Preview: Historic Opportunities Await
Preview: Historic Opportunities Await
Cheer
Posted Wednesday, February 28, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s easy to name some of the powers that have dominated Michigan competitive cheer over the years – and most of them will return to the MHSAA Finals this weekend in Grand Rapids.

But two of this year's title favorites are among 21 seeking to win a championship for the first time. 

Below are glances at all 32 teams competing at this weekend’s Finals at the Delta Plex. Division 1 competes at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by Division 2 at 10 a.m. Saturday, Division 4 at 2 p.m. that afternoon and Division 3 at 6 p.m. to finish the event. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis. Click here for the Finals draws and other important information.

Division 1

EAST KENTWOOD
Rank:
 No. 4.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Co-coaches: Stacy Geerts, 17th season
Championship history: Two MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).   
Top score: 792.76 at the District.
Team composition: 24 total (nine seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: East Kentwood has celebrated league, District and Regional championships this season as it sends out coach Geerts, who has announced her retirement after this weekend. The Falcons have broken 780 points six times, and the District score was the second-highest in Division 1 this season. East Kentwood also has posted the second-highest scores in Division 1 in both Round 2 (233.0) and Round 3 (321.7, tied). Senior Kylie Dunn earned all-Regional honorable mention last season.

GRAND BLANC
Rank:
 No. 6.
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold
Coach: Christina Swansey, seventh season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 787.40
Team composition: 25 total (11 seniors, seven juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Grand Blanc is returning to the Finals for the first time since 2015. The Bobcats have won six of eight competitions this season, including their league and District meets, and their 777.50 average score ranks fifth in Division 1. Junior Alyssa Sornson earned all-District recognition last season.

GRANDVILLE
Rank: No. 5.
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Julie Smith-Boyd, 37
th season
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), nine runner-up finishes.
Top score: 790.42 at the District.
Team composition: 25 total (three seniors, 10 juniors, six sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Grandville graduated nearly half of its team after finishing third at last season’s Finals. But the Bulldogs continue to shine, especially in Round 2 where their best score of 232.3 ranks third in Division 1 this season. They’ve scored overall 783 or higher the last five meets. Senior Taelor Peaks made the all-state second team last season, and juniors Hailey Brower and Mackenzie Corey earned honorable mentions.

LAKE ORION
Rank: Unranked
League finish: Fifth in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Nicole Hills, fourth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 784.68 at the Regional.
Team composition: 27 total (seven seniors, five juniors, 10 sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: The Dragons are looking to improve on last season’s seventh-place finish at the Finals, and they’re building momentum with the Regional score 10 points better than their previous season high. Seniors Makayla Smirnow and Brooklyn Smart earned all-Regional honorable mentions last season.

ROCHESTER
Rank: No. 8.
League finish: Third in OAA Red
Coach: Susan Wood, 37
th season
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), four runner-up finishes. 
Top score: 789.7 at the Regional.
Team composition: 25 total (six seniors, 16 juniors, three sophomores).
Outlook: Despite coming off two straight Division 1 championships, Rochester might not seem like a favorite this time. But that assumption is a mistake; the Falcons’ top score this season so far is actually a fraction of a point higher than entering last year’s Finals. Their best round scores also rank among the top five posted in Division 1 this season for all three; Rochester’s best Round 1 of 238.2 ranks third. Senior Christina Shepich and junior Kallie Jordan made the all-state second team last season, while senior Chanler Ross and juniors Ally Khalaf and Elizabeth Kravick earned honorable mentions.

ROCHESTER ADAMS
Rank:
 No. 3.
League finish: Second in OAA Red
Coach: Brooke Miller, fourth season
Championship history: Class A runner-up 1996. 
Top score: 792.46 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 24 total (10 seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: After returning to the Finals last season for the first time in two decades, Adams is back for a second straight season and coming off a fifth-place finish. The Highlanders finished second in the loaded OAA Red before winning their District and coming in second at their Regional. Adams’ top Round 1 (239.0) is the best in Division 1 this season, and its best Round 3 (321.7) is tied for second-highest. Senior Natalie Keaser made the all-state second team last season, while senior Allison Mars earned honorable mention.

ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in OAA Red
Coach: Tricia Williams, 15
th season
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2010. 
Top score: 790.96 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 26 total (three seniors, nine juniors, eight sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Stoney Creek followed up last season’s fourth-place Finals finish by winning the always-strong OAA Red, and the Cougars have scored 781 or better in their last five meets. Their top Round 1 (238.2), Round 3 (321.6) and overall scores rank among the top four in Division 1, and their average total score of 778.6 ranks third. Senior Lindsey Boothe earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

STERLING HEIGHTS STEVENSON
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Brianna Verdoodt, 13
th season
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2017 and 2011. 
Top score: 794.08 at the Regional.
Team composition: 30 total (10 seniors, 18 sophomores, two freshmen) 
Outlook: Stevenson has built on last season’s runner-up finish by dominating this winter after graduating only one athlete from last year’s team. The Titans have won every meet but one league competition, where they finished second, and their average overall score this season of 786.7 is nine points higher than the rest of Division 1 and more than four better than any team in any division. They also have posted the highest Round 2 (233.4) and Round 3 (322.6) scores in the division and the second-highest in Round 1 (238.8). Seniors Lily Juncaj, Izzie Nitecki, Grace Broadworth and Carolina Poliss made the all-state first team last season, while seniors Emma Vitale and Anna Long and sophomore Genevieve DeBuck made the second and seniors Payton Porth and Emily Kleinedler earned honorable mentions.

Division 2

ALLEN PARK
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: Second in Downriver League
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 13
th season
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2017 and 2010, runner-up 2016 and 2008. 
Top score: 795.18.
Team composition: 24 total (nine seniors, eight juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen). 
Outlook: Allen Park broke Gibraltar Carlson’s six-year hold on the Division 2 title last season, and has won its District and Regional this season, the latter ahead of Carlson after Carlson claimed the league title. The Jaguars have broken 791 points three times including at the District and have the top scores in every round and overall in Division 2 this season – with its Round 1 (240.0), Round 3 (322.9) and overall scores the best in Michigan regardless of division. Senior Carolyn Morris and juniors Riley Davis and Lyric Spears made the all-state first team last season, while senior Alianna Madrigal and juniors Sydney Bain and Angela Sammut made the second team and senior Celeste Sarzynski earned an honorable mention.

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Rank: No. 9.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League 
Coach: Shelley Popiel, first season
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2014).
Top score: 772.74 at the Regional.
Team composition: 28 total (six seniors, seven juniors, nine sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Divine Child will continue as a Finals regular and posted its top two overall scores in the District and Regional for Popiel, a former competitor for the Falcons and the junior varsity coach the last two seasons. Divine Child is particularly strong in Round 1 and Round 3, where it’s top scores of 236.1 and 318.4, respectively, both rank fifth in Division 2 this season. The Falcons placed fourth at last year’s Finals, with senior Kristina Waldenmeyer earning an all-state honorable mention.

DEWITT
Rank: No. 10.
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red 
Coach: Candace Heskitt, 10th season
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2015 and 2007.
Top score: 774.7 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 26 total (10 seniors, six juniors, four sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: DeWitt opened this season with five straight first-place finishes after missing last season’s Finals, a rarity for the Panthers. They are again among the elite, with that Regional score ranking as the sixth highest in the division for the entire season. Senior Mackenzie Smith made the all-Regional first team in 2017, while seniors Emma Mollitor, Macy Hendershot and Elizabeth VanderWoude also earned all-Regional recognition.

GIBRALTAR CARLSON
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in Downriver League
Coach: Ayrn Ziesmer, fourth season
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), five runner-up finishes.
Top score: 793.70 at the District.
Team composition: 22 total (six seniors, two juniors, seven sophomores, seven freshmen).
Outlook: Carlson missed a seventh straight Division 2 title last winter by six hundredths of a point, and the Marauders surely have been looking forward to this weekend. They’ve scored more than 780 points seven times this winter, and their best scores are second to only rival Allen Park’s in Round 2 (232.8), Round 3 (322.2) and overall. Seniors Hannah Pryba, Samantha Zdankiewicz, Katy Bradly and Emily Scheffler all made the all-state first team last year, while seniors Morgan Thomas and Kayla Wise made the second team and junior Summer Bojarski and sophomore Samantha Hamel earned honorable mentions.

