By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – The Michigan Center competitive cheer team didn’t perform to its full potential in Round 3 of the MHSAA Division 4 Final.
A strong Round 2 performance prior to that more than made up for it.
The Cardinals sputtered in their final round Saturday afternoon at the DeltaPlex, but it didn’t prevent them from pulling off the three-peat.
Michigan Center won its third straight MHSAA Division 4 crown by less than four points over runner-up Pewamo Westphalia.
The Cardinals tallied a three-round score of 731.26, while the Pirates made a late charge and finished with a 727.52.
“If it wasn’t for having such a strong Round 1 and Round 2 score, we wouldn’t have won this competition,” Michigan Center coach Jessica Trefry said. “We struggled a little bit in Round 3, and unfortunately it wasn’t as high as we hoped to be. But as a whole, we did enough to get it done.”
Michigan Center, which also won the title in 2009 before its current run, took a commanding 11-point lead following a dominating Round 2 that has been its trademark.
The Cardinals, who didn’t get outscored in Round 2 all season, registered a score of 219.96 to provide a much-needed cushion entering the final round.
“Round 2 has been a strength of ours all year, and my girls are incredible athletes and are strong with their skills in that round,” Trefry said. “I tell them that no one can out-do them in that round, and it’s true. It is an amazing group that is so in sync and powerful.”
Michigan Center had an early fall in Round 3, and its score (288.1) was the second lowest of the eight teams.
The team, however, recovered from the early miscue.
“I did take a fall, but it didn’t matter because I knew the rest of the round I had to stick everything perfectly,” said Michigan Center’s Megan Shown, the team’s lone senior. “In every round I knew we could dominate in, and obviously we did. This is amazing, three of them in a row back-to-back-to-back. I can’t believe it. I’m a senior, so it’s the best way to go out.”
Pewamo-Westphalia was seeking its ninth MHSAA title, and first since 2010, but wound up with a runner-up finish for the third straight year.
“It was hard to come back from that difference in Round 2, but they did amazing,” Pirates coach Staci Myers said. “It is the best they’ve ever done in all three rounds, and I couldn’t be prouder. We were excited to be here, and to come out with a medal and second place.”
Pewamo Westphalia narrowed the gap on Michigan Center by delivering the second-highest Round 3 score.
“They came out and hit Round 3, and I couldn’t ask them to do anymore,” Myers said. “It was the best they have performed it this year, and we were able to stay in second.”
Michigan Center defended despite graduating nine seniors from last year’s squad, and with the return of all but one for next season, the future remains bright.
“We returned some strong athletes, and they had this in their mind from the very beginning,” Trefry said.
“This was their goal, to be here and win it again. I have a big group of juniors, and now they want to get it done again next year. It gets harder and harder every year, but I’m proud of this group and the effort they’ve put in this year. I’ve enjoyed this year.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Michigan Center competes during Saturday's Division 4 Final at the DeltaPlex. (Bottom) Michigan Center poses with its latest MHSAA championship trophy. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
The Paw Paw competitive cheer team has emerged as one of the state’s powerhouses especially over the last four years – and few people have had a better seat for the program’s rise than Paige Miller. The recently-graduated senior is the daughter of 13-year coach Stefanie Miller, and Paige made the Division 3 all-state first team this past winter for the third time while playing a significant role in the team posting its best Finals finishes in program history for the second-straight season.
Paw Paw finished second at the Division 3 Final in March for the second season in a row, this time just a point behind champion Richmond after coming within nine-tenths of a point of catching the Blue Devils in 2021. Miller will continue to cheer at Trine University, where she will study psychology and also compete in track & field after running on her team’s 400 and 800 relays and high jumping this past spring.
"I think it's provided me with a lot of essential skills that extend beyond the aspect of sports. It's provided me with the ability to talk and interact with others in a productive way. It allows me to push myself and others into a positive direction and also to know how to work as a team and collaborate effectively. Without sports, I don't know if I would've learned those lessons as deeply as I have.
“I’ve had some experiences, with my cheer teams, we've done tumble clinics or clinics to build up the younger program. And I'll be out at like the grocery store, and one of the little girls from the tumble clinic with come up and (say), ‘You're a Paw Paw cheerleader. I love everything you guys do. You're so cool. I want to be you guys when I grow up.’ And it's an amazing feeling to be someone that somebody looks up to.”
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
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