D1 Preview: New Champion to Rise

March 5, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

For the first time since 2011, there will be a new MHSAA Division 1 competitive cheer champion.

And five of eight teams competing Friday are seeking the first MHSAA title in their programs’ histories.

Following are glances at all eight Division 1 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 6 p.m. Previews for Divisions 2, 3 and 4 will be published Friday morning and early afternoon. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association (West, Lakes and overall).
Co-coaches: Helena Hunt and Christina Swansey, fourth seasons.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 786.70.
Team composition: 26 total (11 seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Grand Blanc is making its first trip to the MHSAA Finals and after dominating a strong KLAA. The Bobcats have posted some of the best scores in the state – their top overall score is third-best in Division 1 this season, while their best of 237.4 in Round 1 and 232.1 in Round 2 also both rank third in the division. Senior Madison Drye received an all-region honorable mention last season. Hunt led Waterford Mott to a Michigan Cheer Coaches Association championship in 2002.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.
Coach: Julie Smith-Boyd, 34th season.
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), eight runner-up finishes.
Top score: 789.22 at District.
Team composition: 30 total (12 seniors, seven juniors, nine sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: The Bulldogs fell only 2.42 points shy of earning last season’s championship and were tied for first after Round 1. Their top overall score is the second highest in Division 1 this season – they’ve gone over 780 points three times – and they also rank second in Round 3 with a best of 320.9. Seniors Trisha Merriman and Sam Salliotte earned all-state first-team honors last season, while senior Jasmine Martinez made the second team and senior Katie Roberts and junior Kelsey Russell earned honorable mentions.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Third in KLAA Lakes West.
Coach: Lizzie Nash, first season.
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2013.
Top score: 781.48 at the District.
Team composition: 22 total (10 seniors, five juniors, seven sophomores).
Outlook: Nash previously was an assistant at Northville and inherited a team that has made three straight MHSAA Finals and finished sixth a year ago. The District score was the eighth-highest overall in Division 1 this season and resulted in a championship; Hartland also finished ahead of league champ Grand Blanc at their Regional. Seniors Jenna Seychel and Shelby Snider both received all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: Second in Oakland Activities Association Red.
Coach: Nicole Hills, second season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 782.6 at the Regional.
Team composition: 24 total (seven seniors, eight juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Hills led Lake Orion to a fourth-place finish in her first season as head coach and District and Regional titles heading into this weekend. The Dragons’ top Round 2 (229.9) and Round 3 (318.1) scores both rank among the top 10 in Division 1 this winter.  Senior Julia Waelchli and junior Morgan Duerden were the team’s all-state first-teamers last season, and senior Sara Blodgett earned an honorable mention.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: First in KLAA Central and Kensington.
Coach: Blair Koon, fifth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 784.54 at the District.
Team composition: 32 total (11 seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Stevenson has won four straight KLAA division titles and an overall conference championship under Koon, who moved up to varsity after coaching both the freshman and then junior varsity teams – and this weekend she will lead the Spartans into the MHSAA Finals for the first time. They are scoring their best when it counts – they’ve gone over 784 both weekends of the postseason to finish runner-up both times to No. 2-ranked Rochester. All three of Stevenson's round scores rank among the top eight for those rounds in Division 1, with the best Round 1 of 237.8 second on that list. Senior Alissa Remijan and junior Kristina Smith earned all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Third in OAA Red.
Coach: Susan Wood, 34th season.
Championship history: Twelve MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Top score: 792.16 in the District.
Team composition: 28 total (15 seniors, 10 juniors, three sophomores).
Outlook: Despite a third-place league finish, this could be the season the Falcons regain the MHSAA title to add to District and Regional championships won the last two weekends. Rochester has posted the highest scores in all three rounds and overall this season and scored more than 780 points overall five times including in its last three events. Senior Emily Telesco earned an all-region honorable mention in 2014.

No. 1.
League finish: First in OAA Red.
Coach: Tricia Williams, 12th season.
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2010.
Top score: 782.06.
Team composition: 26 total (10 seniors, seven juniors, eight sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Stoney Creek has a claim to winning the most competitive league in the state this season, with two other teams from the OAA Red also in the Division 1 Final. The Cougars finished third at both their District and Regional, but scored more than 781 points at both and should improve mightily on last season’s eighth-place finish. Seniors Payton Dimoff and Sarah Koch and junior Asha Cook all earned all-region first-team honors last winter.