GRAND RAPIDS KENOWA HILLS
Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black
Coach: Chris Hudson, ninth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 784.90 at the District.
Team composition: 27 total (six seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores, eight freshmen). 
Outlook: Kenowa Hills has reached the Finals every season under Hudson and finished fifth last year. The Knights have taken first or second in all of their competitions this season, and their highest scores rank fourth in Division 2 for every round and overall – their average total score of 764.4 also ranks fourth in the division. Senior Brianne Elliott made the all-state first team last season, while senior Hannah Blauw made the second and senior Megan Titus earned honorable mention.

MUSKEGON MONA SHORES
Rank: No. 3.
League finish: Second in O-K Black
Coach: Amanda Heethuis, 11th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 789.12.
Team composition: 28 total (nine seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, eight freshmen).
Outlook: Mona Shores is making its fourth Finals appearance in five seasons and placed third a year ago. The Sailors have taken first at 10 competitions including their District and Regional and are particularly strong in Round 1 (239.0) and Round 2 (232.3) where those best scores rank second and third, respectively, in the division this season. Senior Grace VanArendonk and sophomores Madison Mills and Logan Potts made the all-state first team last year, while senior Hailey Diffell made the second and junior Erica Dakin earned honorable mention.

MUSKEGON REETHS-PUFFER
Rank: No. 6.
League finish: Third in O-K Black
Coach: Brittany Hoffman, fourth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 773.08.
Team composition: 24 total (six seniors, six juniors, three sophomores, nine freshmen).
Outlook: Reeths-Puffer is making its second straight trip to the Finals after making its first ever a year ago and finishing eighth. Round 1 is a strength, and the team’s top score in that round of 235.3 ranks sixth in the division this season; the Rockets’ average total score of 745.6 also ranks sixth in Division 2. Senior Lydia Dinger made the all-state first team last season.

SOUTHGATE ANDERSON
Rank:
 No. 5.
League finish: Third in Downriver League
Co-coaches: Stacey Shaw, fourth season
Championship history: Division 1 champions 2012-14. 
Top score: 780.74.
Team composition: 23 total (10 seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: One of the state’s top Division 1 programs this decade, Anderson is in the Division 2 Finals this time emerging from the Downriver League with Allen Park and Carlson. The Titans are only behind those two in average total score in Division 2 this season at 766.6. Senior Emily Plaza and junior Mackenzie Livernois earned all-District recognition in Division 1 last season as the team missed championship weekend by finishing sixth at a Regional that produced four of the top five placers at the Finals.

Division 3

CHARLOTTE
Rank: No. 8.
League finish: First in CAAC White
Coach: Yvonne Ridge, 15th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 758.66 at the District.
Team composition: 23 total (one senior, six juniors, six sophomores, 10 freshmen). 
Outlook: The Orioles finished sixth in Division 2 last season and could rely on a strong Round 3 to move into the upper half in Division 3; their top Round 3 score of 315.9 ranks third in the division this season. Charlotte won seven of its first eight competitions this winter and stormed back to win its Regional as well. Junior Mady Conklin made the all-state second team in Division 2 last season, and junior Lauren Wietzke earned an honorable mention.

COMSTOCK PARK
Rank: No. 10.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue.
Co-coaches: Kathy Felty, 28
th season; Stacey Molis, first season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2011 and 2009, three runner-up finishes. 
Top score: 747.12 at the Regional.
Team composition: 23 total (five seniors, four juniors, five sophomores, nine freshmen). 
Outlook: Comstock Park is a regular among the top four in Division 3 and came in fourth last season. The Panthers will work for another high finish in what reportedly will be Felty’s last meet before Molis takes over the program next winter. They’ve finished first or second at 10 competitions this season, including the District. Seniors Jakela Davis and Haleigh Brown made the all-state second team last season, and junior Shaelyn Scott earned honorable mention.

ESCANABA
Rank:
 No. 7.
League finish: First in Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference
Coach: Kristopher Langlois, fourth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 748.36.
Team composition: 24 total (nine seniors, eight juniors, two sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: After missing last season’s Finals, Escanaba is back for the second time in three seasons and has won all of its competitions but the Regional this winter. The Eskymos’ top Round 3 score of 313.0 ranks seventh in the division, as does its average total score of 732.6. Seniors Victoria Collins and Karlie Ohman earned all-Regional recognition last season.

