By: Daniel Stickradt
COMPETITIVE CHEER: Lake Orion aiming high for top flight finish
BY DAN STICKRADT
LAKE ORION — Perhaps this program is long overdue.
Lake Orion’s competitive cheer team has emerged as a true state powerhouse in the sport over the past two decades. Yet unlike many of the other state’s most dominant Class A/Division 1 programs, the Dragons have yet to haul home any type of hardware from the state championships.
Despite winning or placing high at numerous invitationals over the years, Lake Orion has never captured a state championship or finished as the state runner-up since the MHSAA adopted the sport in the 1993-94 school year.
After failing to make the cut in 1994 or 1995, Lake Orion reached the Class A finals in 1996 with a respectable seventh-place showing. Since then, the Dragons have qualified in 17 of the past 21 seasons — failing to qualify only in 2004, 2005, 2008 ad 2012.
Overall, Lake Orion’s highest state finals finish is fourth place — a destination the Dragons have landed in eight times overall, including six straight seasons from 1997-2002. The program finished fourth in both 2014 and 2015 as well.
“It seems like we are stuck there — can’t get any higher,” laughed Niki Perryman-Hills, who is in her third season as head coach after serving as an assistant coach for a decade. “I think we’re overdue?”
Perhaps long overdue.
Lake Orion has also finished in fifth place three other times, claimed sixth at state twice, placed seventh one time, eighth two times and ninth one more time in its 17 state finals appearances.
“We’re consistent,” said Perryman-Hills, who returns most of her lineup on a 26-member roster. “We have a lot of girls back, a lot of experience, and even some talented young girls. I look at the teams we’ve had here, going back from when I was on varsity for four years, and this could be our most talented. We have a great work ethic and we are very athletic. I think we have what it takes.”
Since the MHSAA began hosting a state tournament 23 years ago, only four schools have won a state championship in Class A/Division 1 — Rochester (13), Grandville (6), Southgate Anderson (3) and Rochester Stoney Creek (1). As for state runner-up finishes, Grandville (8), Rochester (4), East Kentwood (2), Holland West Ottawa (2), Hartland (1), Hudsonville (1), Sterling Heights Stevenson (1), Brighton (1), Rochester Adams (1) and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (1) have all garnered second-place hardware.
Lake Orion’s goal is to crack that elusive group.
“I would hope that we could finally get into the top three,” offered Perryman-Hills. “That would be where no Lake Orion team has finished before. But yes it would be nice to finally finish first or second. That is the ultimate goal for this program. That’s what we’re working for.”