EAST LANSING – Hudson coach Kelly Bailey has been coaching competitive cheerleading for almost a quarter of a century, and she knows it takes special kids to win back-to-back MHSAA Finals championships.
“They are not normal teenagers,” Bailey said of her team after it pulled away from rival Pewamo-Westphalia in the final round at Saturday’s Division 4 Final at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
“They are all so respectful and they listen so well. Then they just go out there and do everything that we ask them to do.”
That formula certainly did the trick as Hudson used a powerhouse Round 3 to win with a 758.98 total, giving the Tigers their second-straight championship and third in the past four years. Hudson also has runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2019 as part of an amazing five-year stretch.
Pewamo-Westphalia, which led after the first round and trailed by just over one point after two rounds, took second at 751.12 – more than 21 points better than the rest of the field.
Hudson’s win continued the theme of repeat champions at the Cheer Finals.
Even though the venue changed from the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids to the Breslin Center, and the competition was held three weeks later than normal, and the pandemic severely altered practice and competition schedules all season long, all four 2020 champions repeated this weekend – Richmond (Division 3) and Rochester Adams (Division 1) on Friday and Allen Park (Division 2) and Hudson (Division 4) on Saturday.
Hudson’s Kallahan Marry, a senior and returning first-team all-stater, said the win last year gave the team confidence heading into Saturday’s pivotal final round.
“We just said we’ve all done this routine a million times,” said Marry, one of six seniors for the Tigers. “So we knew we just had to go out there and do our job and kill it. Don’t regret anything.”
Other seniors for Hudson were Kaley Bloomer (returning all-state), Ahna Marry and Emma Shirey (both honorable mention all-state), and Kaite Grondin and Karlee Hinzman.
The Tigers also continued an amazing streak of 21 straight appearances at the Cheer Finals, highlighted by now three total championships and six runner-up finishes.
Bailey said Saturday’s was one of the most satisfying titles, because of the challenges with the pandemic and the fact that the team didn’t have its best stuff, but dug deep, stayed positive and got the job done.
“Everybody was real nervous all day today and a big reason is because it was a great performance by P-W,” said Bailey, who shared a long hug with veteran P-W coach Staci Myers after the awards ceremony. “We didn’t have our best score, but we did what we had to do. I’m just really proud of them.”
Pewamo-Westphalia continued another theme of the weekend – a second-place team more ecstatic about taking home the big runner-up trophy than sad about coming up just short.
On Friday, Paw Paw and Grandville both moved ahead of recent powers in their respective divisions to finish runners-up, while DeWitt used a stellar third round on Saturday morning to vault into second.
The Pirates, who have won nine cheer titles with the most recent in 2019, looked like they might notch No. 10, grabbing the lead after Round 1.
P-W performed well in the final two rounds, but Hudson just had too much in its arsenal. Hudson has 20 competitors on its roster, compared to 10 for the Pirates.
“(Hudson) crushed us by 34 points earlier this season, so I’m very proud of how we did today,” said P-W’s Ella Smith, who was joined by fellow seniors Ellie Pohl, Ella Simon, Miya Beech and Miranda Platte.
Pohl seemed to be speaking for many participants at the intense, stressful Cheer Finals, when asked how she would be celebrating her team’s big day.
“I am going to take an ice bath and then a big, long nap,” said Pohl.
PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson competes during Saturday's Division 4 Final at Breslin Center. (Middle) Pewamo-Westphalia performs a routine on the way to a runner-up finish.
PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson competes during Saturday's Division 4 Final at Breslin Center. (Middle) Pewamo-Westphalia performs a routine on the way to a runner-up finish.(Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)