MOUNT PLEASANT – Hudson High School is going to need a bigger trophy case, and soon, the way its winter sports teams are piling up championships.
Hudson’s competitive cheer team won its fourth-straight Division 4 title Thursday at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena, and the Tigers now have finished either first or second in the state seven years in a row.
“Do you want me to cry?” said 26th-year Hudson coach Kelly Bailey when asked about her emotions shortly after her team’s dominant 771.04-point performance, more than 25 points ahead of the field.
“We gave them some tough stuff each round and that added to the pressure, but they wanted the challenge and they wanted to do it. They pulled it off.”
Hudson’s cheer program is engaged in a healthy competition with the school’s wrestling program, which just five days earlier won its 10th Division 4 team championship over the past 14 years.
That kind of simultaneous success for two programs at the same school, in the same season, is remarkable – and the orange-and-black-clad Tigers fans were out in force Thursday afternoon in Mount Pleasant, just like they were last Friday in Kalamazoo.
Hudson produced the highest score in all three rounds of the Final, never allowing the other seven teams to gain momentum in an upset bid.
“There was a lot of pressure to win it again,” said Hudson senior Annalyse Ames, one of four returning first-team all-staters for the Tigers. “But I was more excited than nervous. I knew we would go out on the mat and kill it.”
The challenging routines led the way to the 771.04 winning score, which was close to the team’s season-best of 774.94, and much higher than its score at its Regional (740.38) and its season-average score (750.42).
Other returning all-state first-teamers for Hudson this winter were senior Cheyenne Eichler and juniors Rylie Bloomer and Victoria Hawkins. Seniors Ellie Bean, Shantzee Henderson and Isabella Moreno were second team all-state and junior Paige Clark was honorable mention in 2022.
Hudson’s roster was filled with upperclassmen, with seven seniors and seven juniors on the 19-athlete roster.
Emotions were all over the board for Hudson’s seniors, who never were outplaced by a Division 4 school in any competition during their four-year careers.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world and super sad at the same time,” said Eichler.
Gibraltar Carlson has the competitive cheer Finals record with six consecutive titles from 2011-16. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (2014-18) and Rochester (1999-2003) both won five straight championships.
Michigan Center, which was up in Division 3 in 2022 and didn’t make the Finals, came back strong this winter and capped it with a runner-up trophy Thursday.
The Cardinals, who won the Cascades Conference and took second at their Regional behind Hudson, took second again at 745.20 points – just shy of their season-best of 745.94.
“I am so proud because these girls rose to a level today that they have not had all season,” said Michigan Center coach Jessica Trefry, who shares the head coaching duties with Bree Cash. “Hudson is an amazing team, but I can say that we brought our best today.”
Michigan Center, which has won five Finals championships, finished runner-up for the second time.
Adrian Madison (741.16) took third, followed by Hart (739.56) and Merrill (730.20).
Hudson, a small community in southeast Michigan with fewer than 3,000 residents, was for a long time best-known for its 72-game winning streak in football from 1968 to 1975.
But, no question, Hudson’s competitive cheer and wrestling programs have put the town back on the map.
“We feel the pressure to keep it going, for sure,” said Bailey, who is assisted by Lyndsi Bailey and Jacque Marry. “But the Finals is a little different, because once we’re here, we’re done learning and we’re done fixing.
“I told them just to go out there and have a blast.”
PHOTOS (Top) Hudson is 16 athletes strong during this round of Thursday’s Division 4 Final. (Middle) Michigan Center competes on the way to its runner-up finish.