Rank: No. 5
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Coach: Brianna Verdoodt, 10th season.
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up in 2011.
Top score: 775.66 in the District.
Team composition: 41 overall (four seniors, 12 juniors, 11 sophomores, 14 freshmen)
Outlook: After a season away, Verdoodt is back as coach – and Stevenson is back at the Finals for the third time in four seasons after missing in 2014. The Titans are especially strong in Round 3 – their best score of 318.2 ranks eighth in Division 1 this season – and their average overall score of 766.312 is fifth. Senior Sophia Gojcaj and junior Kenzi Denoff earned all-district second-team honors last season. 

PHOTO: Rochester Hills Stoney Creek performs a routine during last season's Division 1 Final at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex.

Team of the Month: Croswell-Lexington Competitive Cheer

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 14, 2023

The Croswell-Lexington competitive cheer team had finished fourth, fifth and fourth, respectively over the last three Division 3 Finals as this season began in November with more high expectations – but also the annual challenge of believing those could be attained.

Competing in the same Blue Water Area Conference as Richmond, the Pioneers are more familiar than most with the program that entered the season coming off a fourth-straight Division 3 title. And as a regular at Finals weekend, Cros-Lex also is plenty aware of the power of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, the only other team besides Richmond to win a Division 3 championship between 2012-22.

But during the Pioneers’ first competition this winter, coach Katie Tomlinson knew this could be the team to rise above that history and make some of its own.

Cros-Lex finished fifth of 18 at the Jan. 6 Richmond Invitational, but second in Division 3 to only the host Blue Devils, and with scores including a D3-best 309.30 in Round 3.

“For our first competition, (we had) some of our best scores we’ve ever received – and typically our first competition is really tough for us. So that was kind of a turning point,” Tomlinson said. “Just the confidence they had that first night, competing for the first time, it was just a shift.”

That shift provided early momentum as Cros-Lex made one of the most impressive championship moves in any winter sport this season.

The Pioneers are the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for March after finishing their season as MHSAA Finals champions in the sport for the first time, overcoming a 1.24-point deficit to Richmond after Round 2 to win the Division 3 title at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena.

Croswell-Lexington finished with three-round score of 776.72, seven-tenths of a point better than runner-up Notre Dame Prep and with nearly two points more than the Blue Devils. The Pioneers launched into the lead with a 314.50 in Round 3, the second-best score for that round in the competition.

“I think that it was such a shock for them in the moment and so exciting and rewarding,” Tomlinson recalled this week, “but it definitely was the work put in, just like every other team, and believing in themselves and just going out there and doing what we always do and what we’d worked hard for and what we’d put in that time and effort for – and just watching it pay off. It was kind of a mix of just really believing in ourselves – it’s been a challenge for a few years now building up that confidence to know that they are a team that’s worthy of a state championship and then proving that. They earned it.”

And it was truly a team effort. Cros-Lex had 28 athletes, and only one of the other 31 teams across four divisions at the Finals – Division 1 Grandville with 30 – had more on the roster. Of those 28, 22 competed in at least one round at CMU. Juniors Alexis Bales, Cora Katulski, Shelby Oliver and Makayla Rice and sophomore Carly Old competed in all three rounds, while seniors Noelle Golda, Santanna Horning and Emma Six and sophomores Larkin Krohn, Niah Krohn, Kaleigh Kelch and Addyson Sharpe competed in two rounds. Seniors Cassidy Seaman, Deborahann White, Maria Tabernero and Alleyna Martinez; junior Grace Hodges, sophomores Emma Yearkey, Madison Greenaway, Maggie Wallace and Addison Gardner; and freshman Chelsea Miller also took the mat.

Oliver, Katulski, Rice, Bales, Old and Kelch made the all-state first team. Wallace, Hodges and Sharpe made the second team, and Six, Horning and Golda earned honorable mentions.

Cros-Lex had finished second to Richmond in the BWAC and second to Notre Dame Prep at their District before finishing third to both at the Regional. The Pioneers had never finished higher than fourth at a Final.

“We are up against (Richmond) quite a bit and I’m super close with Kelli (Blue Devils coach Kelli Matthes) … and honestly, we enjoy going to the competitions that have those teams that have won on that stage,” said Tomlinson, who has been part of the Pioneers cheer program since seventh grade beginning as an athlete and including the last eight seasons as head coach. “It sure pushes us further to be better and keep improving instead of staying satisfactory.

“It does make it hard when you’re up against such powers for years where they take it every single year. It makes the girls second-guess themselves and their capabilities, so that was a big thing that we started back in June for sideline and tried since to implement every day – the confidence and the belief in ourselves that even though they’re great, we are too.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2022-23

February: Hart girls & boys basketball - Report
Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
Byron Center hockey - Report
Martin football - Report
Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report