FLAT ROCK
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Third in Huron League
Coach: Tanya Vaughn, fourth season
Championship history: Class C-D champion 1998, two runner-up finishes.
Top score: 759.94 at the Regional.
Team composition: 23 total (three seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, six freshmen). 
Outlook: Flat Rock is coming off a fifth-place finish at last season’s Finals, and will make its return thanks to topping its previous best score this season by 26 points at the Regional. That Regional score ended up as the seventh-highest in Division 3 this season, and the Rams’ best scores in all three rounds all rank among the top 10 in the division as well. Senior Maya Schroeder earned all-Regional honorable mention in 2017.

LAKE ODESSA LAKEWOOD
Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Co-coaches: Kim Martin, 24
th season; Renee Carigon, 23rd season; Melissa Sandborn, first season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 759.70.
Team composition: 22 total (five seniors, five juniors, 10 sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Lakewood has finished sixth at the last two Finals and enters this weekend having posted its three highest scores this season over the last three events. The Vikings had won all of their competitions this season before finishing second at the Regional. All three of their high round scores rank among the top seven in Division 3; the Round 1 (232.8) and Round 3 (313.7) both rank fifth. Junior Dixie Moorman earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

MONROE JEFFERSON
Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Huron League.
Coach: Sara Griffin, 10th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 767.42 at the Regional. 
Team composition: 18 total (seven seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: Jefferson finished fourth and then third at the last two Finals, respectively, and will attempt to break into the top two featuring an especially strong Round 2 – its best score of 228.8 ranks third in the division this year, while its Round 1 (233.0) and Round 3 (313.7) rank fourth and fifth, respectively. Jefferson’s average overall score of 753.8 also ranks third, and it has broken 760 four times. Seniors Kylie Foland and Adney Richards made the all-state first team last season, while senior Camryn Hopper made the second team and sophomores Jaidan St. Andre and Amara Gould earned honorable mentions.

PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Beth Campbell, sixth season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2014-17, runner-up 2013.
Top score: 781.48
Team composition: 25 total (four seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, 10 freshmen).
Outlook: Notre Dame Prep is undefeated this season as it competes for its fifth straight MHSAA championship. The Fighting Irish just missed their top score at the Regional with a 781.32, which outpaced the field including Richmond and Jefferson by 12 points. Notre Dame Prep’s best Round 3 of 318.2 tops Division 3, while its best Round 1 (236.6) and Round 2 (231.3) both rank second. Senior McKenna Dooley made the all-state first team last season, while senior Rachel Michel made the second and senior Tessa Woryk and sophomores Megan Sollmer and Ava Simony earned honorable mentions.

RICHMOND
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Kelli Matthes, 10th season.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2013 and 2012, runner-up four times.
Top score: 781.60.
Team composition: 21 total (one senior, eight juniors, nine sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Richmond has finished runner-up the last three seasons and graduated 11 from last year’s team. But the Blue Devils enter this weekend with the highest total score in Division 3 this season and the top average total score of 766.6, plus the top Round 1 (236.6) and Round 2 (231.3) scores. Sophomore Emily Mikolasik made the all-state first team last season, while junior Kendal Valentine and sophomore Nicole Logghe made the second team and junior Jordan Anthony and sophomore Jordan Valentine earned honorable mentions.

Division 4

ADDISON
Rank: No. 8.
League finish: Second in Cascades Conference
Co-coaches: Jessica Sword, 11th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 726.32.
Team composition: 19 total (three seniors, four juniors, eight sophomores, four freshmen). 
Outlook: Addison is headed to the MHSAA Finals for the first time in this sport. The Panthers posted their second highest score this season to advance from last week’s Regional, and they enter this weekend with one of the top Round 3 scores in Division 4 – their best of 305.1 ranks fourth in the division. Senior Sarah Defay earned all-District recognition last season.

