By: Daniel Stickradt
COMPETITIVE CHEER: Breckenridge solidifying position as state powerhouse with ninth state title
Rochester, Allen Park, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep also prevail
BY DAN STICKRADT
GRAND RAPIDS — Breckenridge’s rise, then fall, then rise again to state powerhouse status is more like feast or fathom.
Since the MHSAA adopted competitive cheer as an official sport — becoming the first state governing body in the nation to do so — Breckenridge has qualified for the state finals in 18 of 24 seasons.
The Huskies qualified each season from 1994 through 2007 — either in Class D, Class C-D or Division 4 — with incredible success, including six state titles in that span.
Breckenridge ventured through six lean seasons from 2008 through 2013 when the Huskies did not make the state finals cut at all.
Breckenridge has more than resurfaced under coach Deb Gaines.
The Huskies have reached the state finals in four consecutive campaigns, placing fifth in D-4 in 2014 followed by three straight state championships.
Overall, Breckenridge has more MHSAA state titles than any other small school. In fact, the Huskies are tied for second overall between all divisions and classifications along with D-2/Class B power Gibraltar Carlson, which has also claimed nine overall state titles.
Rochester has 14 state championships in Class A/Division 1 to lead the way. Pewamo-Westphalia has eight titles, followed by Granville (6), Michigan Center (5), Chesaning (5), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (4), Southgate Anderson (3), Allen Park (2), Comstock Park (2), St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (2), Grosse Ile (2), Ovid-Elsie (2) and Remus-Chippewa Hills (2) make up the complete list of schools with more than one title.
Overall, Breckenridge also owns two state runner-up finishes, two third-place finishes, three fourth-place showings, one fifth-place finish and one seventh-place finish.
ROCHESTER CLAIMS TITLE 14; OAA-RED DOMINATES WITH FOUR IN TOP SEVEN
GRAND RAPIDS — Rochester’s competitive cheer team entered the season with a large turnover of talent and the season wasn’t as smooth as some of the others.
But the end result was still the same as last season, as the Falcons defended their Division 1 state championship March 3 at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids.
The Falcons recorded a three-round total of 789.02 points to capture their 14th MHSAA title dating back to 1994 and 19th overall state title including MCCA state championships.
“It never gets old. But I will tell you that this team really had to earn it. We lost a lot of (Athletes) from last year’s team and we had some rough moments earlier in the season,” offered Rochester coach Susan Wood, who took over the Falcons’ program back in 1982 and has guided them to state finals appearances in 33 of 36 seasons.
“I won't say that this team improved more than any other over the course of the season. All teams improve and all are different,” continued Wood. “But we graduated 13 girls last season and I think 15 the year before that. That’s a lot to lose over two years ago. We were undefeated on the JV last winter, but JV is no where near what varsity is — the level of competition, the pressure, the expectations are completely different. We really struggled with our Round III for most of this season because we had so many new girls on the team. Our degree of difficulty is high and it takes time to get it down.”
Rochester recorded rounds of 236.50, 231.82 and 320.70 — all three were top scores recorded and just barely above Sterling Heights Stevenson, the state runner-up with 787.06 points.
Grandville was third in the eight-school field (785.34), while Rochester Stoney Creek (783.10), Rochester Adams (782.66), Hudsonville (778.96), Lake Orion (778.48) and Brighton (776.22) rounded out the field.
Having three Rochester schools all at the state finals in the same year marked the first time in state history that three schools from one school district qualified for the state finals at the same time. The three Rochester schools, along with Lake Orion, also hail from the OAA Red Division. That gave the OAA four of the eight qualifiers in Division 1 — another first in state history.
“Unprecedented,” smiled Wood. In all of my years coaching, I’ve never seen anything like it where three schools from the same district make it to the state finals in the same year. And to have four of the eight (schools) from the OAA-Red at the finals speaks volumes of the talent in our area. I don't think we’ve ever had four schools from the same league at the MHSAA finals. Fifty percent of the teams from the same league — that’s incredible.”
Stoney Creek recorded rounds of 234.90, 229.30 and 318.90.
Adams, which qualified for he MHSAA state finals for the first time since 1997, countered with scores 234.10, 229.56 and 319.00.
Lake Orion posted scores of 233.40, 227.88 and 317.20, respectively.
NOTRE DAME PREP EARNS 4-PEAT
GRAND RAPIDS — Pontiac Notre Dame Prep proved that you just have to save your best for last.
After finishing behind top-ranked Richmond at the regionals one week before, the Fighting Irish put it all together on the season’s final day and defended their Division 3 state championship March 4 at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids.
Notre Dame Prep collected 781.56 points to edge Richmond’s 779.12 points. It marked the school’s fourth straight state title in the sport after finishing in the runner-up slot in 2013.
“We knew that it would be close. We felt that if we had a very good day that we could beat Richmond,” offered Notre Dame Prep fifth-year coach Beth Campbell. “Based on scores this year, I knew that it would go down to us and Richmond. We didn't have a very good regional — made some mistakes. But we worked hard to fix those mistakes and not have penalties. The girls stepped up.”
At the regional, Richmond finished nearly seven points ahead of Notre Dame Prep (775.24-768.82). At the district round, Richmond finished some 25 points ahead of the Irish (783.82-758.8).
Monroe Jefferson, which actually had the top Round III score of 316.50, finished a distant third overall with 772.6 points. Comstock Park (767.34), Flat Rock (761.46), Lake Odessa Lakewood (756.62), Paw Paw (752.84) and Howard City Tri-County (748.58) rounded out the field.
Notre Dame Prep had the top two scores in Round I and Round II, collecting 235.30 and 230.36, respectively. Richmond posted scores of 234.20 and 230.22 to remain in second place entering the third round.
Notre Dame Prep had the second-highest total in Round III at 315.90, while Richmond claimed third in the round at 314.70 — not enough to overcome.
“I’m so proud of the girls. They saved it all for the state finals,” said Campbell, whose team won six invitationals this season and never finished outside of the top five. “To win a state title is really difficult. To go out and defend your title and beat a team that defeated you one week before at the regionals is a great accomplishment. The girls stepped up. We came a long way from the district competition to the state finals. The girls proved that their hard work paid off.”
ALLEN PARK SNAPS GIBRALTAR-CARLSON’S STREAK AT SIX TITLES
WITH NARROW D-2 VICTORY
GRAND RAPIDS — Allen Park snapped Gibraltar-Carlson’s MHSAA record of six straight state championships by earning the school’s second crown and first since 2010 in the Division 2 state finals March 4 at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids.
Allen Park became the 15th school in the 24-year history of the MHSAA state tournament to win more than one site title.
The Jaguars toiled 787.96 points to edge Gibraltar-Carlson (787.90) in one of the closest finals to date.
Allen Park collected scores of 235.40, 231.16 and 321.40 to prevail. Gibraltar posted scores of 238.10, 231.40 and 318.40 to claim second — just six one-hundredths of a point behind Allen Park.
Muskegon Mona Shores was third at 778.94, while Dearborn Divine Child (775.76), Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (768.02), Charlotte (756.06), Flint Kearsley (746.94) and Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (736.36) rounded out the team scores.