the MHSAA Finals. The Hornets won eight of their first nine competitions – finishing second in the other – and then came in fourth at their Regional to qualify for Saturday. Senior Hailey Baltosser made the all-region second team in 2016, and senior Madison Teed earned honorable mention.

GIBRALTAR CARLSON
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Downriver League. 
Coach: Ayrn Ziesmer, third season.
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), four runner-up finishes.
Top score: 793.48 at the District.
Team composition: 19 total (one senior, six juniors, three sophomores, nine freshmen).
Outlook: Carlson won its eighth title over the last nine seasons in 2016 with almost all underclassmen – and will look to extend the streak with a roster that has a little more experience but still is among the youngest in this division. That hasn’t mattered; the 793.48 score is the highest in the state, any division, this season, and the Marauders also have the top round score in the division in all three – and the tops in all divisions in Round 2 (233.1) and Round 3 (321.4). Senior Jordyn Hodge and juniors Hannah Pryba, Emily Scheffler and Samantha Zdankiewicz all made the all-state first team last season, while junior Katy Bradley and sophomore Madison VanBrimer made the second team and junior Morgan Thomas earned honorable mention.

GRAND RAPIDS KENOWA HILLS
Rank: No. 5.
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black.
Coach: Chris Hudson, seventh season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 776.72.
Team composition: 25 total (three seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, eight freshmen). 
Outlook: Kenowa Hills improved from sixth in 2015 to third last season and ranks among the top four in Division 2 in highest score for Rounds 1 and 2 and overall. The Knights have finished first or second at all of their events, including the District and Regional behind league rival Muskegon Mona Shores. Junior Brianne Elliott made the all-state second team last season.

MUSKEGON MONA SHORES
Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in O-K Black.
Coach: Amanda Heethuis, 10th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 771.22.
Team composition: 24 total (eight seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Mona Shores is hoping to take another step at the Finals after moving up to win its league, District and Regional and all events but two where it finished second. The Sailors were seventh at last season’s Final but have the fourth-highest average score in Division 2 of 752.4. Junior Grace VanArendonk made the all-state first team in 2016, and senior Autumn Lambert made the second.

MUSKEGON REETHS-PUFFER
Rank:
 Unranked.
League finish: Fourth in O-K Black. 
Coach: Brittany Hoffman, third season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 753.48.
Team composition: 22 total (four seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Hoffman, a member of the first cheer teams at the school before graduating in 2003, returned to coach in 2014 after then-coach Danielle Nash was diagnosed with brain cancer. Nash died in December of that year, and the team went on to reach Regionals for the first time – and now earn its first MHSAA Finals berth. The Rockets’ top three scores have come during their last three meets, including in a second-place finish to Mona Shores at the Greater Muskegon city competition.  

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores, here competing in Round 3 last season, is among teams hoping to challenge Gibraltar Carlson’s dynasty Saturday.


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