ADRIAN MADISON
Rank: No. 3.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Emily Gafford, ninth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 749.64 at the Regional.
Team composition: 16 total (three seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores).
Outlook: Madison is returning to the Finals after finishing third last season, and has won or finished second in all of its competitions this winter. The Trojans actually have won 10 of 13 events, including their District and Regional, and their average total score of 721.9 ranks fifth in Division 4. Madison has the best Round 1 score (231.2) in the division this season, and the third-best in Round 2 (223.7). Senior Cheyenne Caldwell made the all-state second team last season, and juniors Keynia Breeding and Molly Hayes earned honorable mentions.

FARWELL
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference
Coach: Taylor Bryant, sixth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 763.06 at the District.
Team composition: 11 total (seven seniors, three juniors, one sophomore). 
Outlook: After making the Finals last season without a senior, a group of juniors that led that run are finishing off their careers as the favorites coming into the weekend. Farwell finished seventh at the Delta Plex a year ago, but has won seven of its nine events this season. The Eagles’ best total score is the best in Division 4, as is their average total score of 737.5, the latter by more than eight points. Farwell also has posted the top Round 3 (310.0) and second-highest Round 1 (230.7). Seniors Morgan Nestor and Brooke Pritchard and juniors Brianna McQuiston and Morgan Vanthull earned all-District honors last season.

HOUGHTON LAKE
Rank: No. 6.
League finish: Third in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Celeste Kubiak, 13
th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 751.76.
Team composition: 12 total (six seniors, five juniors, one sophomore). 
Outlook: Houghton Lake has finished fifth the last three seasons and should make another push starting things off with a strong Round 1 – its top score of 230.1 ranks third in Division 4 this season. The Bobcats’ top Round 2 (221.5) ranks fifth. Senior Jessica Whelpley made the all-state first team last season, while senior Samantha Ellis and junior Emily Johnson made the second team and senior Madalynn Mieske earned honorable mention.

HUDSON
Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 22nd season
Championship history: Five runner-up finishes (most recent 2017). 
Top score: 755.46.
Team composition: 17 total (five seniors, three juniors, four sophomores, five freshmen). 
Outlook: Hudson finished runner-up last season for the first time since 2010, and enters this weekend with two total scores this season higher than their highest at this point a year ago. The Tigers have scored 746 or higher four times and boast the top Round 2 (225.7) and second-highest Round 3 (307.5) in the division. Seniors Shiann Martinus and Payge Leathers made the all-state first team last season, while seniors Rachael Amos and Emily Salinas made the second team and sophomore Anna Valdez and junior Alexis LaFollette earned honorable mentions.

MERRILL
Rank: No. 4.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Molly Garno, first season
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2014.
Top score: 754.06 at the District. 
Team composition: 10 total (four seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: After missing the Finals last season, Merrill will return led by Garno, a former standout in the program who then coached the middle school team and as a varsity assistant. The high score this season netted a District title and ranks fourth in the division for the entire winter, while the Vandals’ average total score of 729.1 ranks second. Senior Gracie Horvat and junior Molly Frantz earned all-Regional recognition last season.

PEWAMO-WESTPHALIA
Rank: No. 7.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Staci Myers, 11
th season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), 10 runner-up finishes.
Top score: 732.48 at the Regional.
Team composition: 13 total (one senior, four juniors, three sophomores, five freshmen). 
Outlook: The Pirates finished sixth at last season’s Final and posted their best score of this season by 10 points at last week’s Regional. Their average total score of 712.5 ranks seventh in Division 4. Juniors Kelsey Russell and Olivia Ferguson earned all-District recognition in 2017.

SANFORD MERIDIAN
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in Jack Pine Conference. 
Coach: Val MacKenzie, 31st season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 757.60.
Team composition: 15 total (six juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: What makes Meridian’s performance this season more impressive – and likely scarier for opponents – is the team doesn’t have a senior. After finishing second to top-ranked Farwell in the league, Meridian won its District and Regional – finishing ahead of Farwell at the latter – and has placed lower than second at a competition only once this season. That high total score also was the second-highest in the division all winter, and the team’s best Round 2 (225.5) also ranks second. Meridian missed making the Finals in Division 3 last season, taking sixth at its Regional, but juniors Katie Blanchard, McKenna Burns, Tana Spangler, Aubrey Erskine and Elizabeth Melchi all earned all-District honors in 2017.

PHOTO: Rochester Hills Stoney Creek performs its Round 1 routine at the 2017 Finals on the way to a fourth-place finish in Division 1.


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